Tubb’s Fire 10/9/17- A sudden evacuation

Tubb’s fire October 9, 2017

BOOM BOOM BOOM! BANG BANG BANG!

What the heck? What is going on? I wake up frantically. My dog is running down the stairs barking.

We had lost power twice tonight, once with a pop, and by all measures it is still out now. It’s pitch black except for a weird noticeable glow. I’ve only been asleep an hour and now this.

I run downstairs and there are lights on in my driveway. What is happening?

I open the door and 2 people with flashlights jump out running at me frantically. I slam the door shut and yell “I don’t know you. Get back. Get back!”. I think I am about to be robbed during a blackout.

“There are 3 fires surrounding us! Get out of here now!” , they holler as they get back into their car and speed off. I look up and realize that the weird glow is red. That it is fire. These are my angels. They have come down and woken me to a hell storm. Saving my life in the process.

And they are gone. Like that. Knock. Knock. Run. Yell. Leave. I assume they are at the next house.

Man what the heck is going on. How is it time for an evacuation?

 

Sunday afternoon

It was a day like most. In-laws were over. We went walking in Spring Lake Park, soon to be surrounded by fires, had lunch, and a mid-afternoon tea with friends. We played and laughed. Usual Sunday afternoon shenanigans with a toddler.

The only unusual thing was the wind. Around 6 pm having dinner with my wife and son outside I noticed that the wind was stronger then usual, and going the wrong way.

There is usually a gust from West to East. It comes from the ocean, up over the mountain, through the valley, and into our yard.

Today it was coming from East to West. Strange to say the least, and strong.

Still I paid it little  attention. We had not even lived in our house a year and continued to learn of it’s ins and outs.

We went to bed or tried to go to bed.

The wind was ferocious. As I lay in my second floor bedroom I felt the house shake and the windows creak. I could not sleep and was up intermittently checking windows, doors, and other creaking items. It was a strange night to say the least.

Later I would hear that the wind was on average 50 mph and went up to 70 mph at some point. These winds helped spark and spread the fire across the country side that led to so much devastation. (Later I would read that these winds occur rarely and called El Diablo in Northern California. They truly were the devil). 

 

11PM

I am still lying awake in bed. I have been here for an hour and a half already. The power is out and that loud pop had been weird. So I get up and walk around the house.

I look outside and furniture is flying everywhere. I start bringing things inside. Umbrellas, couch cushions, car toys, bubble machines, workers gloves…everything.

The wind is nuts. This is nuts. I have lived here a year and never felt these kind of gusts. I look over to the side of my house and notice an absence.

My 30 foot tree is gone. The trunk broke in half and now the tree is in my neighbors yard. I climb the fence and peak over with a flashlight.

Good, no damage done to their furniture or house. Still what a pain. I will need to call an arborist in the morning to cut this thing down.

As I am standing there I realize that the rest of the tree is swaying and that I should go back inside. It really does not seem safe to be outside tonight. The winds may lift me away.

 

1 AM…I finally get some sleep

Finally, 1 am rolls around. I am able to put my head down out of exhaustion. The wind is till raging, but I tell myself the house will hold.

As someone who has lived through tornadoes in Nashville, hurricane level winds in Memphis back in 2003, and seen the destruction of hurricanes in New Orleans I know what winds can do…but still I tell myself it will be okay.

As I lay my head down, I look out my window and see a glow. I think it is pretty and snap this picture to share with my wife in the morning. I have no clue that it is an omen of what to do. Finally I get some rest. My eyes close and I fall asleep.

Somehow I did not realize that the red glow was fire coming from the North.

2 AM…the knock and evacuation

Exhausted and with only 1 hour of sleep I hear a thump thump thump. Then another thump thump thump. My angels have arrived.

Time to get out. I am frantic at this point. The most frantic I have been.

3 fires! Surrounding us! What does that mean? How much time do we have?

Who the heck knows and I am not waiting to find out.

Still no power. Time to mobilize.

 

Panic

I panic. I truly panic. Here I am, a Cardiologist, used to high stress situations, and all I can think of is yelling at my wife. No cool, calm, and collected demeanor here.

Running upstairs I scream, “WAKE UP! WAKE UP!”

“We gotta go! There is fire all around us! We gotta go!”

She gets up and grabs our son.

I run to the closet and put on jeans, no belt. Grab my glasses and head to the garage.

Power is out.

Manually open the door and move our car out.

Put son in car. Put dog in car.

There is a red glow all around us. 360 degrees of red. Very eerie. Very strange.

 

In and out

I run back into garage and grab a bucket of camping gear to get a lantern. This bucket of arguably useless stuff (in relation to passports, birth certificates, checks etc.) is the only thing that makes it to the car.

My wife grabs the lantern and runs back into the house. She grabs clothes for my son and a pair of underwear and a bra. Toothbrushes.

She comes back.

 

All that is left. An air pump, sleeping bags, a wine opener, some lanterns. some towels, a coffee percolator…who needs passports, wedding bands, and birth certificates.

 

I run in. Close the garage door. Run inside. Grab our wallets, 1 pair of underwear, and dog food. I run back into the car.

Time to go. Things that are left that I wish we had taken include wedding bands, passports, birth certificates, checks, and computers.

We had a vital document fire safe right there by the camping gear, yet in my frantic exit it was left.

(To be fair, I still think I made the right choice. I had no clue where the fire was or how fast it would spread. I just wanted us to be safe). 

