I live in a house that has a commanding view of a very large canyon in Southern California. Last Thursday night at 11:20 p.m., I received a mandatory evacuation order on my cell phone and on my TV. I could see the sky lit brightly to the east of the canyon, but I judged the fire to be approaching slowly enough that I had time to gather things. I turned on my sprinkler system and tried to give my property a good soaking so as to increase the chances of avoiding destruction.
It was a “hybrid bug out.” I didn’t have to run for the car or pickup in order to evacuate with only a bug out bag, and I didn’t have a day or more to load up a trailer. I used what time I had to gather personal items, such as photographs, mementos, and important documents. I tried to select items that could not be replaced, or which were not going to be covered by insurance.
I found myself suffering from “decisional fatigue,” that is, there were just so many choices to be made that I simply stopped making them. I realized later that I should have and could have taken many more items than I did.
The Santa Ana winds were howling and were driving cinders and embers everywhere. Gusts of up to 60 mph were reported by the media. I had the feeling that I was part of “The Last Days of Pompeii.”
Two fire engines arrived in front of my house. When the fire line was about 200 yards away, I asked a firemen if he thought they would be able to stop it. He said no. Too much wind. I pointed out the location of three swimming pools if they needed additional water, and then I slowly drove down the hill to rejoin my wife who was waiting for me in a supermarket parking lot. I told her that I expected that our house was gone.
Two hours later, figuring that the fire had done its worst to my street by then, I sneaked back into my neighborhood. My house was still standing as were all of the homes on my street. Flames had gotten to within 100 feet of where my driveway meets the street. Two homes on my hill were not so lucky, one of which had a “For Sale” sign in its yard. Fires burned the vegetation in the yards of other homes on the hill, but not the homes themselves.
My “hybrid evacuation” gave me time to go from room to room snapping multiple photographs of the contents of the room and the closet in each room so that I would have some record of the contents for insurance purposes. I should have done that in advance, of course, but never “got around to it.”
Upon reflection, I now see the need of preparing a list of personal items of no particular monetary value but which have personal value, e.g., photographs, family mementos, etc. While my wife and I grabbed a great many things before we left, after I returned home, I found myself asking, “Why didn’t I remember to take that?”
For the last several years, one of the things I have been very concerned about is the vulnerability of the country to an EMP attack. At some point in the last few days since the fire, it occurred to me that we would have been in a very different situation if firetrucks could not respond because an EMP had taken them out, say, a month before the fires began. While wind-driven fires are a huge threat in normal times in Southern California, they are a threat to large parts of the country, too.
I can only ask Survivalblog readers what they can expect if no firetrucks are coming, whether their home is located in a suburban subdivision, or on a mountaintop in Idaho and they are left to their own devices? It is an unsettling prospect. – Survivormann99