When Patricia, 74, and Tony, 78, Dykes — along with their daughters, son-in-law and grandkids — went out on the front yard of their Ventura home the evening of Dec. 4, all eyes turned toward Santa Paula. There in the distance a long wall of flames was coming over a hill, like some behemoth on a double-time relentless march.
“We’ve got to get out! We’ve got to get out!” someone shouted.
The kids ran back into the stucco house high in the foothills east of the city, taking family photos off the walls. A daughter was grabbing clothes out of a closet. Patricia shuffled through filing cabinets pulling out medical information and important papers.
A granddaughter asked, “Grandma, should I grab these things?” pointing to a collection of Lladro porcelain figurines.
“No, honey, I don’t think they’ll burn,” she said, believing they’d be back home in a couple of days with a scary wildfire story to tell. Still, she gathered up her small Bible, the book her faith-sharing group was reading on Pope Francis and her Therian (St. Thérèse of Carmel) text.
But Patricia and Tony didn’t return for more than a week as the Thomas Fire raged through dry hills and canyons choked with chaparral, burning down 500 structures in Ventura alone before widening its path north.
Disbelief and grief
When they did return, it was on a bus with other evacuees. But, unlike on TV, there was no real suspense. Seeing 852 High Point Drive X’d out on an online map, they already knew.
The sturdy stucco house with the concrete tile roof they had just put on two years ago was reduced to charred rubble, including a car in the garage. It was as if a precision bomb had been directly dropped on it, with only part of the chimney left standing and some pieces of muster-colored stucco. A smoky haze still rose in spots, and the pungent burnt-ash smell was only partly dissipated. But, amazingly, next door a neighbor’s ranch-style house remained untouched.
Five weeks later, the Dykes were sitting inside the rectory at Our Lady of The Assumption Church. The couple looked relaxed until they were asked the same thing fellow parishioners had been asking: “So how are you doing?”
Tony glanced sideways at his wife. “A day at a time,” he said, with a tired voice underscoring his words.
“If it’s your will”
“I remember going to bed that night, and I prayed all night. I never went to sleep,” Patricia added. “But I remember saying the rosary on my fingers. And I kept saying, ‘Dear Lord, if it’s your will we will be OK.’ That’s what I kept thinking. And later I thought if it wasn’t for our faith, I don’t think I would be where I am.”
“It’s our faith community as well,” pointed out Tony. “It’s the people here at church who have reached out and really made me humble. They write on a piece of paper ‘This is our phone number. Call us.’ It’s kind of hard to put into words. Ah, I’m gonna tear up.”
And he did, adding, “The community kind of brings the whole thing together. When you think about it, that’s what it’s all about.”
Full story at Angelus.
What We Need are more Humble Building Codes and Fire Prevention / Suppression Laws – to deal with the vexing issue of ‘Wild-land Interface’ properties
People want to be surrounded by ‘Nature’, without admitting much of it is highly flammable, particularly given high temperature and strong winds; and they pay the price every year.
I submit that a Most Important Lesson comes from the House of the Neighbor that did Not Burn
There must have been something (sealed fireproof vents, Defensible Space cleared around structure, PrePlan for surviving a wind driven Fire…) that made the difference, and that Difference needs to be Expanded to the Homes of others who will face such Fires in the Future, most certainly.
Caldwell: Regrettably, it’s not over
By Andy Caldwell, Santa Barbara Free Press, 1/14/18 https://www.capoliticalreview.com/capoliticalnewsandviews/caldwell-regrettably-its-not-over/
Last week, I along with many others warned our community that the collective sigh of relief from the Thomas Fire having been extinguished was premature and transitory, this having to do with the dreadful dangers presented by significant rain events coming our way. And, as it turns out, the hundreds of homes and numerous lives that were spared during the Thomas Fire, and this last flood event, may have only been spared temporarily…
Before we became “environmentally sensitive,” we reduced the fuel load to obviate these conflagrations, which have now…
Caldwell: Regrettably, it’s not over…
Before we became “environmentally sensitive,” we reduced the fuel load to obviate these conflagrations, which have now become rather ordinary.
We also cleared our rivers, streams and creeks of all the things that would diminish the water-carrying capacity of the same.
We recognized then that today’s sensitive habitat was tomorrow’s deadly and destructive flood debris.
The policies that protect fuel loading and riparian habitat must be abrogated. We must demand our decision makers prioritize public safety as our highest purpose at the expense of habitat. Otherwise, habitat will continue to be protected and preserved at the cost of life, property and infrastructure.
We were set up for the…