 

Phone calls

On the way out we call both our adjacent neighbors and convince them to leave. A friend happens to text us to come over. Their father just left his house with fires raging 100 feet away.

They provide shelter that night. We have a destination and head that way.

(Ed. while we made phone calls, many others stayed until the last minute knocking on doors to ensure everyone knew. There is a story of a retired police officer who was sawing down a tree in the road so individuals could safely leave. Our realtor spent 45 minutes making sure others were awake that by the time they left they didn’t have time to grab anything. The fire was too close. Talk about heroism.)

 

The drive

This is crazy. There is zero visibility due to smoke. The mountain is glowing red and embers are flying all around us.

Power is out and the street lights non-functioning. The only colors are the red glow of the hills, the lights of the cars, and the colored lights of emergency vehicles. All of this is skewed by the smoke.

People are leaving. None of us know if we are driving into fire or safety.

We go, drive, hope. We make it to the interstate. Numerous roads are closed along the way. Down 101 we head to our friends.

On the way there is a car on the side of the road that is flaming. The hood is on fire. The tires are on fire. The flames seem 10 feet high.

I feel like I am watching a Terminator movie.

Smoke, soot, red embers, and now a car on fire.

The interstate is strangely empty despite the evacuations. We drive and finally pull off onto our neighbors exits. People seem to be going the opposite direction from us, but we just continue on our path. In my mind I wonder if I should be following everyone else.

 

Respite

We finally make it to our friends. Relative safety. No immediate evacuation, though the fire is close.

We sit around a table and have a drink. We are not out of the woods yet.

For the next 2 hours we listen to fire reports and make sure we don’t have to leave. We have 3 kids running around and playing. 2 kids upstairs sleeping. None of the adults are sleeping.

6 am rolls around and the sunrise is amazing. A beautiful red glow among an otherwise smokey morning.

 

The morning red sun.

We stay for lunch and allow our son to sleep in and then play. His life was just turned upside down and he has no clue. We then drive through the thick smoke to my sister-in-laws where we will be staying for the near future.

News of the devastation comes in. By all accounts our home is burned to the ground but I have no actual visual confirmation. That will come the next day.

The planning begins for the next stage of our lives…We have our lives and our neighbors. We lost our possessions, but that is the way it goes.

 

Evacuation bag

We are lucky. We made it out alive. At the time of writing this post, 15 people died and countless others are missing from the Tubb’s Fire and the other Sonoma and Napa County fires.

If you include the other 2 fires raging in Northern California, this has been the worst fire in modern history (worse than the 1991 fires).

We left with ourselves and I am grateful we are safe…but we left a lot of important documents, clothes, etc. behind. I want to take a minute to discuss the importance of an evacuation bag.

This is different than a emergency kit. We had one of those. It had food, water purification tablets, a radio, etc. in it. If we needed to live for a while without electricity or water this kit was available. I did not grab it and it burned to the ground.

What I am talking about is a “get the hell out of dodge right now” bag. Something that is in an accessible location (like the garage) that you know to grab in case you have to evacuate immediately like we did.

What should be in the evacuation bag?

Here is what I recommend from what I wish we had:

  • A checkbook.
    • We left all of ours at home making some things difficult the following day. As a digital bank user, I do not have a local bank to count on when all of this happened for checks, debit cards, etc.
  • Spare credit card if you have one.
    • A lot of us credit card churn and thus have a credit card or two lying around. Put one in your bag.
  • Cash
  • Basic toiletries for your family.
    • Toothbrush and toothpaste. Deodorant. Spare prescription glasses if you have them. Floss. A few pairs of contacts or even a box.
  • Socks and underwear. 
  • A few t-shirts and a pair of shorts, jeans, and a fleece or coat. Kids clothes. 
  • Diapers 
    • For the young ones. Consider putting a stuffed animal (maybe a duplicate of their favorite stuffed bear) and a blanket in there.
  • A back up of your computer. 
    • I had not been backing my computer to the cloud and had used an external hard drive. Since I left my computer and hard drive at home, all of those documents are now gone. Consider backing things up in the cloud. That way it is always available in case of a fire.
  • A fireproof safe. 
    • I updated this on 10/16/17. It looks like my safe did not tolerate the intense heat and all of my vital documents are gone. Beyond a fireproof safe, consider a safe deposit box at the bank. You can place the rarely used documents there such as birth certificates and social security cards. 
    • The safe should have vital documents including passports, birth certificates, house deed, and car titles. Pretty much anything of legal importance or personal importance to you. It should be small and easily picked up to put in the car. Ironically, I had a safe like this and it was in the garage by my camping equipment. I completely forgot to grab it and am just hoping that the safe is still there and not melted when we finally make it back.
    • I also had a jewelry safe in my room. This safe was screwed into the wall. Unfortunately I had my passport, checkbooks, and birth certificates in this safe and they may not have survived. I will know more once we can get back up.
    • Here is an Amazon link to buy one. I get paid a little bit if you do purchase it from Amazon today.
  • Dog/Cat food and their collars. 
    • We grabbed dog food and a leash but we forgot the collar with vaccination tags. No big deal today, but if our dog needed boarding it may be an issue.

