Apr 24th, 2009 by Cathy Jo Nelson
Wednesday around noon we were told at school a brush fire had grown to a forest fire in our area. Low humidity, a 4 inch rain deficit, and sustained 20+mph winds with gusts up to 30mph helped grow a full fledged raging forest fire, the perfect ingredients to grow flames. When I went to bed Wednesday PM, I could no longer see smoke, and news reports indicated the fire would die down for the most part during the cool night hours, so I thought it was losing steam and that firefighters were successfully controlling it. But to be safe, I had packed 2 suitcases, my laptop, and pet crate at hand to make a quick exit should I be called to evacuate.
Imagine my shock and surprise to awaken at 1AM Thursday morning with the realization the power was off, and when I walked into my living room, a distinct glow of orange was illuminating the blind-drawn window. I raised the blinds to see a sky filled with brightly colored orange smoke. Opening a window, surprisinly I could not smell it, so apparently the wind was going away from me, which explained no call for evacuating. I slept fitfully in the living room until 5, getting up and making my first real outside assessment. (I had been too afraid to venture outside at 1 AM.) The sky seemed clear and the sun was coming up, so I went to school like it was another normal day. I even felt a little silly having packed up the night before, telling myself how typical for me to kneejerk with such a response the previous night. I had given thought that night to taking the cat in his crate to school to tuck away in my office. Of course optimism in the news reports made me set aside that thought.
The day was clear and nice…or so it seemed.
At school I read reports available online, but worried little. The fire was heading north (and in my mind based on what I had seen the night before) that meant far away from my school and even my residence–no threat, no need to concern myself. During the day however the fire swirled and swelled, and next thing I know I’m getting reports that the schools near my home are being dismissed due to the proximity of the fire. The drive that normally takes fifteen to twenty minutes depending on normal traffic took well over an hour. Turning into the complex, the view looked like this.
Surprise–You are in danger afterall.
After talking with my husband, we decided I would go to a hotel in the area closer to my school, and then begin the drive to Rock Hill, meeting him halfway to take one of my cats that was with me (no pets in the hotel.) ( I only had one of the two I own-the other stayed with my husband for a vet appointment this week.) I probably should have just taken myself on to Rock Hill and skipped school today, but I had some in the mix projects going on with a teacher and kids relying on me. So I stayed. I did leave right after school though for the upstate. I am now safely tucked away in Rock Hill with family. I return Sunday PM to see how my residence held up, and to prepare for another week of school. No news is good news right? Anyway, I’ll be following the information as it becomes available on WMBF, which has been very dependable over these last few days as I watched this unfold. Never in my wildest imagination did I realize when someone whispered to me Wednesday about a small brushfire to the east of our school’s area that it would grow to the monster it has become.
We desperately need rain. Enough said.