So. I suspect everyone knows about the Rim Fire near Yosemite that's burning out of control, right? Well, it started near Groveland, a small community on Highway 120 that goes to Yosemite. It's pretty far from our hideaway and we never would have thought we'd be threatened by it. There was just too much land between them and us for it to even get close. Well, as you probably know, the size of the fire grew exponentially and by Friday morning, it was within 8-10 miles from our cabin.
This was our regular weekend to go up. We left San Francisco after dinner Thursday night and expected to get there around 10:30pm. On the drive up, as we split away from Highway 120, we were able to see a shockingly huge orange glow in the distance to our right. But we still didn't realize how close it was to our place.
We started smelling smoke, but just thought that the wind was blowing the smoke in our direction, so of course we would smell it.
We got to the hideaway, the smell was very strong. But it was nighttime, so we couldn't see any evidence aside from some ash on the driveway. We had to open the windows because it was warm, but closed them before going to sleep because we had read that the air quality was unsafe and all windows should be kept closed during the duration of the fire.
When we woke up, we were shocked at how brown and gray the sky was. I called my cousin who was suppose to come up later that day with her family for a fun weekend on the boat and ATV. It was still early, so I was still convinced that the smokey haze was just that and not that it was close enough to actually be a worry. I told her they could still come up, but I was very concerned about them breathing the smoke, and that we wouldn't be able to go out on the boat or ATV. We decided it would be best to postpone our fun weekend for another time.
In the meantime, Jimmy left for a meeting at the water company and I read more about the fire online, realizing it was closer than I had thought...
Less than 10 miles from our cabin. Logically, I knew it was very unlikely to hit us because this community is relatively large, around 4500 homes in our and other nearby communities. I knew that the firefighters would do everything to save the homes and keep the fire away from this area. But I also know that fire has a mind of its own and wind plays a major role in what will happen. So I took video of all of our valuable possessions in case the worst happened and we needed that information for insurance.
And I started taking photos of as many momentos as I could. I have boxes of letters and cards Jimmy and I sent each other over the years. It would be sad if we lost the physical pieces of paper, but at least I've captured digitally what we wrote to each other.
Ashes collecting on our car, less than 15 hours after we got here.
There was a community town hall meeting at 2pm. We went with our neighbor, who is a retired Forest Service Firefighter, so he has a lot of experience and knowledge on what was happening.
I was surprised at how many people where there. All the seats were filled and several people had to stand. We guessed there were over 300 people there. They gave us a briefing of what was happening. Explained what the different evacuation terms meant and what we'd need to do if we received one. They let us know that the local fire department maintains a defensible space of clearing surrounding the town. And that there were over 1500 firefighters there to protect our homes and fight the fire. (As of this post, there are over 3000 firefighters working on this blaze.)
Afterwards, we left with our firefighter neighbor and drove towards Toulumne so he could get an eye on what the smoke was doing.
He was careful to say anything specific but he did express concern.
I took a few snapshots from the backseat.
You can see how dry the brush is, feeding fuel for the fire.
Here's a short video I took during the drive:
I didn't feel like making dinner, so we drove down to Sonora to pick something up. When we got back, we realized that our town had received an Advisory Evacuation Warning. That basically means that you don't have to leave yet, but get your emergency supplies and most treasured valuables near the door or in the car. If you receive an Mandatory Evacuation Order, you need to leave now and won't have time to collect your things. While I evaluated what to take back to San Francisco with us, Jimmy went over to the neighbors to get a little more information. We decided to wait till the morning to leave.
We both woke up early from the thick smell of smoke. We did a little research and it hadn't spread as much overnight as it had the past few days. But we still planned on leaving that day. I packed up 3 small boxes of our most important momentos. Just the rest of our letters and 2 boxes of my parents momentos. But we had to leave so much behind.
These are just some of the precious personal things we had to leave behind, not to mention all of our furniture, the boat, the ATV and the cabin itself that has been the source of so many of our most treasured memories.
While we were packing up the car, the neighbor came over and mentioned that the smoke coming from the area he was most concerned about looked a little bit better. Since we have faith in his expertise, we left feeling a little more hopeful. But we also know that winds can pick up and change things in the blink of an eye.
An assembly of firefighters gathered in our town for what looked like a briefing. We are so grateful for all of them, risking their lives to save ours and our homes.