The fire.
July 05, 2011

Last night, my parents called me.  Have you seen the fire?, they asked.  Fire?, I said.  Fire, they said.  It’s huge.  It’s in the creek, only a few houses away from you.

Thanks, I said.  I love you.  Good-bye.

I ran out to the garage and screamed.  Donald!  Fire!  We ran to the street and there it was.  I thought at least we’d have to go closer to the creek, that at least it would be small enough or far enough away that we would need to go to our neighbors’ deck, but there it was.  Orange.  Enormous.  Glowing.  Terrifying.  Close.

Let’s pack, my husband said.

You tell the neighbors, I told him.  I’ll stay with Charlotte.  And he ran.  Like the wind.  Toward the fire.

I packed.  Shorts and t-shirts for Charlotte.  Diapers.  Her favorite books and her favorite toys.  Work clothes for Donald.  Socks and underwear.  Shirts.  The camera.  The video-camera.  The computer.  Our wedding album.  Photographs from Donald’s childhood.  Photographs from mine.  Charlotte’s clay handprints.  Tax paperwork.  The journal a six-year-old me confided everything in.  The notebook my father writes to Charlotte in.  Our stockpile of seeds.

I found the cat-crates.  I filled water bottles.  I charged our phones.  I made contact with someone we could stay with.  I grabbed our toiletries.  And just as I was about to place it in the car, just as I was about to walk through the house taking pictures of everything we own for insurance purposes, Donald came back.

Someone using illegal fireworks set a tree on fire.  We had a scorcher this weekend; it was 94F on Saturday morning.  Hot plus dry plus illegal fireworks are exactly the sort of conditions you do not want on Independence Day.

It’s okay, Donald said.  The fire department came and they have the fire mostly under control.  I already saw your dad and told him.

We’re safe?, I asked.

We’re safe, he affirmed.

Last night, we shared a brownie and laughed and felt relieved.  We looked at one another and remembered why we fell in love.  We worked as a team and responded quickly to a threat.  We’re safe!, we whispered happily as the fireworks burst overhead.  Safe.


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  1. By Lindsey on July 05, 2011

    I’m glad everything is OK and that y’all are safe!

  2. By on July 05, 2011

    was worried about you guys - lots of love <3

  3. By Lis on July 05, 2011

    So scary!  Glad you are alright!

  4. By on July 05, 2011

    A few summers ago I was staying on an Indian Reservation in WA and it was a hot, dry summer. There was an empty lot across from us and some kids were playing in the road when one of their fireworks fell into the grass and caused a fire. It was amazing how people came together immediately, because the fire would have taken over the area before any help would have been able to arrive. It’s scary when things like that happen but it helps you appreciate what you do have.

  5. By Sarah Christensen on July 05, 2011

    Thanks, guys.  I’m glad we’re okay too!

    Rebecca - Very true!  That’s great that everyone came together to put the fire out.  It’s terrifying when you realize how easily a fire can take over and how quickly it can rage out of control.  I’m glad you were okay!

  6. By on July 05, 2011

    I specifically found your list of ‘must takes’ interesting. I’ve always wondered what I would grab first in the event of an emergency in our own home. My external hard drive is the first thing that comes to mind if I ever had to literally run out of the house and leave everything behind (photos of everything… important documents… etc). But if I had more time… I’m not sure what I’d take.

  7. By Dandy on July 05, 2011

    I always wonder what I’d grab and I think about it every year during wildfire season.

    So glad you are safe!

  8. By Mimi on July 05, 2011

    Wow I love your writing. So poignant and real.

    I’m glad you guys are safe (:

  9. By on July 05, 2011

    Glad you are ok, Sarah. Earlier today I thought about what I would grab in an emergency, too, like many commenters above-unpleasant to have to think about but, yes, it happens.

  10. By kbreints on July 05, 2011

    So Scary—so glad everyone is ok!


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