September 21, 2020

Wild Fire

It's hard to believe that it has been two weeks. Two weeks ago today we ran to the hardware store and they had closed early for Labor Day so we turned around and drove home. In that short amount of time a large gray cloud appeared in the direction of our home. When we got home we quickly realized that it wasn't a cloud cloud, but a large cloud of smoke. Where this smoke cloud came from we didn't know but it caused us and our neighbors to feel some unease.

What the sky looked like when we went to bed.

We went to bed and woke up the next morning to discover that the air was filled with smoke. The night before we had some really high winds and we learned that the high winds knocked a tree down onto a power line and sparked a fire. This fire spread over 13 miles Monday night and burned down the town of Blue River and was heading our direction. The fire wasn't controlled and there were less than 200 fire fighters on the ground and no air support.

Andy and I are both sensitive to the smoke and were getting really bad headaches. The smoke and ash were coming into our home through the kitchen and bathroom cupboards, a hole in the wall and through the bathroom fans and heat vents. After talking with my mom and step-mom we decided to book a hotel in Newport for the next two nights. We packed up our important documents, photos, computers and some clothes and hopped into the car and left. 

This is what the neighborhood looked like before we left. Our camera really filtered out the gray/red tones.

What I thought would be the last picture I ever took of our home.

We dropped our other car off at a friend's house and headed to Newport. The smoke was so thick. The sky looked reddish orange. It was a relief when we checked into the hotel room and were able to breathe air that wasn't so smoke filled. As the night went on our room got smokier and smokier, the next morning we realized our bedroom windows hadn't been shut all the way. 

Driving to Newport.

View from our hotel room.

As luck would have it a fire started just north of us in Lincoln City. My cousin called to tell me that they were evacuating the Lincoln City Hospital (he works at the Newport Hospital). It's hard to believe but the smoke in Newport was even thicker than the smoke back home. I drove to the store to get some food and lunch and I could see maybe 100m in front of me. The store was filled with smoke and the shelves were emptying quickly. All of the restraunts had closed-- no lunch for us. And the lines as the gas station were blocks long. We decided it was time to leave as the fire was burning in our direction and could block off our only way out. Luckily I booked directly through the hotel's website so they refunded us for our second night. We didn't know where we were going to go but headed towards Corvallis and decided we would look at a map and make some decisions when we got there.

You should be able to see the ocean in this photo.

In Corvallis we topped off our tank and grabbed dinner. We talked with my aunt and cousin and decided to head to Bend, Oregon via Highway 20. Highway 20 runs along the northern perimeter of the fire burning near our home. The scenery looked like a nuclear bomb had gone off it was really errie. The roads through the pass were very windy, Andy got sick and it just felt really creepy in the forest. 

As we were driving to Bend my cousin text and told us that his friends had a few extra rooms and were willing to take us in. This was a huge blessing and an answer to our prayers. 

Just out side of Bend we saw signs directing evacuees to the fairgrounds. And we passed a brigade of firetrucks. I hadn't had a moment to breathe in the past two days, but this sight made the tears flow.  

Shortly after we made it through the pass to Bend, the pass closed.

When we arrived they had food ready and waiting for us along with two bedrooms and several beds. They told us we could stay for a few days and figure things out unless their really good friends got evacuated. The next day we learned that their friends were being evacuated and we needed to leave. We reached out to my cousin again and he said to come to his house in Nampa, Idaho. We once again loaded all of our stuff up and hit the road. 

We saw my cousin and his family that first day/night and then they headed out of town. We had their house all to ourselves. We stayed in touch with our friends and neighbors and were constantly monitoring fire lines and updates from our local news. We knew we needed to make some tough decisions in the next few days. Continue on to Utah to live with my parents for the foreseeable future or head home while the fire was still burning. 

Cousins who became fast friends.

After a lot of thought, discussion and prayer we decided that we would head back home in a few days. Those few days were spent gathering and ordering supplies, smoke filtering furnace filters (normally they last 3 months our neighbors were changing them out every 24 hours), air purifiers, water purifier with filters (we were told our water was safe to drink but tasted of smoke and ash), etc. 

Saw this on a car in the parking lot. Andy told me to take a picture. Pretty fitting with the Human Trafficking Movement taking place right now.

We did take our boys to a park with a splash pad, but the water was turned off. We had a great time playing on the playground though, we had the whole place to ourselves. We left when some other families showed up. We applied lots of hand sanitizer. We really try to be safe with Covid-19 raging. 

After touching base with Andy's boss it was determined that we would drive home Monday. A storm front was supposed to be moving in Monday and it was going to push the smoke towards Idaho. After looking at the map to see what routes were open we decided to drive home along the Columbia River and then down through Portland. With all the riots Portland is the last place we wanted to drive through but we knew it was the more ideal route for our family.

Bubba and Bear loved playing in these boxes.

Bear fell in love with his cousin's airplane.

Bubba & Andy.


The smoke was so thick on the drive home. Most of the time the Columbia River wasn't visible from the road. For those who are familiar with this drive, the freeway runs right along side the river. At times we had to wear are masks in the car just to be able to breathe. The boys really struggled being in the car on the way to Idaho. Bear cried almost the entire car ride from Newport to Bend. I finally pulled over and told Andy that we were going to turn his car seat around. He was supposed to be rear facing until he turned two and we were three months shy of that. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Bubba cried a lot and kept asking to go home. Both boys did surprisingly well on the car ride home. 

What should be the Columbia River.

The dam.

When we finally made it home we all put on our masks and raced inside. Andy gave the boys a bath and I donned an N95 mask that I picked up at the hardware store about a month before (I acted on a prompting buying a small pack of them). We were told that the air was so toxic and full of ash that we should not exercise at all. And if we went outside we needed to wear N95 masks because the ash could get permanently stuck in your lungs. I unloaded everything from the car as quickly as possible. 

We duct tapped the windows to our house shut, we changed out the furnace filter, turned on our air purifier, turned on all our bathroom fans, taped the microwave exhaust fan vent shut, and put jars of white vinegar around our house to help with the smoke. We took our fans and propped furnace filters up against them to help filter out the smoke and ash inside our home. The smoke was so so bad. Our smoke headaches came back. 

We soon discovered that smoke was coming into our house through a hole in the bathroom wall (we duct taped it shut). Smoke was also coming in under our sinks. Anytime you opened the bathroom or kitchen sink cupboard you were greeted with a very over powering smell of smoke. The smoke was in the walls of our home and anywhere there was a crack or opening it was freely coming in. So where the waterlines/pipes run for the sinks, there is a hole in the sheet rock for the pipe to come through. Andy got to work with expanding foam and started filling the holes. We stayed inside and prayed for rain. We felt so tired and lethargic. 

Rain finally came on Thursday night. It was truly a miracle! We hadn't had rain all summer, this rain I believe was an answer to fasting and prayer. It rained so hard! We very rarely get thunder and lightening and we had a lot of it! The boys stood and looked out the window in awe. Storm front after storm front rolled in. 

The fire is partially contained right now. They don't expect full containment until the end of October. And then they still anticipate that it will burn well into the winter months. 

Every time I see an emergency vehicle I just start to cry. I am so grateful to the brave men and women who are putting their lives on the line to save our town and community.