Out here in the wild west, we leave our car windows rolled down, especially when the temperatures reach over 100 degrees F on a daily basis. Don't leave certain items in the car, such as water, which draws ants. Ditto for food wrappers. Music CDs or sunglasses melt in the built-up heat, and even the dashboard takes a beating.
When the wind shifts in the late afternoon or early evening, we check to see if rain may fall, and if we need to roll up the windows.
One night, a loud WHOOOMPH rattled the doors and windows. Could it be a clap of thunder? a bolt of lightning? I looked out the front door, it was already full dark, and saw something that knocked me out. Just past the entrance into our driveway, an orange glow arched across my view. Fire!
It was hard to control my fear when I told my mother, "We are leaving. Pack your medicine, a change of clothes, and each of us will drive out of here." I grabbed my laptop and some clothes. Because our house is at the end of the road, I also grabbed some wire clippers. We might need them to cut fences, so we could go the back way through pastureland.
I phoned the neighbors who live closest to us. From their house, they could see the lane, our one-way out. "The fire has crossed the road! You can't get to the highway, but you can come up the drive to our house. Come here and we can watch the fire from high ground."
I didn't want any firefighter or EMT injured in the process of ordering an evacuation on our property. With all the house lights turned off, the porch light on, and no cars in the driveway, I had found a way to signal that we were gone.
Less than ten minutes had passed, and we were in our cars, hoping the lane was clear as far as the neighbor's drive. The orange glow had grown considerably, more like a wall of leaping yellow flames. We knew it was bad.
From the neighbors' yard, we watched six firetrucks come down the country road to our lane. We followed the journey of the police car to our front door and back out again. Good. The signal had worked. From our vantage point, we could see that the lane and the creekbed had formed a natural fire break. Within an hour, we were cleared to return home.
The fire marshall said the blaze was started by a lightning strike. We were lucky that we heard its impact, and that we could act quickly. We were blessed by helpful neighbors, and especially by volunteer firefighters, some who had come from as far as 30 minutes away.
The line of fire reached a spot within an eighth mile of our front door. We are grateful for being spared.
I took this photo a couple of weeks ago on my drive north of here.
Yes, this scares me from miles away.
images © diana ani stokely 2011
(click on the photo to enlarge)