McNay Fire – My First Close Wildfire

Hey there!

Well folks, this isn’t exactly the blog post I was hoping to put up next, but it’ll do.

Yesterday a wildfire started approximately 6 miles from my home. We’re okay. While the fire is still burning, it’s moving away from the housing development and other major structures, and there are approximately 100 fire fighter and support staff working the fire right now.

We expect that the fire should be fully contained soon, possibly aided by threat of rain in the clouds over our home.

It’s been a tense couple of days. We’re still under voluntary evacuation orders, since even at this stage there is a slim possibility of the fire getting worse or turning back toward us.

We decided early that we weren’t going to evac unless it became a mandatory evacuation, because we have two horses on the property and couldn’t have gotten them out with us. Not only were we unwilling to leave them to the fire, but we had no way to know that we could come back to make sure they got their daily hay and other necessities seen to.

One of the horses also had bot fly eggs that we only just discovered, so we needed to stay and monitor for more eggs.

This is our first local wildfire since we moved up here. Some lessons we’ve learned,

  1. Keep a large supply of potable water: our water well is electricity dependent. We drained the existing water from the pipes and were okay yesterday, but if it had taken any longer to restore electricity we might quickly have been in trouble.
  2. Never have less than a quarter tank of gas in all vehicles: one of my housemates was just under a quarter tank. More than enough to get into town under normal circumstances, but iffy once we had evac orders. Traffic, and traffic control, were both heavy since the fire was started by a vehicle fire, and therefore incredibly close to our main route down the mountain.
  3. The main route down the mountain can be closed even for evac: briefly we couldn’t have driven down the mountain if we’d wanted to. They closed the road as the fire was threatening to jump and spread to the other side of the road. There is an alternative, exactly one alternate route that will let us get down the mountain, but none of us have driven it yet. That’s on the list for the next week or two.
  4. Keep easy meals around. We cooked over our outdoor fire grate (with a fire extinguisher ready to hand), but without the fire grate we wouldn’t have had any way to cook food. We had snacks, but few no-cook meals.
  5. Make evacuation plans as soon as we see the smoke plume. My partner and I planned how we’d get ourselves, our cats, and some other essentials out if we needed to. We assumed our housemates were doing or had done the same, but by the time we were considering how to get the horses out the only options weren’t options anymore because the roads were impassable. We have a more cohesive game plan now, but next time we need to put that plan into action right away before the power is shut off.

Our last lesson was not waiting for something to happen to put together an Oh Shit list. Basics like bottled water, a radio, and other emergency items were simply not to be had. Fortunately we had plenty of lighting options and batteries, but other essentials were not here.

On my list is a radio, fire blankets, and a few other items that will make the next fire (hopefully a few years down the road) easier.

There’s still smoke hanging heavy in the air, but the world hasn’t ended. Aside from tired eyes, and smoke in our throats, we’re none the worse for the experience.

McNay fire, you weren’t the lesson I wanted, but thank you for being a lesson and not much more.

And thank you for reminding me about how important it is to have people you love and trust around you, and how much fun it is to sit and bullshit around a cook fire. Yesterday was, believe it or not, a good day. We made it through. Life is good.

 

I’ll keep a light on.

-R.

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