We have felt two earthquakes since we moved to California in 2001. Both times we had to ask each other, "Wow, was that an earthquake?". What we had not been warned about or prepared for were wildfires. Sure, since we moved here; we have seen wildfires burning on our TV from areas mostly far from us.
In 2003, there was a wildfire (now referred to the Cedars Fire) that was close to the area where we lived but not threatening to us. Today, in our community, we have lived in a state of emergency. We woke this morning at 4:30 because of the Santa Anna winds shaking the house. When we turned on the TV; we learned that the wildfire that had started in the area had been fueled by the Santa Anna winds into smaller wildfires around the San Diego area; including one in our new hometown.
Watching the local TV, we saw up close and personal the fires move from away from our "space" to encroaching upon it.
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We took the precautions and loaded up the trunk of our car with "things" that we had to take. How do you go through your home and think -- "What do I take that is invaluable to me?". I grabbed the many boxes of family and friend's pictures -- knowing that they couldn't be replaced. Grabbed important papers and packed clothes and toiletry/ medical needs. (I admit, I was ready to grab my pillow.) Took pictures on my digital camera of the rest of the belongings in our house in case we needed to file an insurance claim. What a trip that exercise will put you through.
We waited for the "reverse 911 call" that would tell us that we needed to evacuate our house. Once afternoon came and we could watch the sky from our driveway go from the ugly, gray, orange haze from the smoke to patches of blue sky with whiter clouds; we knocked on wood--hugged each other and thanked Mother Nature for sparing our immediate area.
Unfortunately, tonight we are still watching with apprehension as the winds and low humidity and dry conditions are posing new dangers for the night. Our trunk is still packed and we are staying vigilant. But our hearts go out to the people who did not escape the vicious fires. Over 250,000 people have been evacuated from their homes because of the danger; close to 500 homes have been damaged or destroyed with more on the way; 16 firefighters have been sent to the hospital, some in critical condition. I can't imagine the devastation we will see when this is over.
BUT, as a former Directore of a Volunteer Services Program in Nebraska, I am so impressed and moved by the outpouring of support from both businesses and individuals for the displaced homeowners and everyone affected by the wildfires. So heartwarming.
I am sure that most of you have seen the national news talking about these wildfires. If there is a way that you could support these people with a contribution; you can do so through the Red Cross.
"Since national is coming to help, we're asking people to donate to the national disaster relief fund and designate to the San Diego County Wildfires," said Jeff Wiemann, chief financial officer for the San Diego/Imperial Counties Red Cross.
Donors who want their contributions to the national fund to be earmarked for San Diego should use the account code No. 616.
However, San Diego Red Cross CEO Veronica "Ronne" Froman said last night, "If people want to send their donations to our chapter, that's their call."