When Happened 

There are things in life that you know are “not if but when”. This week “when” happened at least to a certain extent. We moved to the White Mountains of Arizona in 2008, only six years after the Rodeo-Chediski Fire. Five years ago our area experienced the Wallow Fire, which was fairly close but didn’t directly affect us.

We knew at some point that there would likely be a time we might have to be evacuated because of fire danger. It became something of a reality last Wednesday. Late morning  I saw a small fire off in the distance. It wasn’t much bigger than a campfire gone bad, but that’s exactly how most wildfires start. A couple of hours later, my in-laws let me know that it was looking pretty smoky in their area, and they were bringing the kids home early. I wasn’t terribly concerned but was glad to have them with me just in case.

By the time they got to our house there was a pre-evacuation notice for our town and the surrounding communities. Wow it happened fast!
I began packing knowing that we would not have long once the evacuation was ordered. The fire was about 15 to 20 miles from our house. However the decision point was only about five miles from the fire line (it would come as close as a quarter of a mile). If the fire crossed the decision point, our area would be evacuated.

My daughter had an afternoon piano lesson, and I called her teacher, a good friend of mine, and asked if we should go ahead and do it or not. She too was preparing to evacuate and canceled. I was so relieved! My husband was at work. My in-laws, the kids, and I were at home. I did not like the idea of leaving my son at home (Grandma and Grandpa were there) while being out with only my daughter.

It’s Sunday night and we’re still technically under pre-evacuation notice, but the fire is at least somewhat under control although high heat and winds are keeping it from being a done deal.

Where our home is situated I don’t worry about losing it. Our entire city would have to be destroyed before it reached us. I think that comfort made packing easier. I wasn’t worried about papers or our wedding pictures. I didn’t have to worry about the loss of our kids’ pictures as they were born in the digital age. All of their pictures are backed up on our computers and hard drive. Our laptops were one of the first things I packed. We don’t usually leave home without them. I pretty much packed like we were heading for a fun week in Phoenix, because that was our plan.

Something I did learn was that I go into Mama bear mode. The thing that bothered me the most were the couple of times that I thought I might be separated for my cubs or Papa Bear for that matter. I was glad when he was home from work and we were all together as a family.

My prayers have not so much been for my family or our home but for those fighting the fires. When you live in an area where fire is such a reality, your know the many of the firefighters personally. People from our church, sons, daughters, husbands, friends. I continue to pray for their safety as I finish up fighting this fire and any others they have to fight this season.

Please remember to be responsible in areas with high fire danger. Campfires, smoking, and other careless acts can cause loss of life and property.

Have you ever had to evacuate for a natural disaster?


About Gretchen E K Engel

Chemical engineer by day, spec fiction writer by night

4 comments on “When Happened 

  1. Down here in Phoenix, we’re getting that haze of smoke in the sky. It’s an ominous reminder of what’s going on up in the mountains around us. I pray you guys and your town stays safe! I imagine the monsoons may both help and hinder–Lightning to start fires, but rain to put them out. This 117 degree nonsense has me seriously hoping for monsoons.

  2. When I was in high school in California, we had a fire in a canyon west of us. Evacuation wasn’t mandatory, but when the fire got close, we left our house and went to stay at my uncle’s, on the east side of town. It was very scary to sit there not knowing what was going on back home. The fire was contained later that day and never got to our neighborhood, although when we got home everything was coated with ash. For years later, if you drove west from down, you could clearly see the line where the fire stopped, because the trees there were all dead and black.

    There’s a very similar fire burning right now in about the same place. Glad my family doesn’t live in that area anymore, but I worry about those who do.

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