Gail Earl’s family experience with a threatening fire near the Colorado River reminds us all to reflect on what is important in life. While “her” fire was not as destructive as the recent fires in northern California, it evokes similar feelings and lessons. Shared Stories is a weekly column featuring articles by participants in a writing class at the Norwalk Senior Center.  Bonnie Mansell is the instructor for this free class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program.  Curated by Carol Kearns.

By Gail Earl

As we were half way to the river, we received a phone call from our neighbor there. He knew we were coming and he wanted to warn us not to come. There was a big fire and they were in the process of evacuating the area of our house. Everyone was being evacuated to a school.

We decided to continue on and hope for the best. When we got there we were stopped by the police and told we couldn’t enter our street. Our property is on the river and enclosed by a private gate, so there is only one way in or out.

We drove across the river and parked in the boat launch and watched all of the helicopters hover over the river, suck up water, take off, and drop it on the fire. There were several planes with scoop buckets and many helicopters all working together.

It was quite a sight to see. The smoke was very black and thick and growing. We are surrounded by desert so there is a lot of brush to burn.

The most amazing sight was how many idiots on jet skis and boats were in the water right under where the helicopters were trying to scoop up water. I so wished there was a police boat there at the time to give them all tickets for being so stupid. It was really irritating. 

Because of the smoke it was very hard to tell just how close the fire actually was. There were fire trucks at the entrance to our home and they were there to hold the fire back from getting to the nine homes inside the gates.

We watched all of the activity for a while and then decided that we would go to a hotel and stay. Now, I am the calm one and I expected my husband to be a little more concerned than he was. He was so calm it seemed weird. He just kept saying, “We have good insurance. If it burns down, it burns down.”

The fire burned for three days before they had complete containment.

Our nine-year old granddaughter Savannah loved the idea of staying in the hotel. She thought this was great fun! She instantly called “dibs” on the shower caps and little soaps in the room. 
I asked her what in the world she wanted a shower cap for, and she told me she was going to wear it every time she cooked with her mom, just like the lunch lady wore. That little girl sure keeps a smile on my face. And yes, I have seen her wear it since.

The fire destroyed eighteen structures, caused no fatalities to humans, and burned over 6000 acres; but it never touched our house. I am very thankful. That house is our dream home that we designed and built fifteen years ago. I would hate to lose it, but this experience has reinforced by life-long beliefs. It is all just stuff and can be replaced. My treasures are all in the people I spend my life with.