Sep 1, 2009

Auburn Fires - THANK YOU and Important Lessons

Hello Neighbors,

Our heart goes out to our friends and family who were impacted by the fires in Auburn on Sunday. Two of Neighborly’s own (Juli Marty’s family and mine) were impacted by the fires – although no damage.

A sincere thank you to the fire fighters and the pilots flying the 14 aircraft over our heads. An amazing job performed by these professionals.

We were told to evacuate at round 3:30pm on Sunday. ….exactly when we were getting home from a weekend out of town. There were “reverse-911” messages on our home answering machine. It took us an hour to go the last mile to our house, and we could see the smoke + fire the whole time. We were on the phone trying to get in touch with neighbors and family while driving that last mile. Our cell phones kept dropping, and we could see the 14 aircraft flying over our house. 20 minutes after getting to our house (and hearing the voice messages from the sheriff), we lost electricity.

It was nuts.

The fire never crossed over to our side of 49, but we didn’t know that until well past 11:00pm on Sunday night. We had no electricity, and only 1 battery powered 1980s style walkman radio to get news. At one point I jumped on my old Schwinn cruiser to head to the fire to get my own news. We were hearing on the radio that 84 lumber and other businesses had burned to the ground, and that our side of 49 was getting burned as well. Once I got back to the house from my bike ride, we decided we could relax a bit – but we still left the cars packed.

Since we have a 3 month old baby and a 3 year old toddler… it added about an extra million layers of challenge to the whole process… All of our neighbors were packing up and asking us what we needed for the kids. VERY KIND group of folks.

My wife was packing diapers, photo albums, baby clothes, our home movies, etc…. while I was outside running hoses and putting ladders up to the roof. My truck battery was dead – and no electricity at the house – so I was pulling batteries from other cars to try and get the truck running…. Wow. All in parallel with trying to get updates from my parents and aunt on their homes… 7 or 8 hours of pure adrenaline is enough to make a guy (a family) tired.

It taught us some important lessons, if I may share:

a) ABSOLUTELY make sure you have good battery powered radios in the house. We bought a hand-crank radio at Home Depot yesterday. We have lots of batteries for the kids toys… which meant power for flashlights too.

b) Centralize those things that you would take out in a fire. If you get the call to evacuate, you really don’t have the kind of time you think you will have…

c) Talk to your neighbors about what they would like pulled out of their houses in an emergency. We didn’t even have our neighbors cell phone numbers to do any coordination…

d) Keep those car (truck!) batteries charged. BAD mistake on my part. You can get a lot more into a full size GMC truck than a Toyota Prius.

e) News is 50% rumor, and wrong. We were told at different times that the fire was on our side of Highway 49 (it never was) and that several of the local business had burned to the ground – like 84 lumber (it did not). It’s best to be prepared for different contingencies, since the news didn’t keep up well with reality.

f) Not much else in the house matters except having clothes for your kids ready.
a.) Jenny (my wife): “I’ve got the baby stuff packed, what do you want of yours”?
b.) Jim: “I really don’t know, just get their stuff”.
c.) Jim grabs three old photo albums of his own and throws them in the Prius. That was it for Jim stuff.

Wild times.

The fire’s path is shown on this KCRA video: The fire ran right to the back fence of we had listed for sale in 2006. We’ve checked with that family, and the house survived (smoke issues of course).

As I write these quick tips, my wife Jenny is collecting clothing for the families who were burned out.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO DONATE, CALL ME AT 916.801.3940 and I will pick up your donations in my truck… now with a working battery.


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