Other recommendations from the comments of our readers:

  • Backing up your important photos and files on a Cloud. I am using the Google eco-system but Apple also has a good system.
  • A first aide kit
  • Consider leaving vital documents in a bank safe. These may include birth certificates, car and home titles, etc.
  • A video of your entire house for the insurance company.
  • A list of emergency numbers including family, friends, banks, and schools.
  • Cell phone and computer charger
  • List of items to bring
  • From Dr. Sam in the comments section. These are items for physicians evacuating to a hospital to further help care for people that he compiled.
    • Bubbles to blow in the wind/card game?
    • Canned soup and beans
    • Can opener
    • Sazon spice for beans
    • Paper plates/bowl/disposable silverware
    • Oatmeal/raisins/cinnamon/cereal
    • Dried fruit
    • Small cooler apples/carrots/potato peeler
    • Gatorade
    • Water supply
    • Life straw
    • bathroom bag
    • Clothes
    • Sheet
    • Pillow
    • Sleeping bag
    • Weapon/mace
    • Cash in a money belt
    • Flashlights/batteries/lantern
    • Life vest
    • Laptop/phone/cords/surge protector/battery for phone
    • Door wedge (to close door in room while sleeping incase of looters, etc.)

Other stuff

If you are truly sentimental, then consider keeping your pictures and photo albums in a bin in the garage. That way they are available if you want to look through them, but also easily put in the car in times of an evacuation.

Also, please learn how to open a garage door manually. It is relatively easy to do but not something you want to figure out in the middle of an evacuation. There is a story of a woman having trouble getting her garage door open. Luckily a good samaritan stopped and helped.

Finally, remember that everything but your lives are replaceable. It is inconvenient I left many things at home, but we can find this stuff over time. I can get a new passport, new checks, new underwear, etc. Just be safe and get out. Remember, the purpose of an evacuation bag is so that you can still get out quick while having the vital items.

Any of you have experience evacuating? Any other recommendations?

 

Finally…I must thank my online blogging community

There are many things that make a community. Often we think of our family, neighborhood, or schools as those communities. In the era of the internet, online communities are also very real. Over the last year I have talked to many great bloggers and made some wonderful relationships. While I have not physically met any of them, I do consider them friends.

When the fires hit, they did what they do best. They got together and began writing and sharing to spread the importance of emergency preparedness. Here are some of the articles they have written thus far:

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Also published on Medium.

DadsDollarsDebts

I am a Dad and Doctor trying to find financial freedom by owning my dollars and debts. Helping dads with their finances so they can focus on the family.

102 thoughts on “Tubb’s Fire 10/9/17- A sudden evacuation

  • November 10, 2017 at 7:02 am
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    Just saw this post as linked from another blog. Wow, very intense. So sorry for your loss but you and your family are alive to live another day. Great rundown on emergency preparedness, great service you’re doing here.

    Reply
  • October 20, 2017 at 5:37 pm
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    What a recap! I’m glad you and your family are safe. You mentioned on Twitter that you wish you could do a 2000 square-foot rebuild. Is that smaller than your old house? If so, why do you feel this way? Is it possible to build something similar size, and if there is money left over from the insurance claim you can just keep it as cash?

    We live in a house just under 2000 ft.², and we think it is about the right size. But there’s only three of us.

    You’ve inspired me to write a newsletter or a post and link back to this post. It is an incredible post that as a reminder of what may happen. We just never know.

    BTW, Is your insurance specifically fire insurance? Or is it the general homeowner at insurance that covers fires? I have a question regarding whether there is a difference between different types of fires that insurance covers. For example, is there a difference between a natural disaster fire and a fire that is caused by letting something accidentally on fire in your home such as in the kitchen?

    Sam

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    • October 20, 2017 at 9:25 pm
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      Our current home (well the one that burned down) was 3100 square feet. I think the 3 of us would be comfortable in a 2000 square foot home. However, after learning more about insurance and building, it seems like a similar structure and square footage would maximize my opportunity. Once the home is built we can live in it or down size.

      We may not have much material possessions currently, but the options we have are endless.

      As for insurance. It was general insurance that covers fires. Some disasters, like floods and earthquakes, require separate insurance. For fires it seems normal insurance covers it.

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  • October 19, 2017 at 8:09 am
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    I’m glad that out of all of this, you and your family are safe. I’m sorry for the loss of your home and the things that were in it. Thank you for sharing your story though, and I think your list of ideas are good. It definitely helps to put things in perspective, especially since we live in a place where “stuff like this doesn’t usually happen”. However, it makes me realize that we need to get on top of things that we have been putting off because you just truly never know what will happen and when.

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    • October 19, 2017 at 8:16 am
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      Thanks for reading Kim. A week out and every thing is sinking in. We are grateful to be alive and together.

      Reply
  • October 19, 2017 at 5:00 am
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    Wow… just wow. Glad you’re OK, stinks to lose all that stuff but at least you’re all OK. Stunning.

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  • October 18, 2017 at 3:59 pm
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    So here’s thought number 88: Holy Lord!

    I’m so glad you and your family (dog included) got out — a few minutes later and that might not have been the case. Heard about your story over at Revanche’s “A Gai Shan Life.”

    Two dear friends live in the Wine Country. One said she was OK — the fires were not too close to her part of town…but since then we’ve had more reports of spreading conflagration, & I’ve heard nothing more from her. The other, an old friend from grad school, is an independent motion picture/video producer. He was coming back from an assignment in Europe at the time all this started. Arrived in the country with hours to spare before they had to go to the location of a major client’s project. He and his wife planned to go up to their house (from the City) to pick up the equipment they needed…his parting shot was the fire had come within a mile & a half of their house. Again: not another word from him.

