The same night

Driving through the hills, trying not to watch the flames warm up the dark in the deadliest way possible, I made myself focus on following my friends tail lights. There were several hairpin bends and parts of the road so steep uphill it looked as if the nose of the car would soon be at such an impossible angle that the whole car would flip over and we would tumble into the dark valley. All thoughts of our house and community were gone, my world narrowed to the boy and Monty (Garnet being safe in Chicago) and the tail lights. I remember the wondering what it would be like to evacuate from on top of this hill, traveling in single file down the steep roads, not knowing if the wind would change and blow the flames in our direction.

We eventually arrived at our destination for that night – the home of a friend of a friend – and despite not being expected in such numbers, we were welcomed in warmly by complete strangers (at least to us). Two hours previously they had been expecting 3 people and 2 dogs and woke up with all eight of us and five dogs knocking at their door, exhausted, stunned and unsure of what would happen next.

We all spread out and had fitful sleeps, punctuated with alerts from our phones telling the incomprehensible news that back home the police were going from house to house knocking on doors to make sure that every single person was evacuated from the path of the Woolsey fire, which had grown at a massive rate, apparently at times it was growing at the rate of one football fields every two seconds.

Looking back, I still find it unbelievable that any town could be threatened in this way. Surely we have enough cunning and technology to defeat it? But that is one of the most unforgiving features of both fire and human nature. Its unpredictability and its ability to utterly destroy in a heartbeat.

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