There are several wildfires burning in and around our area this very dry Spring. Two days ago, the fire was within a few miles of our place: the picture to the right is the view from the top of our driveway that evening. There were burnt pine needles and ash floating around and down - we could see them on our driveway and sidewalk. We've had fires around here before, but never one so close that we had ash floating down on us. That evening, we received news that both the mandatory and recommended evacuation areas were expanding, and that they would likely include us. So, we started packing.
Making things even more interesting was the fact that I had just picked Gord up from the hospital a few hours earlier, having been released that day following hip surgery earlier in the week. So we packed even more lightly than we otherwise would have, since any time we had after receiving evacuation notice would be better spent getting Gord and our two guinea pigs into the car rather than putting any material goods in there. It was a surreal experience to say the least.
We had our garden hoses hooked up to the taps outside, and fire extinguishers at both doors. I had the car turned around in the driveway, ready to head out if we got the word to leave. About halfway through the evening our telephone landline died, lending an even stranger tone to the evening. We have poor cell phone service but managed to call my parents to make arrangements to stay with them if necessary.
What do you pack when your house might burn down and as a set you can't move very quickly? As it turns out, not very much. Looking around the house while packing, there wasn't a lot that I decided was essential. I packed a change of clothes and some toiletries, an emergency radio, the mortgage papers, a handwritten book of recipes from my mom, our wedding photos and DVD, an album of childhood pictures, and that was about all. Gord hobbled around on crutches getting together his laptop, external hard drive and some business papers. We had our guinea pig carriers and some guinea pig food at the ready as well.
It was a strange evening, watching the news on TV, wishing the phone would start working again, checking Twitter and the internet for updates, listening for a knock on the door from the firefighters telling us we had to go. Thankfully, that knock never came, but needless to say we did not have a restful night.
Today, two days later, most of our gathered things remain packed and by the door. Phone service is restored. The fires have not gotten bigger, but are still burning close by. The ash has stopped falling from the sky, and the winds have died down. There was even a bit of rain overnight, and some more again today. We hope that in the next couple days the fires will be put out or at least become controlled.
The whole "wildfire coming this way" experience got me thinking. Most profoundly, about how much of the stuff I have that I didn't even consider packing - which is 99.99% of the stuff I have. And about how quickly things can, and do, change. One minute we're looking forward to just getting comfy and watching the hockey game, and the next minute we're getting ready to bug out in a hurry, maybe for a good long time.
Nothing's permanent, anything can change at any time. Getting a hands-on lesson about this was a good thing, and it sure does make me appreciate the here-and-now in a much more authentic way. The trick is to remember this even when the ash has stopped falling from the sky!
2 days ago