    Thank God a third one had decamped to Puerto Rico…where she enjoyed the late hurricane… She’s now hiding in Chicago.

    You’re right that you need to have a get-out-of-Dodge package. But it all needs to be in one place — ideally housed permanently in or very near to your vehicle. As you note, with panic in full swing, a neighbor unable to get out of her garage by herself, trees and electric lines crashing down around you…you may not think of everything.

    My own sense about it as that many of the key documents you describe as having been lost when the safe could not withstand the heat might have been scanned to disk and stored in the Cloud. With account numbers, passport numbers, and the like, asking for new copies from the authorities might be simpler than having to start from scratch. All key work (if you’re self-employed), tax, and personal documents should be kept, encrypted, in the Cloud.

    I keep collars, ID, and leashes for my dogs in the car so that in a pinch all I’ve got to do is throw the beasts in the vehicle and step on the gas pedal. It also can’t hurt to at least keep water in the vehicle, even if there’s no room for camp food, a camp stove, and a little propane. Camping gear should be stored in one place, in the garage, preferably together so it’s just a matter of throwing it in the back of the car if you have time. If you don’t have time, BFD: you can sleep in the vehicle. The main thing is your car should always carry water, and if you live in an area that gets cold in the winter, you should also store enough blankets to cover you and your family members.

    And…y’know…you should have a plan for where you’re going to go if you’re forced to evacuate from your home. Even a fistful of credit cards may not get you into overcrowded hotels & motels. A mutual arrangement with a friend a few hundred miles away might be well advised.

    Reply
    • October 18, 2017 at 8:15 pm
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      This is heart breaking. I truly hope your friends are safe and just not answering calls due to the trauma of all of this. They will be in my thoughts as I stress over the next few weeks, knowing that there are others who are suffering worse.

      An agreement between friends is brilliant. If my friend had not texted I truly don’t know what we would have done or where we would have gone.

      Reply
  • October 18, 2017 at 12:53 pm
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    I reply to echo everyone to say thanks for sharing your experience. It is so helpful to read such an honest first person account. We’ve been evacuated twice for fires in my area (live close to open space), and it is truly remarkable how completely blank one’s mind goes at that moment, just as you said. In my situations, even though we weren’t in any immediate danger, I can recall my mind going completely blank and not having any ability to cognitively process the things that were important to pack. I was just kind of randomly throwing things in a bag. I think in such situations our brain’s more primitive circuits and ‘fight or flight’ instincts are completely running the show and our frontal lobe is simply not functioning. Completely validates the idea of having an evacuation box. I’m seriously considering making one and putting the photos, the inherited jewelry, the car/house titles and insurance records put in the stairway by the front door. Then, no cognition required, grab and go. Best to you in this journey to rebuild, and be kind and gentle to yourself during this process. Very warm wishes go out to you and your family.

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    • October 18, 2017 at 2:14 pm
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      Good point- it is very much a fight or flight mentality. Adrenaline running, tension increasing, time to go situation.

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  • October 18, 2017 at 10:01 am
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    I’m from California originally. Grew up with the Santa Ana’s in SoCal which were nasty and frightening because the canyons would burn. After college I was in the East Bay. Left for the Denver area 25 years ago and don’t get back too frequently. However I was just in Santa Cruz last weekend for the weekend after a conference in San Jose. When we were driving over the hill, the forest in the mountains between the two actually spooked me. The forests were so thick and heavy and obviously very, very dry. Drier than I recalled, but living 25 years in a place with more year round moisture could skew my memories. But who would have thought a subdivision could go up like it did in Santa Rosa? So very sorry for your loss, can’t even fathom what you and your family must be going through. Best to you as you rebuild.

    Reply
  • October 17, 2017 at 6:52 pm
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    So glad to hear that you and your family got out safely; you’ve got my prayers that you can get life back to normal in the near future!

    Reply
    • October 17, 2017 at 8:31 pm
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      Thanks Chris. We are living an experiment where we went from 3100 sqft to 700 while we rebuild. Let’s see what happens from there.

      Reply
  • October 17, 2017 at 11:16 am
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    I think it says a lot that you posted before you knew what happened to your house. Despite all the uncertainty, you thought of all these internet people that you haven’t actually met. I’m a silver lining guy like PoF – your family, job skills, blog and nest egg are intact : )

    Reply
  • October 16, 2017 at 3:19 pm
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    Echoing what many others have said, thank you for sharing this! It’s just terrifying. I’m so sorry for all you and your neighbors lost, but of course it’s most crucial that you got all your family to safety.

    Reply
    • October 16, 2017 at 3:57 pm
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      Thanks for checking the blog. It is pretty crazy and now that the shock has worn off we are making it day by day.

      Reply
  • October 16, 2017 at 10:06 am
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    I wasn’t sure what to say when I first read your story. It’s a huge relief that you & your family & pet are safe and you’ve got somewhere to stay.
    It’s overwhelming because ‘it’s just stuff’ but it was your stuff. As you rebuilt, it’s ok to be sad that you don’t have it.
    My apartment building had a fire in 2013, and somehow I only had water damage, but didn’t know for that first night. Some things weren’t recoverable. Many things were replaceable.
    My mom stayed with me this May and asked if I had an old towel to put down near her cat’s litter box. I don’t have old towels, blankets, pillows etc anymore. That’s ok, but it’s just a thing that comes up now & then.
    Thank you for sharing. Again, very glad you & your family are safe. Best wishes with rebuilding.

