Monday, May 24, 2010

Fire, Fire

We bought a grill yesterday. My sister and her husband were coming over for dinner, and so my fiance got it set up while I was out at my writer's critique group.

He was so eager to show it to me as soon as I got out of the car. He asked me to come over and help him move it, then turned one of the knobs and showed me how it lit up, exclaiming "FIRE" in that deep man-voice guys always do.

A half-hour later, we were desperately cleaning the house, and I asked him for the shed key so I could put something away out there. He walked me out and we stood in the backyard for a second talking about something insignificant. Our back fence is just a few trees and some dry brush away from a freeway on/ off ramp, so the sirens we heard pull up and stop behind our house were not unusual or even really noticeable.

What stopped our conversation was the crackling sound I heard from beyond our fence. My fiance saw the smoke, and we both came to the same conclusion at the same time.


When you live in SoCal, you don't mess around with fire.

He ran for the hose and I ran for the pets; it only took me ten minutes to coax one cat out from under the bed. By that time, the alarm had settled from oh-no-not-this-again to oh-hey-those-nice-firefighters-have-almost-put-it-out.

Time flashes in those moments. What do you grab? Can you even find the most important things to take? Life first. Always life first. But beyond life, what?

Suffice to say, this isn't the first time fire has chased me into action, but it is the first time that I didn't have any warning whatsoever. The fiance and I spent a good half-hour after our hearts stopped racing talking over a plan for when--not if, but when-- it happens again; something we hadn't done yet. But the truth is that there is never any guarantee that there will be time to make those choices. There's a different set of priorities if you have three days or three minutes to prepare, and you can never know which it will be.

A couple hours later, we struck up our domesticated fires again and bent them toward cooking dinner, and all was right in the world. It's amazing the difference between control and chaos. One can be a tool, the other adrenaline and change.

This won't be the last brush we have with fire living here, but it is the first time it's so literally struck close to home. And a little PSA: don't be a jerk and throw cigarette butts out of your car window, ESPECIALLY into dry brush. I mean come on. That's just ridiculous.

You never know whose life you might irrevocably change by something so small and thoughtless. If it weren't for the amazing fire department in our city responding before we even knew there was a problem, I don't like to think about how the day would have ended.

What would you take with you if you had three days or three minutes?


  1. I'm glad you guys are ok.

    I've stopped getting panicky when I'm near fire --which is probably a bad thing. The first thing I usually do is make sure my updated manuscripts are saved in my e-mail. And then, you know pack up the dog and the siblings and practical things like food and clothing.

  2. OMG, I'm glad you guys are safe and sound. Fire scares the crap out of me, and I don't live in SoCal!

  3. I'm so glad you are all okay! That's a tough question there at the end. I honestly don't know what I would take.

  4. Thank Jebus you guys are fine (Yes I have done that FIRE voice before, btw).

    You'd think that someone who lives in SoCal would be smart enough to think about that before they huck their ciggy out the window. People like that annoy the heck out of me.

  5. Thank you everyone for your well wishes.

    Taryn-- Yeah, it depends on the fire, haha. This one was twenty feet from our back fence, so I was pretty freaked.

    Lydia-- Me too, and it's a fact of life here. Ugh.

    Susan-- A lot of people don't, but I think it's an important conversation to have, even if just with yourself. Planning can make a huge difference.

    Matt-- I am ticked, to put it lightly. If I could track the person down and put them in jail for their idiocy, I would, but alas, hundreds of cars use that ramp every day. The scary thing is that there are some fires that have started from people doing stuff like that on purpose.

  6. I'm glad you're both okay! Fire is very scary- so long as I had my daughter and husband I'd be fine. I'd like to grab our scrapbooks too.

  7. That's crazy... glad to hear it turned out relatively alright, minus the sanity torture.

  8. Wow. My heart was in my throat reading this. We have friends in California and it is scary stuff living there when the forest fires hit. I'm glad you are okay. This is a post that really makes you think about what to do in this situation, and how little prepared we are in actuality for it to happen.

    Angela@ The Bookshelf Muse

  9. Stephanie-- yep, my animals are pretty much our kids, so we grab them first. Everything else is secondary.

    Bane-- It was definitely a trying experience; I think the only reason I wasn't more unsettled is because I have experienced it before. Not quite to close to my house, but yeah.

    Angela-- It seems like we get a lot to deal with out here, but I'm sure it's like that everywhere. I often wonder if the weather is *really* worth earthquakes and fires...

    If there's one lesson I take from it, it's that you never know when a quiet (or frantic) day will be interrupted by something so unexpected. And that's why it's important to prepare at least in thought.

  10. How scary! I'm so glad you were able to put it out. If I had three seconds/minutes I would round up my kids. No doubt about it. :-)