WrethaOffGrid | |

Well, this has been an interesting day and a not so fun night… we had (are still having) a big fire near our community. Earlier today, or technically yesterday now, I began to smell something burning, I went outside but didn’t see anything. About an hour later, I smelled it even stronger, we went outside to see what was going on, this time we could see smoke, a big column of smoke rolling over the mountains to the south south west. We have been having smallish grass fires, burning a few acres to a couple of hundred acres, the local fire departments have been able to put them out in pretty short order. This time, it was/is a BIG fire, I understand that some 20,000 acres have been burned, and it appears that the fire is still going, as of 2:24 this morning. Most of the people who live out here chose to follow the volunteer evacuation, packed themselves up and left. We talked to a couple of our friends, one set decided to leave, the other set decided to send his wife and kids out but he stayed, he says he knows the area and knows how to get out if it gets too hairy. Anyhoo, we watched the smoke roll over the mountains all day, it got bad enough to make my eyes sting on more than one occasion today. The smoke column went up high enough to begin to block the sun, it made the evening turn orange/red. We decided to stay and ride it out, at least until we could see it would get too dangerous to stay, ie seeing fire coming over the mountain.

I called a few of the other people we know out here, couldn’t get an answer from most of them, I did get a hold of the lady who owns the local store, she said she was leaving because she had her grandkids here for a visit, she got a hotel room in town (safe from the fire) and gave us an open invitation to stay with them if we decided to leave. She said she thought everything would be OK, but just didn’t want to take the chance with the kiddos. I don’t blame her.

All day we watched the smoke billowing over the mountains, earlier in the day, Bob and one of our friends went out to the main road outside the community and watched the fire, they couldn’t see the flames, just where the smoke was coming from. He was one of the people who left this evening, with his family. The wind has been up all day, and the wind was blowing the smoke and presumably the fire right towards us. I was told by the store owner that the fire wasn’t in our community yet, it would have to travel a bit further and jump the main highway, but there was a chance it could, our community volunteer fire department was waiting outside the community in case the fire did jump the road.

As the sun went down, we could still see and smell the smoke, once it started getting dark, we saw a very ominous site, we could see a red orange glow coming from the other side of the mountains to the south, the fire was still going strong. I had been talking to my dad on my internet phone when suddenly, the phone went dead and at the same time, the radio went dead too… we still had power, but it took me a few minutes to realize the community was without power, we still had lights, and the computer was still working, but without power, the internet tower across the valley didn’t work, therefore I had no internet and no phone. I tried my cell phone but was getting little to no signal, bummer…. I took my phone to my neighbor’s house, I figured if the power was out, maybe the phones would still be working, I have a cheapy corded phone, doesn’t need power to work, good for this situation. (Big hint, if you don’t have one already, get a corded phone that doesn’t rely on electricity to work, if the power goes out, your cordless phones will not work!) When I got to my neighbor’s house, sure enough, no power, nothing was working, including his phone, a cordless phone, I unplugged his phone and plugged mine in, bingo! It worked! I called my dad back, he was worried about me, I had just been telling him about the big fire just over the mountain, and we get disconnected… yeah, he was worried. I talked to him for a bit, assured him that we wouldn’t stay if things started looking worse. I took my phone and went back to my house, we sat out on the deck for a couple of hours watching the red glow fade and grow, occasionally we would see a really big puff of smoke get illuminated by the glow. But we never saw flames. We would occasionally see a car drive by, they must have wondered why we had lights when no one else did, I guess if they know who we are, they must know that we are on solar/battery power, I can (almost) guarantee that we were the only people still here with power, not that there were that many people still here.

I started packing up a few things to take just in case we had to bug out, my laptop for one, my corded phone, my cell phone, some important papers, a change of clothes for each of us and a couple of bottles of water. These things took up one small bag and my laptop bag, easy enough for us to carry, even if we ran out of road and had to hoof it.

Eventually the glow faded down and it appeared that the fire was coming under control, I also found out that the power came back on, the internet started working again. We still are not comfortable just going to bed while this is still potentially going on, you can still smell the smoke and there is still a slight glow over the mountain, the wind is still blowing and gusting pretty hard. A fire this big doesn’t get put out this fast. I have to assume there is still some danger, so we decided to take turns staying up, I took the first “shift”, I tend to stay up late anyhow, Bob went on to bed. I’ll wake him up later on this morning, probably close to or just after day break.

The glow has nearly faded away, but I can still smell smoke, I don’t trust going to bed, it’s just to risky, out here we are essentially on our own, if the fire flares up again, we will have to get ourselves out, it’s a bit scary, but that’s the price to pay for living so independent. I do wish the wind would die down, I know that has been a big hindrance. I sit here in front of my computer, next to the window, every now and again, I lower the laptop screen and look out the window where the glow had been, it’s still looking pretty good, I do hope they got the fire out, I also hope no one was hurt or worse, and I hope no one lost any more than a bit of grass.

Last night I thought scorpions were a problem, funny what a bit of perspective can do for you. :)


Anonymous Laurel said…

Wretha, WOW! That sounds amazing and terrifying. I am glad you guys are OK, and I hope you don’t have to evacuate. I love the tip on the corded phone AND on bringing it with you in case of evacuation.

Hopefully you’re getting some rest and the fire is being controlled. I would be interested to see what is left when it’s gone, and how it changes in the weeks and months after. I remember in school being fascinated at how nature recovers from stuff like that.

June 5, 2008 7:05 AM


Blogger HOLLIS said…

Stay safe and keep us updated. When life gets back to normal for Bob & you.

June 5, 2008 7:40 AM


Blogger Wretha said…

Thanks everyone, so far so good though we aren’t out of the woods yet, I’ll keep everyone posted.


June 5, 2008 11:48 AM


OpenID lornkanaga said…


I knew about cordless phones, but I hadn’t thought about bringing one with us if we had to bug out–good idea as not everyone has one! (heck, I won’t get digital/cable telephone because of what happens when the power or cable goes out; I gotta have my land line–hehehe)

Glad you’re safe. Keep us posted.


June 6, 2008 4:18 AM


Blogger Wretha said…

We are doing better now, there are still fires burning, I heard today that they have the fires 65% contained, some 50,000 acres have been burned, no structures lost, no loss of life or injury, I really praise the men and women who have been fighting this fire. I can still smell smoke, but it is nothing like it was the first day.


June 6, 2008 12:14 PM


Anonymous Anonymous said…

I seem to remember that the old bag phones (pre-historic mobile numbers) make good emergency phones, even if left disconnected. Believe Texas has law which states if phone is used STRICTLY for 911 emergency types of calls, they will allow the call to be patched through.

Look this up, but I believe that this is still the case – I hope this helps.

June 6, 2008 12:40 PM


Blogger Wretha said…

Bag phones, hmmm, I knew that any cell phone, active or not will work for 911. :)


June 6, 2008 12:52 PM


Blogger The Scavenger said…

Wretha, glad to know you and yours are safe and sound. I have a friend who lost a house to fire and I don’t think he ever recovered from it. He still talks about things that he had before the fire. Keep your eyes on the hills and be ready if need be. Keep safe and you will be in my prayers.


June 6, 2008 11:23 PM


Blogger Wretha said…

Thanks Scavenger, all seems to be ok now, I can still smell smoke, it’s like we live next to a BBQ place. :)


June 7, 2008 9:31 AM

Buy our book - OFF THE GRID - a tour of American off-grid places and people written by Nick Rosen, editor of the off-grid.net web site

9 Responses to “Wildfire…”

Leave a Reply