Some of you know this information from FB. I've been posting there in short bursts, because that is manageable. The last few days have been stressful, and having my brain organized long enough to write a post here just hasn't happened.
I was one of hundreds who evacuated from my home on Saturday. A wildfire started 8 days ago in Lincoln National Forest, in the wilderness area, after a lightning strike. It was a very small one, about 100 acres that was quickly controlled. To be honest, I didn't even hear It was small, isolated, contained, and I rarely watch news. I don't think it was on the news, anyway. No one was talking about it. It was quite a distance from any building or people.
On Friday, winds kicked up, and some of the ashes/embers apparently jumped out of the containment.Usually this isn't a big deal, as the firefighters just put out each little spot. However, the wilderness is full of fuel. These areas are no longer cleaned/cleared like they used to be. This clearing means to remove low dead limbs on trees, remove dead trunks, and thinning the growth to keep danger of fire lower. They are left totally natural. It is nice because we get to see how it naturally looks in an undisturbed forest, and it protects some wildlife. But it also presents a problem in that all of those things that fall to the ground form a thick carpet of needles, leaves and dry branches on the ground that is highly flammable, and the low dead limbs make a ladder for the fire to climb up the tree.
In nature, there is a wildfire that clears an area about every five to ten years. Then the area will regrow. Natural clearing before humans brought in equipment to keep it clean. Civilization has grown closer and closer to the protected wilderness. My house is in an area that notches into the forest. I was just 1/2 mile on the South and about 1 mile on the West from the forest. I was also just 1-2 miles from the Wilderness. It was lovely to have the "overflow" of the forest, the deer, rabbits, birds, etc., on my property. The scent of pines and juniper was ever present. It was wonderful.
Here's the rub. As people like myself have moved closer and closer to the forests while at the same time, the manual clearing was stopped because groups wanted to save endangered species. The combination of the over growth of the forest and the nearness of human "stuff" is not good. The natural process of fire clearing of land puts homes at risk.
That 100 acre fire, when it jumped, became 35,000 acres between Friday and yesterday. The northern part of it burned within 1/4 mile of my house. I left on my own volition Saturday morning as soon as I could get packed up.
A friend called and said she was being evacuated at 5:00 AM. She lives about 4 miles from me. We had talked and agreed to let each other know if we left. By 7:00 I had lost phone and internet. I had TV, but the stations in Albuquerque were giving precious little news about it. They were hours behind in information and honestly, they are focused on the news of the metropolitan area. Our little sparsely populated county barely exists in their eyes. I thought it over for about 10 minutes, and decided to err in the safety of the pups and myself. With no way of being informed of the progress of the fire, I felt at risk. Add to that, I am one person to do all that needed to be done, so I'd better get started.
I had packed up approximately 2/3 of what I thought most important on Friday night. I finished collecting the things on my list and began loading the truck. A friend had called the night before and said to come to her place if I needed. I couldn't call her to say I was coming, so once I had the truck loaded with the cage of 5 finches, 5 dogs and their needs, family pictures, my more valuable jewelry, prescriptions, a few clothes, and important papers. Later I checked the "5 P's of Evacuation," and I was happy to see I'd hit them all without knowing. (Persons & Pets, Papers, Prescriptions, Pictures, and Personal computer) Just short of arriving with my friend's home, I realized I grabbed Rubbermaid tubs of photos I'd been scanning into the computer, but I had not thought of the photo albums with the best memories of the last 50 years of my life! No, I didn't go back. I figured if I was supposed to have those, my house would be spared. I was exhausted already.
Saturday and Sunday were filled with stress as we watched the fire perimeters. (actually, we had no internet or phone anywhere in the county on Saturday, so we communicated as we could by text.) We asked guides and angels to protect our homes that were at risk. In the end it was very interesting. As I said, the fire came within a distance measured in yards from my home, and my friends home was right in the middle of the mess, yet, both our homes were spared! We have watched the fire dance around on the screens of our computers for the last 4 days, guessing and second-guessing if our properties were going to be saved. We have vacillated from "If it is burned down, do I want to rebuild or get out?" to "I'll just take the insurance $$ and leave" to " I can't stand it! I want my home!!" to "If the land is burned, it won't be worth building there again." It has been awful, mostly the not knowing. A friend with the Forest Service has been checking both properties and telling us they were safe, but still in danger. I've been calling my answering machine, because if I hear my voice, I know the house is there.
Today I had a break. We drove out to a high spot to see if we could see my property. It was fine! We drove on toward one of the road blocks to see what we could learn. Would you believe that just as we got there, they said we could go up to the house if we came right back??? We did, and there are no burns in sight of my house, but on the back side of my hill, there is total burn. I went in quickly, and MY HOUSE DOESN'T EVEN SMELL SMOKY!!! But we minded the warning and left immediately. Fire crews from Texas were moving into the canyons behind my house to fight the fire that had receded from my "backyard." They are trying to keep it from burning up one canyon to the village of Nogal or up another to Ruidoso. As we passed the checkpoint, the National Guard personnel told us they were now closing the area completely once again. What perfect timing!
I'll still be evacuated for another several days, but I have seen with my own two eyes that my home is safe, protected, sound. I'm so thankful.
I'm also exhausted. The stress is less now, but it has affected the fibromyalgia. My body has numerous "sore" spots. We took a back way into Ruidoso today to pick up a prescription for me (inhaler, as the smoke is beginning to really irritate my lungs), some herbal things for several of us (a calming solution for my dogs), a huge bag of dogfood (for the vet near my hosts' home who is housing FREE the pets of over 25 evacuated families), and we pleasured ourselves with lunch at the Irish pub. Yum, fish and chips! Now I'm going to take a nap. I need it.