It’s been a rough week for Californians with the wildfire burning down thousands of acres in both the Northern and the Southern region. Many were left without homes and thousands evacuated including me.In California, the two predominant natural disasters we face are fires and earthquakes. It is common for us to hear about fires or earthquakes but, never wildfires this big, this fast and in two separate regions at the same time.
When the Anaheim Canyon wildfire happened, I heard about it in the mid-afternoon at work. I was oblivious to the fact that it was near my home until my roommate texted me and said to come home because we needed to evacuate. Upon receiving her message, the words “evacuate” took time to sink in. This was the first time where I was part of any natural disaster and had to evacuate. I was shocked and numb from the news.
On my way home, I drove through my usual route and saw smoke from the canyon at a distance. There were onlookers at the side of the road taking photos. It all felt surreal like I was part of a movie set and I still had no idea how close our home was to the fire or how far it spread. All I knew was that there were road closures and everyone was being directed to the same exact route I was on.
I was stuck in traffic for about 2 hours. People were panicking and had worried expressions yet, we were all helpless from being at a dead stop in traffic. I called my folks and my roommate while I waited. Surprisingly, I was calm about the whole thing, likely from the fact that I had no idea what was going on and if it comes down to it, I would evacuate and stay at my parent’s home. A situation like this you really don’t have much control and panicking would make it worse.
After 2 hours I finally arrived home. It turns out that the fire in Anaheim was 8 miles away from my house but, neighborhoods in the area were being evacuated for safety reasons due to the unpredictable winds. At that point in time, both the Northern and Southern California wildfires were spreading like crazy pronouncing the state in an emergency. Luckily for us, we were spared from evacuation that night. If you look at the map below, the areas being evacuated were in orange color. Our home is that tiny black dot (south). However, we took no chances and packed our bags just in case there was a shift in the weather and we would need to be evacuated at any point in time.
The next day the fires were still on-going and the fire department claimed 15% containment. It was not enough for me to feel at ease so, I took my suitcases with me to work and I stayed at my parent’s home for the night. The whole experience was very stressful and devastating. I definitely didn’t get any sleep this week but, I learned that staying calm in the midst of a disaster goes a long way. I am thankful to have friends and families nearby and that my home was spared and that I was very lucky. For those that were heavily affected, I am so sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine the devastation but, we can get through this.