    Reply
    • October 16, 2017 at 3:56 pm
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      Good point…it is strange how this all works out. We have decluttered overnight. I just spent $10 on a coaxial cable that connects my modem to the cable jack…$10 for something I had 20 of before.

      Reply
  • October 16, 2017 at 9:38 am
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    thankful that you and your family are safe. thank you for the evacuation bag reminder. i need to get on that asap! i did not read all the comments so this may have been mentioned, but i would add phone chargers to the bag and also a list of items to grab that are not in the bag/tote.

    we have all our important documents, photo backups, some jewelry in the bank safe box. this is a dumb question, but do those boxes survive these types of disasters? (fire/tornado etc) i mostly had them there with the idea of fire or theft to our house and not a city-wide disaster.

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    • October 16, 2017 at 3:54 pm
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      I am learning more about this as it goes. The fire safe lasts up to a few hours. We have not seen ours yet, but a police officer went out there yesterday and told me it was toast. He said more than likely everything in it is ash…

      So that goes to show you that the safe is not full proof. The best option is to just grab it and go…so next time (hopefully there won’t be a next time), we will do that.

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      • October 18, 2017 at 8:35 pm
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        yes, hopefully there will never be a next time!!!

        I guess I was more referring to the safe deposit boxes located in a bank vault. That is where we have those important items. I am wondering if those are “fire proof” in a wide spread fire like this. I will have to do some research…. at some point though you have to live life and not try to plan for all the what-ifs and potentials…. like you have said, it is just “stuff” and life matters so much more. I keep all the items at the bank that I do not want stolen (heirloom jewelry – not worth much but sentimental) or lost in a fire (original important documents and backups of photos/videos).

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  • October 16, 2017 at 7:33 am
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    Sounds harrowing, and I’m glad you and your loved ones are okay. We haven’t really had a cause for an emergency bug-out, but with our house backing up to woods it’s always a possibility. Thanks for using your situation to spur some action.

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  • October 16, 2017 at 5:54 am
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    So sorry to hear about the loss, but I’m glad you and your family are OK!

    I think a list of emergency numbers is a good idea, everything from family and friends to banks and schools…anyone you might need to contact about the situation. I’m going to put one together myself since we also rely heavily on our devices.

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    • October 16, 2017 at 6:08 am
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      That’s also a great point. A list of numbers would would be key for regrouping later.

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  • October 16, 2017 at 4:18 am
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    Glad you’re safe. What’s important and what you truly need takes on new meaning in those moments.

    Reply
  • October 15, 2017 at 8:57 pm
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    Reading your post brought back bad memories from the time I had to be evacuated a couple of years ago. I still remember the eery red glow and chokingly thick smoke all too well. Its definitely time to revisit our emergency kits and plans. I am so glad to hear that you guys are ok.

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    • October 15, 2017 at 10:40 pm
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      Wow…I wish I had known what the red glow meant. I would have moved quicker. Now I will never forget it. Glad you were okay too from that experience.

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  • October 15, 2017 at 8:25 pm
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    Just, wow. Unbelievable to say the least. Glad you’re safe, thoughts and prayers to all the folks in Cali.

    And btw, a bright spot, you are a truly gifted storyteller. Was on the edge of my seat throughout.

    Best of luck in the ‘rebuilding’! You have what’s most important, your family!

    Reply
    • October 15, 2017 at 10:39 pm
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      Thank you for the kind words. It is likely the best piece I have ever written because it was fresh on my mind…I am hoping I can carry it forward on future posts.

      Thanks for the best of luck…building a house was not something my wife and I ever wanted to do…we explicitly have said we did not want to do it. But when life throws you lemons.

      Reply
  • October 15, 2017 at 6:16 pm
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    You all made it – that is what counts.

    We stock up on freeze dried food but in our area it’s more likely to be stuck in the home for weeks than have to dash out.

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    • October 15, 2017 at 10:38 pm
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      That is how I had been thinking (earthquake preparedness). Never thought to prepare for a fire, but alas…

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  • October 15, 2017 at 4:47 pm
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    Glad to hear your family is safe DDD, sorry for the complete loss. Thanks for sharing the story and tips.

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    • October 15, 2017 at 10:36 pm
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      Thank you for readin the post and checking in. Over the last week the trauma has slowly set in but we will survive.

      Reply
  • October 15, 2017 at 11:23 am
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    Wow, glad to see you and the family made it out safely. I definitely have put a grab and go bag on my to-do list. Its one of those things that you always think about doing but never get around to doing.

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    • October 15, 2017 at 10:36 pm
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      Do it Doc! Or at least put the necessary to grab items near each other and near the car.

      Reply
  • October 15, 2017 at 10:53 am
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    Glad you all got out alright but also wishing you strength through this all. Thanks for sharing your “scar tissue” (as I call it) with the rest of us.

    We just went through the trauma of evacuating from Irma and I made sure to take notes because I think stuff like this will happen again in the future. Incase this helps anyone, here’s the list I made for a physician who has to evacuate to a hospital for a hurricane (I culled this from asking fellow Tampa Bay Physician Moms Group and my husband, who hunkered down in his Emergency Room. And yes, they did blow bubbles in the wind before the hurricane came).

