More than 23 years ago, my husband and I were house hunting in Evergreen. We spent one day looking at six homes. I walked in the front door of house No. 2, stood there a moment and said quite matter-of-factly, “This is my house.”
After wandering through the entire place, Bob agreed.
I love the warm, rust-colored beetle-kill pine, the large moss-rock fireplace, the cathedral ceiling that allows us to have really tall trees at Christmas. I love my kitchen, my laundry room, my pantry.
I love my house.
I know that a home is where your loved ones are, but a house is where we store everything that helps us live our lives, everything that creates that sense of safety and security, everything that helps us be who we are.
This week, after spending several hours with Kristen Moeller and David Cottrell, I got a glimpse into what it would be like if a wildland fire took our house. I really wanted to write about the plight of someone losing their home to a wildfire to give you, the reader, an idea of what it might be like, but also to learn that information for myself.
What I saw off Kuehster Road and what I heard from people who were devastated by the Lower North Fork Fire was sobering. The 27 families who lost their homes also lost their landscape. The trees are tall black sticks; the grass is gone for now. Nothing looks the same; nothing feels the same. Everything is different.
I’ve lived here a long time, and every time the alarm sounds for a wildfire in the area, it feels like there’s a rock in the pit of my stomach. So far, I’ve been lucky enough to say, “No, it’s not in my neighborhood.” But one day it could be.
My heart goes out first to the families and friends who lost loved ones in the fire. Then it goes out to the families that lost their homes and virtually everything they owned, everything that made their lives normal.
It will be a long time before anything is normal again.
What I learned last week is to take a little extra time to appreciate my house, the place where Bob and I have raised two wonderful children, the home where my family has made memories all these years. I shouldn’t take that for granted.
I’ve learned to look out at the beautiful views from my decks and take extra time to really appreciate them. Right now, it’s green, and the daffodils in the front yard are just beginning to bloom. I shouldn’t take that for granted.
Reporting on the fire and listening to people’s stories continue to confirm what I’ve known all along: This is a giving community, and we help one another in times of need. The outpouring of support is a given.
It also confirms that people are amazingly resilient. When I was in the burn area, residents were at their properties, beginning to clean things up and hopefully to move on with their lives.
I’ve also become persuaded that it’s time for my family to prepare for wildfire in a big way. We talk about it when there’s a wildfire nearby, and then the danger appears to die down, and life gets in the way of preparation.
We have a couple of boxes packed, and I’ve spent time thinking about what I would grab if I could. But it needs to be in writing — somewhere everyone in the family can find it — a list of what goes first, second, third, assuming there’s time. Then no one has to think in a time of crisis; we just follow the list.
Are the computer hard drives more important than my mom’s and mother-in-law’s china that my daughters will own someday? It’s a decision to be made.
What are the things we just couldn’t live without, that we would be heartbroken if we could never retrieve?
It’s also time to do a full inventory of everything in the house for insurance purposes.
We don’t weather hurricanes and tornadoes. Our bane from Mother Nature is wildfire, and the devastation it can wreak.
Many of us believe that we’re at least sort of prepared. But we’re not.
I urge you to take a drive into the Lower North Fork Fire area. Witness the devastation wrought by the flames. It will be sobering for you, too, and I hope it will be a wake-up call about preparing for the unthinkable.
Deb Hurley Brobst has lived in Evergreen for 23 years with her husband, two daughters, dog and two cats. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.