The fires that erupted on Sunday and continue to blaze in the north-western section of Los Angeles hit home for me. Literally. My family's house is located in the hills of the San Fernando Valley — the epicenter of the flames. Our entire neighborhood was evacuated yesterday. I got frantic calls here in DC from my brother ("I'm loading up the car. Quick, what do you want me to save?"), and incoherent ones from my mom who strained to tell me what was going on through a mess of tears and coughs from the smoky air. Online pictures show a situation akin to the eruption of the fictional Dante's Peak, at least in appearance, and I can recognize familiar streets I've driven a hundred times in other ones. And one news article even referenced two of my family members, remotely. This, from the Associated Press:
Residents were not allowed to drive into one of Porter Ranch's gated
communities because officials wanted to keep roads clear for emergency
vehicles. Instead they parked their cars, ran to their homes and
carried out whatever they could carry in pillow cases, in their arms,
sacks and suitcases. Some ran out clutching paintings.
Clutching paintings... that was my aunt and uncle, and the paintings were the ones my dad painted for my brother and me.
10,000 acres and 49 structures, some homes, have been destroyed so far. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared it a state of emergency. My brother was able to get out a few important keepsakes, and we're keeping our fingers crossed that the Santa Ana winds calm down.
Have you ever had to evacuate your home or apartment with just what you could carry? What did you take? What did you have to leave behind?