herriman fire {my story part I)

On Sunday afternoon Parker came bouncing into my office as I was busy planning the coming week.  The room was bright orange.  I thought the sun was doing some pretty amazing things to the lighting in my office.

Parker exclaimed, "I wrote the letters like you told me to.  Can we go deliver them?" 

I had to oblige.  I was the one who told him earlier to go do some Sunday activity while I was busy in my office.  He was obedient and promptly wrote letters to a few of his friends.

As a family, we decided to hop on our bikes for a ride around the neighborhood to deliver the letters.  As we got outside, we immediately noticed the orange sun, the smell in the air and the smoke coming from the other side of the mountain by our home. 

We shrugged our shoulders and knew there must be a fire somewhere over there.  Tim had grumbled earlier in the day, "It's a perfect day for a wildfire."

"What does that mean?"  I asked.

"It means it's windy and hot.  Like I said, perfect day for a wildfire."  Tim repeated again.

As we rode our bikes around the neighborhood I reminded Tim about his intuitive comment.  We stopped to deliver the first letter and asked the Hoskin's if they'd seen the smoke?  They had been downstairs and never noticed.  We said our goodbye's and carried on our way.

At the next house, we delivered the letter to the boys jumping on the tramp and asked the Carley's, "Have you seen the smoke?"  They hadn't really noticed it either.  Doug joked about going to a hotel with a swimming pool.  I joked about the e-mail I got saying that CERT teams were on standby.  "How exciting for all the Emergency Preparedness people our city has!"  I said in jest, never believing there was a real threat to our community.  We laughed it off and then carried on our way.

We went home and ate the homemade pigs in a blanket that I prepared for dinner.  It was Tim's choice.  We normally go to one of our parent's homes for Sunday dinner, but we didn't have anywhere to be this Sunday.  We sat around the table as a family {enjoying our feast} and talked about school, soccer and how delicious the food was!

We cleaned up dinner and Tim got a phone call from the Bishop telling him to come pick up his keys he left in the clerk's office. 

"Let's get my keys and then go see the fire."  Tim started piling all the boys in the car.

At this point, we could hear helicopters overhead and the smoke was covering the entire southwest valley.  We pulled down to the bottom of our street and all the neighbors were standing around watching the fire.  Our kids jumped out of the van and we all began commenting on this big event.

"It's crazy how much smoke there is."
"Are those flames I see?"
"When do you grab your 72-hour kit and go?"
"Should we be worried?"

These were the comments the women were making.  The men were saying:

"No.  It's not even close."
"My Mom has food and bandaids at her house.  You don't need your 72-hour kit."
 "There is nothing to worry about until we see fire come over the ridge."

Suddenly, everyone gasped as we watched fire come up over the ridge.  Nobody could really say anything.  I think all of our stomachs sunk and we realized that the fire was much closer then we thought it was.  I felt a tug on my leg.

"Mommy, I'm scared."  Payton said as he grabbed onto me.

Parker piped in, "Me too."  We consoled our children and told them it would be okay.  I ran home to get my camera to take pictures then returned to my family all while saying a million silent prayers in my heart.  I began getting texts and calls from friends in the neighborhood.  Our neighbor, the City Councilman, pulled up and told us he had just been to an emergency meeting and they would be evacuating South of Emmeline, which was one street above our home.  He told us to get ready and wait to hear about our evacuation.  It would only be a matter of time. 

Just then, we heard sirens blaring and a police officer on a megaphone, "This is a mandatory evacuation.  You must evacuate your homes."

"Mommy, let's go now.  Where are we going?  What are we going to do?  What should I take?  I'm scared."  Payton was extremely worried about all the commotion.

Parker was worried as well.  My sister and her husband pulled up just as we were starting to load up our van.  She helped us keep the kids calm.  Tim took post in the driveway with all the men in the neighborhood.  They were all philosophizing as to whether our houses were actually in danger and sharing rumors about what was going on at "The Cove," one of the nearby neighborhoods that was first evacuated.

Tim's Dad and Todd Bruse came to check out the fire.  My phone began ringing and beeping all at the same time.  Text after text read, "Is the fire close to your house?" or "Have you been evacuated?" or "Is everything okay?"

I responded, "This is crazy.  What should I pack?"

Some thought I was joking.  Others didn't even think to call (Mom...She claims she was getting updates from my sister who was there.)