    Volunteering at hospital Packing list:
    -bubbles to blow in the wind/card game?
    -canned soup
    -canned beans
    -can opener
    -sazon spice for beans
    -paper plates/bowl/disposable silverware
    -oatmeal/raisins/cinnamon/cereal
    -dried fruit
    -small cooler apples/carrots/potato peeler
    -gatorade
    -water supply
    -life straw
    -bathroom bag
    -clothes
    -sheet
    -pillow
    -sleeping bag
    -weapon/mace
    -cash in a money belt
    -flashlights/batteries/lantern
    -life vest (one of my friends hunkered down in a ground level ER that was supposed to experience storm surge)
    -laptop/phone/cords/surge protector/battery for phone
    -Door wedge (to close door in room while sleeping/incase of looters, etc)

    Reply
    • October 15, 2017 at 10:55 am
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      That is an awesome list. Thanks for sharing. I will add it to the body of the text so others can find it easily.

      Reply
  • October 15, 2017 at 9:53 am
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    I can’t imagine anything like this actually happening. I’m sorry it happened to you, and I’m glad your family is safe. Your account gives me lots to think about concerning my family and home.
    My mind would be racing about what to do now. Good luck with all the upcoming decisions.

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    • October 15, 2017 at 10:43 am
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      Thanks Jumpstart…it will is a lot to process but we are taking it in. They are still evacuating parts of the city a week later which blows my mind. This fire has been epic and will be impacting our town for a while to come.

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  • October 15, 2017 at 8:50 am
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    Sorry I wanted to comment initially but couldn’t because it wasn’t an option on my phone. Now I’m on the computer. I’m so sorry you went through this, and thank you for sharing your experience so others can learn to get an evacuation kit. Your story was so gripping, I was in disbelief as I kept reading that this happened! You have an amazingly positive attitude to what has happened. I would be devastated to lose wedding bands and photo albums. I am glad you and your family are safe.

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    • October 15, 2017 at 9:00 am
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      Thanks Gen Y Money. It is pretty crazy and as I wrote that the shock had not quite passed. Now it is settling in now but the physical losses don’t bother me much. The hard and weird thing is the loss of vital documents. Those will be replaced but I do wish I had kept them in a safe box at the bank.

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  • October 14, 2017 at 8:10 pm
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    I recommend taking a video on your camera of everything that you own, every room, every cupboard, every drawer, every closet, every storage space and garage. You’ll most likely take your phone and you will have evidence for your insurance company. Take photos of your important documents, checking account numbers and credit card company phone numbers. Definitely back up to the cloud. All things that I thought about weeks before but waited until it was too late. God bless to all my neighbors in Fountaingrove and surrounding fire hit areas.

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    • October 14, 2017 at 8:11 pm
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      I am glad you made it Paul. I also did not do these things and am slowly recovering them.

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  • October 14, 2017 at 7:54 pm
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    Wow, living in SF and working over in downtown we see the affects of the fire and to read your personal story about it really hit close to home.
    Sorry about the loss of your home but glad to hear you and your family are safe. You did what you can and happy all of you escaped right before the fire hit your home.
    Great that you pointed out the importance of an emergency evacuation bag. We also live where earthquakes are bound to happen so it vital that we need one. We are definitely going to set one up very soon.

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    • October 14, 2017 at 8:10 pm
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      Yes please plan, especially living in the Bay Area. I have yet to live through an earthquake, the one disaster I have not experienced, and am in no rush to do so.

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  • October 14, 2017 at 7:20 pm
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    I’m so glad everyone is ok. I’ve seen some of the images on the news here and can’t believe what is happening out there.

    We don’t even have an emergency kit. All we have is a small REI first aid pack but we get one and build an evacuation bag.

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    • October 14, 2017 at 8:09 pm
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      A first aid pack is a smart. We have one in my wife’s car and it has come in handy before.

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    • October 15, 2017 at 2:33 am
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      Your story is so well written and your description of events were very much like ours. You did the right thing by not going back for items. That was a fire storm. A fire squall. You and your family are safe. Doggie is too. Everything else is secondary. Thank you for sharing your personal story with neighbors that care.

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      • October 15, 2017 at 2:47 am
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        Thanks Linda for checking it out. I can see you too are having trouble sleeping tonight. It was a storm and not a typical slow moving fire. Leaving was paramount and I am glad so many of us made it out ok.

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  • October 14, 2017 at 1:21 pm
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    Everything can be replaced, super glad that you guys are all out!!! The little ones will make it through just fine too. I’m glad they’re a bit young so they don’t have to deal with the full horrors.

    I didn’t know wild fires and high winds would be so crazy together. There was a lot of news about hurricanes right before but the Tubbs Fire has hit so much of my husband’s family members, it’s so much closer to home. They’re all in Napa and Santa Rosa. His cousin runs a farm and he rode out to get his horses away from the fire. All 30 horses, trying to control them, crazy. Uncle’s apartment burned down but thank goodness for family and friends, everything can be replaced and rebuilt.

    You should put an affiliate link to a fireproof safe. I really, really want to get one now. That is our Xmas present to ourselves so if you’re an Amazon affiliate.

    We’re missing an evaluation kit completely. Our house deed is sitting in a shoe box next to the closet right now. It’s embarrassing how careless we are considering our dog ate our mortgage papers last time. (Cute at the time but not so much anymore.)

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    • October 14, 2017 at 1:37 pm
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      Oh man. Sorry for your loss Lily. Good call with the affiliate link. Good luck getting thins sorted. It is worth it at the end.

      Reply
  • October 14, 2017 at 11:44 am
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    Terrible, but amazing.

    We need more emergency prep — your tips are great.

