Part 1: Fire
This morning I’m feeling extreme relief and grateful beyond words.
My oldest daughter is alive.
Thursday morning she called, stuck on a road trying to get out of Paradise, California. She had driven home from Butte College when an announcement was made that her town was being evacuated due to a growing wildfire up the road, the now famous “Camp Fire”.
“Dad, ha— you ——- news ——. There’s a fire and ——— (snapping sound) flames in my backyard. (Silence). —–being evacuated——-” …. Her panicked voice interrupted by cracks in the connections. The line goes dead. I call back. An obnoxious honking sound. The call has failed.
F*** you iPhone! What do I do now? My kid is in the middle of a forest fire, do I Google “Paradise California Fire”?
Yes. And there it is.
Live video from a Redding news channel of a wildfire is burning in Butte Creek County and threatening thousands of homes. Since 6 AM it has tripled in size with zero containment. Helicopters are being sent to evacuate patients from Feather Creek Hospital. All roads are blocked. Fire departments have been called from surrounding towns to keep the roads open as long as possible. Over 23,000 people are under an immediate evacuation order. My kids are two of them. Hopefully my son is at one of his college classes and not home in the path of the fire. There is only one way out of town not blocked by fire. It’s a traffic jam.
Back on the other end of the broken phone line, with only a few minutes to grab a couple items from the house she sprinted back to her car and headed towards Chico, 23 miles downhill from Paradise. After two hours in gridlock traffic, with flames engulfing both sides of the road, the noon sky turning to complete black, the car heating up from the growing flames, watching people running down the street with children in their arms or releasing their pets to fend for themselves, afraid she was going to be cooked to death, my 17 year old daughter experiences a world that has turned into something she should never see. Hell. The text messages she sent captured her fear. Images of being trapped on the road.
Today she’s sleeping in our guest bed here at my house in Salt Lake City. An hour and half airplane ride from Sacramento, a flight she managed to make after reuniting with her mother and brother in Chico to share tears and concerns. At this point we fear their house, all of their belongings, and two cats are gone.
Through text messages, twitter, snapchat, and news stories, we try to keep up with whatever we can learn about the fire, fatalities, and more evacuations.