Al’s morning ritual is to get the newspaper at 7:15am, have a cup of coffee and then shower and shave. November 8th didn’t begin that way. He was surprised that we had electricity based on robo-calls, emails, and TV reports. He went outside to get the paper and hurried back in saying he saw flames. Then he started loading the truck with personal items we had already put in the garage. I started grabbing things of importance and simultaneously called 911. The dispatcher calmly said “Those flames are in Pulga, Paradise is in no danger.” I told her that the flames were less than a mile from us and was told I was wrong. Then I called, while running through the house grabbing pictures that I could, several people and not so calmly to get the *&(^ out of Paradise and that it was on fire.
This all happened in a matter of five or ten minutes. Grabbing the pets we could, what was in Al’s truck then making sure that we had both vehicles, we left. The last thing we said to each other was “I love you, and if we get separated we’ll meet at Ali’s,” (our daughter) house.
By that time the fire was already raging on Pentz Road and had reached the mobile home park at Pentz and Wagstaff. The fire fighters were trying to get us out, but had to turn us around because the fire storm was so fierce. Al thought I was behind him when he turned and found a way out. He was out of Paradise in 4 1/2 to 5 hours. We weren’t reunited until 9:00pm or a little later.
It was horrid for our family and our friends all over this country. My dog, Al’s medical records and I ended up at the Optimo parking lot with over a hundred other people. For hours there was no cell services, our family and hundreds of others couldn’t contact us, they didn’t know if we were dead or alive, and we didn’t know if we would make it.
The fire personnel and the police officers stayed with us, kept us calm, were necessarily stern to keep us safe, and kept us alive. Those brave men and women cared. How we would have lived through it without them is a mute question, we wouldn’t have. They never showed fear, even though they must have been thinking of their families too. They were kind, even though some of the citizens were frightened and rude. Everyone of those responders showed the highest level of professionalism and humanity.
Needless to say, both my husband and I made it out. We will be moving to Reno, Nevada in a couple of weeks. There are no forest fires in the desert. After forty years in Paradise, with friends, family, and a wonderful support group it will be missed.