    One rec — all photos back up online. I pay Google $10/month for a terabyte of Google Photos space. Every photo since we got married in 2006 is on there. Amazon has a similar service for free, and many other big and small name companies do as well. Photos we take on our phone we upload directly using the app.

    Disasters like this make that worth 100000x the investment.

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    • October 14, 2017 at 12:04 pm
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      Thanks buddy. Pics are a good point. Our wedding album was lost but luckily we have smaller versions we had given to the parents.

      Also albums uploaded to MPix or other sites can easily be printed.

      Reply
  • October 14, 2017 at 11:32 am
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    Amazing, Dad. SOOO glad you got out. Your life can be rebuilt, but your LIFE can’t.

    Great reminder of the importance of having a “Go Bag”. We’ve got a safe, but it’s bolted to the wall and I’d likely not have time in an emergency to grab the contents. I think I’ll pack a bag with the most valuable stuff, learning from your experience.

    Keep us posted as you rebuild. I’m sure the next few months will be difficult, but SO thankful you’re alive.

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  • October 14, 2017 at 11:10 am
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    Thanks for sharing your story DDD. I live in Oakland and work in SF and it’s terrifying hearing the news about the fire. But it’s still never quite the same as hearing a personal story. When you’re an outsider, I think it’s hard to realize how much confusion there is during an emergency. Knowing the urgency of leaving yet not knowing where to go, if you’re headed the right direction, how much time you have to get out. I’m so sorry for your loss. Keeping you and your family in my thoughts!

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  • October 14, 2017 at 10:26 am
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    I’m so sorry for your loss.

    Maybe add prescription meds to the list, unless I missed it.

    As licensed foster care parents, we were required to take annual emergency preparedness training so you’d think we were the most prepared on our block. When a wildfire was in the area, we thought it’d never reach our neighborhood. But strong winds and wildfire are a terrible mix and we evacuated in a rush with thousands of others. I’ll look for the forum on rockstar…

    Take care

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    • October 14, 2017 at 10:51 am
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      Meds are important and fortunately my wife was smart enough to grab them. They were not on my mind.

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  • October 14, 2017 at 10:12 am
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    EJ, I’m glad you and your family made it out safely. Being in NorCal, I’ve been following these fires very closely, and following your Twitter posts as well. Please let me know if there is anything you need.

    Regards to you and your family,
    SRGO

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  • October 14, 2017 at 9:59 am
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    Wow DDD, so sorry to hear about this, but so thankful you and your family are safe!! Thank you for thinking of others and suggesting the evacuation bag. I’ll definitely be giving additional consideration to our disaster plan.

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  • October 14, 2017 at 9:30 am
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    Unreal.

    We’re deeply sorry for all that you’ve been through and will continue to deal with as you begin to rebuild your lives. Thank God you and your family escaped unharmed.

    Fires might be the scariest of the natural disasters. It’s not like you can “hunker down” like you can in a hurricane or tornado. Seeking shelter in place would have been a death sentence. How frightening.

    It’s probably way too soon to look for a silver lining, but I’ll be that guy. You’re now a de facto minimalist and have effectively downsized overnight. I just hope you get to some sense of normalcy soon.

    Best,
    -PoF

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    • October 14, 2017 at 10:50 am
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      Minimalist by force but ready to give it a try. First off I am only buying dress clothes for work that go with brown shoes. No need for a brown and black ensemble.

      Minor things but will keep you guys posted.

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  • October 14, 2017 at 9:27 am
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    Thanks for sharing DDD. You made the most important decision, which was to get your family out of the house. I’m so thankful that you and your family are safe. We are going to make our “Get Up and Go Bag” today. Thanks for sharing your personal account while inspiring people to review emergency preparedness.

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    • October 15, 2017 at 2:45 am
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      Laura, after seeing the dreaded Sonoma Sheriff’s Body Cam video that shook me to my core, we don’t need a Get Up and Go Bag, we need a Go! Go! Go! Go! Bag. It’s good advice for us all.

      Reply
  • October 14, 2017 at 9:16 am
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    First glad to hear your ok. We live in a woods on the edge of a nature preserve on the east coast and the fear of a fire is always in the back of our minds. Thankfully they are less common here but the risk always exists. My thoughts go out to your family for all you’ve lost.

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    • October 14, 2017 at 10:27 am
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      That “Good Samaritan” you mentioned was my husband Dr Roger Klein. In our panic to get out of Fountaingrove he had the presence of mind to check on our elderly neighbors. Sure enough, they were going to stay in their home because the garage door “seemed locked.” We waited about 15 minutes for them to make it to our car despite their debilitations. We took them down to his office near SRMHosp where they could sleep on his exam tables. In the morning we were able to get emergency meds for the one who had Parkinson’s. My husband is one of the many heroes. Thank you for your story DDD.

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      • October 14, 2017 at 10:52 am
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        Thanks Kim. What a great story to find out who it was. Truly a hero and proud to live in this community.

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    • October 14, 2017 at 10:49 am
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      Thank you. I would recommend putting documents in a ore safe that you can pick up in case it happens to you. Hopefully it never will. I did not expect it and yet here we are.

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  • October 14, 2017 at 8:55 am
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    So glad you guys are ok. We have a similar story except our angel was a friend frantically calling & the fire was on our block already.
    Where did you live? Our house was off mark west & Michele way.

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    • October 14, 2017 at 10:10 am
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      We were and will be on Hadley Hill. You?
      We made a few calls on our way out. I convinced my neighbor to leave with his kids, so that was a win.