I packed my computer first.  The boys grabbed some pajamas, clothes and their precious bears.  I also grabbed Parker and Cooper's medications.   As I loaded up the van, I watched the fire skipping down the mountain.  It was spreading so unbelievably fast!  I was getting anxious.  The boys were beyond anxious and ready to get out of there.

Payton kept asking, "Where are we going?"

I kept repeating, "It doesn't matter.  We have a million places we could go.  Don't worry about that."

His comments reminded me that our friends may not have a million places to go.  I sent Jaimy a text and told her they could come with us, wherever we were going.

I continued piling my scrapbooks into the car and the homemade rolls I had just made for dinner.  I casually walked around my house surveying every single room.  I had to make sure this was all I needed.  This could be the last time I walked through here.

Family, check.
Memorabilia, check.
Medicine, check.
Clothes, check.

That's really all we need, right?  I silently concurred to myself that I had it all.

We finally got the boys loaded up and Tim decided he would stay until they made him leave.  We wanted to take both cars anyway.  He told me he'd talk to his Mom and she was planning on us. 

Before we went our separate ways, we knelt together in prayer as a family.  We asked Heavenly Father to bless us with comfort, peace and safety.  I felt the spirit testify that everything would be okay no matter what happened.

We kissed goodbye and left Tim to guard our home.  We drove by our neighbors, the Carleys, who had no family nearby, and Jaimy was grateful to see us.  "Did Tim tell you I called?  Thanks for thinking of us."

I ran across the street to see Susie, my lifelong friend.  She had her entire family loading a trailer up with their belongings.  I knew she would be having a hard time.  She's sentimental like that.  We hugged and talked about how crazy this was.  Her kids were already gone and she would be staying the night.  We took a picture and then said, "good luck."

The Carley's followed us out of Herriman.  Jaimy called me on my cell phone,

"Are you sure it's okay if we stay with you?"

"Yes.  Of course!"  As we lined up in traffic I couldn't believe my eyes.  It was the first time I'd seen the fire from a real distance, I asked Jaimy,  "Are you looking at this fire?  It's crazy"

She turned to see the fire behind us and almost rear-ended me.  Traffic was bumper to bumper for almost 2 miles trying to get out of Herriman.  As we made our way out, it was absolutely surreal.  Straight out of a movie.  Parker and Cooper immediately fell asleep.  Payton was sitting nervously in the back seat clutching his bear.

My friend and neighbor, Lisa, called me.  "So, are you leaving?"

We had talked earlier in the night about whether we would actually leave or not.  "Yes.  We are packed up and on our way out."

"So are we.   This is crazy!"  She paused to listen to a report on the radio.  I quickly turned my radio on.  We both sat and listened to the breaking news reports while silent on our cell phones, with the exception of the occasional gasp.  We heard them say that cell lines were jammed up and to only make necessary phone calls.  Oops.  We quickly said our goodbye's and hung up.

Our entire mountain was on fire.  It was an incredible sight.  We drove away believing that we may not return to our homes.  We knew our neighborhood would never be the same again.


Angie Miller said...

What the heck, Britt? POST MORE. Where are you? We in Idaho are so out of the loop. Are you OK?

The Jones' said...

my sisters and I were talking about this the other day. Don't you think it's amazing how prepared our state is in the event or an emergency??! We didn't have to have help from the state, American Red Cross, FEMA, etc. The president didn't have to declare a state of emergency or anything. (not that it was THAT exptreme) We evacuated on our own when we were told (unlike other states) lol BUT... IT'S CRAZY! We are prepared to take care of ourselves!!

Amanda said...

Brttany- I was worried sick about all of my friends that live in Herriman. I am so glad you and your family are safe- so glad the damage to homes was not as bad as expected. This was so scary- we watched from our house and it looked aweful from where we live off 114- so it must have been horrific from the city. Really makes you appreciate what really matters when you have to pack it up and go. Thanks for sharing more details.

Angie said...

What a story! So glad you are ok. That picture looks like it's straight from a movie!

Dartay said...

That pic is crazy! I can't believe that happened here on out little town of Herriman! Too bad you didn't get to roam the streets with all of us, it was kinda fun ;) Glad you guys were ok.

Daily Jot & Tittle said...

Fun to read your story! That was a funny moment when we were both on our cell phones with each other, listening to the radio together!

Patty said...

Glad all worked out!