I ran back into the house, woke Eddie up and started throwing things into a bag. We just did this last month, but they had considerably more time to pack. My immediate concern was the next 24 hours, so I packed what I could, put the now crying babies into my car, grabbed my work computer, our external hard drive with all of the baby pictures on it, the briefcase with our important documents, and 2 bottles of milk. Dee-Dee and Phoebe, our cats, were nowhere to be found and would not come out when we called for them. I had to make the decision to leave them behind. Eddie scrambled to get his scooter onto the back of his van and 10 minutes after the police had come through, we left the park.
The ride on the 5 Fwy was surreal. The entire hillside just east of the house was on fire and the entire sky was filled smoke. We got to Rosi and Al's house and tried to go to sleep, but it was very difficult.
This morning, Luke woke us up and we turned on the news while we changed the babies' diapers. It was then, at 5:20 am, that the Channel 2 news anchor said that the Oakridge Mobile Home Park was on fire and that the fire department had abandoned the Park because it was too dangerous to remain. In shock, we watched as fire burned in a familiar shape of the map of Oakridge. We tried to make out which streets were on fire, but there was no way to tell. For the next 2 hours, the news anchors kept talking about the "utter devastation" at Oakridge. At one point, we watched as a row of houses south of our street caught fire one after another. The wind was blowing so hard, that the fire was traveling sideways from home to home.
At 7 am, Eddie and I decided to go to San Fernando High School, one of the shelters, to register. They had no news for us, but told us that they would help us with anything we needed. We left, sad to see the fire refugees trying to sleep on cots in the gym. We arrived back at Grandma and Grandpa's house to see even more devastation at Oakridge. It seemed certain that our house was gone.
We've been through a roller coaster of emotions. Oakridge has been our safe haven in Los Angeles, our restful home. We still haven't processed losing that community. Even sadder to me is having left DeeDee and Phoebe behind. I don't know if I can forgive myself for that.
In the hours since I started this blog post, the Los Angeles Fire Department posted a list of 124 homes in Oakridge that were saved. Our house was on the list. Of the 600 homes in Oakridge, ours was spared. We don't know if the kitties are safe and we don't know when we will be allowed in. They are afraid that some of the elderly who lived in the park did not escape the flames.
In this picture, you can actually see our house. If you look at the cluster of trees and green grass on the left of the picture, you will see, just south of the trees, one burned house in the middle of a bunch of saved homes. Our house is behind and to the left of that house. You can see a white car across the street a bit from us. It looks like there is some damage to the back of our house, but you can clearly see our roof and the roof of our friend Larry's house to the right (behind the burned house) and Mr. Brewster's house to the left of ours.
Photo from LA Daily News.com
We don't know what the next few days and months will bring. We don't know if any of our belongings are salvageable. What we do know is that we are safe. And in the end, that's all that matters.
To Tia Eva, Auntley, Grandma Matzner, Nana and Tata Uribe, Daddy and all of our other angels in Heaven, thank you for watching over us last night and being the wind behind us that helped us get safely away.