      Reply
  • October 14, 2017 at 6:31 am
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    Thank you so much for writing this – even when you are still in the midst of such a difficult time. It is fresh. It is real – and your words really show how important it is to get out and get to safety right away. The idea of an evacuation bag is incredibly important – and one that probably becomes a “we should do that sometime” item. Even if we think we could never be in this situation, you never know. If it isn’t a fire – maybe it’s a flood. Or some other disaster. So glad you are safe.

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    • October 14, 2017 at 7:40 am
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      Thank you Vicki…yes talk to your loved ones. Get a fire safe (my in-laws just purchased one). Get prepared in the rare circumstance this happens. If I had brought my safe and documents I would be a little less stressed.

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  • October 14, 2017 at 6:14 am
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    OMG, praying for you guys. Stay strong. And thanks for the tips especially about knowing how to open a garage manually. It had never crossed my mind that I would ever need to know how to.

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    • October 14, 2017 at 7:39 am
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      Me neither. Luckily our garage door spring broke 9 months ago and we had to fix it. At that time the technician showed us how to open it manually. That was a huge relief. Good thing to know for sure.

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  • October 14, 2017 at 6:01 am
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    Harrowing. Unthinkable. I am glad you got your wife, child, and dog. We get bad tornadoes here. Fires are usually a single house. I am not sure I could stay calm surrounded by fire. I think you will be strong and persevere. I will get on an emergency bag.

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    • October 14, 2017 at 7:38 am
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      I grew up with tornadoes in Tennessee and appreciate their ferocity. A fire was a entirely new beast and my least favorite natural disaster yet. I would not say that I stayed calm, but we got out of there. Thanks for the kind words.

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  • October 14, 2017 at 5:49 am
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    Wow, DDD. What a painful story, I’m relieved you and your family are safe. It sounds like you and your wife did a great job, especially considering your son was in the house. You can’t take a moment to think when you’re family is at risk. But I’m so sorry for your losses, replaceable or not it can’t be anything near easy to start over.

    Thank you for sharing your story with us – besides a small document safe my family has no evacuation plan or bag. I’ll be discussing it with my husband today. You simply never know what could happen.

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    • October 14, 2017 at 7:36 am
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      Yes please do and keep both available on your route out of the house. I had the safe right there in the garage but thought we woul dbe leaving for a few hours, not that ou house would actually burn down. Crazy how reality hits.

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    • October 14, 2017 at 7:36 am
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      Yes please do and keep both available on your route out of the house. I had the safe right there in the garage but thought we would be leaving for a few hours, not that ou house would actually burn down. Crazy how reality hits.

      Reply
  • October 14, 2017 at 5:01 am
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    Wow Dude, just Wow, glad you are all ok. They are just stories on the news until you know someone it happens to.

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    • October 14, 2017 at 7:35 am
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      I have been reading the stories of lost lives and feel very fortunate. There are some truly heart breaking stories out there.

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  • October 14, 2017 at 4:00 am
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    The most important thing is you survived. Yes, this is truly an eye opener for all of us. Thank you for sharing. Looking forward to follow your journey in rebuilding. God bless you and your family.

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    • October 14, 2017 at 7:34 am
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      Thank you for your kind words. Eye opener for sure…We are hoping to go back tomorrow and get to the house Monday, but the fires continue to rane.

      Reply
  • October 14, 2017 at 3:15 am
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    Crazy and harrowing story! I can’t imagine the fear, confusion, and uncertainty you must have felt during the evacuation. I’ve never been much of an emergency planner, but you have convinced me I need to get my “go bag” in order.

    Good luck with the recovery and eventual return to normalcy, however long it may take.

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  • October 14, 2017 at 2:37 am
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    Wow, what a crazy ordeal. I’m so glad you and your family are safe and equally sorry for the loss you’ve suffered.

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    • October 14, 2017 at 3:16 am
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      Thank you…last night I was reading stories of lives lost and it made me quite sad. Stories of a 14 year old boy found dead likely running from the flames, or of a tourist whose wife of over 50 years died in his arms while they tried to survive in the pool.

      There are still many missing and I am quite grateful we survived. It puts a perspective on what is important.

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  • October 14, 2017 at 2:19 am
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    I don’t have other suggestions DDD, I think you did a good job of covering the necessities. I’m just glad you and your family got out safely. This made me think about what I would want to grab if we had to get out NOW, and it’s really just photos. Every single other thing could be replaced. I wish you & your family all the best-I know it won’t be an easy time, and I’m glad you have insurance and a support system in place to help. Be sure to let the community know what we can do to help. I know it’s not much, but maybe we can help by spreading the message of emergency preparation. I’ll give that some thought.

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    • October 14, 2017 at 3:14 am
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      Thanks Liz. Your never truly prepared (for a natural or medical emergency) until it hits. I had all the greatest intentions for what to grab, but when your feet are to the fire (literally), it all goes out the window.

      I like the idea of spreading the message of emergency preparedness…let’s get the word out.

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      • October 14, 2017 at 3:40 am
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        It’s so true DDD. You’re never really prepared, and if someone hasn’t been through the same situation they can’t understand what it’s really like. You just do the best you can to prepare in advance and then do what you need to do when the disaster hits.

        I put a call out on the Rockstar Finance Forum asking PF bloggers to talk about the importance of emergency preparation (financial and non). Link for those that are interested in helping this way: http://forums.rockstarfinance.com/t/chain-gang-emergency-preparation/3997

        Reply

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