Within the space of a few weeks my life has been tossed upside down and right side (sort of) up again. It started with the devastating Butte fire, and is finishing up with a new place to call home.
As far back as I can remember I have had a fear of a house fire. When I was a child I worried about the loss of treasured possessions. As I grew older I worried about the lives of my precious pets. Moving to an area where wildfires are a constant concern intensified this fear. If I was driving home and spotted smoke I knew it was my home. The sound of helicopters became closely associated with the threat of fire and was enough to cause an anxiety attack.
We had one evacuation several years ago. It forced us to come up with an evacuation plan for future emergencies. First we grab the cats. They tend to hide at the first sign of trouble. Next we confine the dogs so they can be out of the way and quickly loaded when ready. Step 3- round up whatever livestock is quick to catch and easy to contain. If we have time, run in and grab a few personal possessions before getting the hell out of there.
We dealt with a few semi close fires over the years and I started tp panic slightly less with each one. Then the devastating Butte fire hit. The whole thing was an emotional roller coaster. We heard word that we may need to evacuate on that Wednesday. We knew how long it could take to get everyone rounded up, so we weren’t taking any chances. We loaded everyone into the vehicles. Things were looking safe, so we spent several hours sitting on the porch waiting it out. Late that night things were looking good so we unloaded and started to relax. Turns out that was the last normal night for us.
I woke up early the next day. I had a friend coming to pick up some rabbit cages from a neighbor. We chatted and we loaded the cages into the truck. Just as we were finishing up the landlord came over. He heard things were getting bad and given the amount of animals we had I should probably think about heading out. Levi was at work, so I called him and he hurried home. We loaded everybody up as we had the night before. This time I grabbed a few extra things: my art supplies and the cremains of our pets that had passed. I was heartbroken over the fact that I had to leave the birds behind. They are a challenge to catch on a good day. The smell of smoke and sound of helicopters seemed to have them in a panic. Even if I could catch them there was no way they would fit. I told myself since we were leaving before any official evacuation I’d have plenty of time to make a second trip for them. We hurried everyone off to a friend house who generously offered shelter for us and the entire crew. Things stayed steady overnight as I made plans for evac round two.
I headed back early that afternoon. I had barely arrived at the property when I got word that we were officially evacuated and had an hour to be out. I tried to wrangle birds, but quickly realized there was no way in hell I was getting them out of there within an hour. I made one trip inside to retrieve some medications and a picture I was working on for my Dad. I double checked that nothing was plugged in, grabbed various chargers and surge protectors and left in tears. I was leaving my beloved birds behind.
The next few days the real roller coaster hit. The fire grew out of control at a terrifying rate. The entire town of Mountain Ranch was burning. Rumors were flying as well hateful remarks towards those who left early, or those who refused to leave. The fire kept creeping closer and closer to our home. As the days went on I got more desperate to find somebody to check on my flock. I was also desperate to get home and back to my routine. After all, I had spent most of the past year nearly house bound. If I did leave it was short trips and I never was able to go out more than a couple of days a week. Just as I was beginning to think I couldn’t take it anymore things started to get controlled. Rumor had it we would be able to return home in the next day or so. It had rained, not much, but enough so that my birds would have water. I went to bed that night feeling both relieved and guilty. It’s hard not to feel survivors guilt when so many had lost everything.
Then my whole world came crashing down. I woke up early and was bored so I decided to look on facebook, something I had been avoiding since I was overwhelmed by all the rumors and somber news. The first post I saw was that their is a structure fire at the corner of Winton and Bummerville. Our house was one in a little cluster in that area. Levi told me he had a co worker checking on the area. After the longest half hour of my life he told me it was not our place, but a neighbors. The relief lasted a couple of minutes before the landlady called saying she heard it was our place. Levi went to see for himself. I felt sick, dead inside. I hadn’t had confirmation, but knew in my heart our house was gone. I did find some solace when Levi told be that although there was nothing left of the house, my birds were alive and appeared to be doing well.
The next few days were a blur. The one place I had felt at peace was gone. There were so many things to do and deal with. I was able to round up my birds with the help of friends. I spent a good deal of time dealing with redcross and their fair for grief ridden refugees. I also learned I was not nearly as alone as I had recently felt. Offers of help, kind words, and donations came pouring in. Several friends and strangers made a perfect area for my birds to roam. My dogs were well cared for until we could be reunited. Things were good for the present, I just had no idea what was in store.
I am excited to say that one of the Angels we were blessed with made it possible for us to buy our own home. Not only to I get to keep all of my precious animals, but I will be able to rebuild my little ranch bigger and better than before. I will have plenty of room for the birds, enough space to expand my rabbitry, and plenty of space left over for a big garden. There is a work shop that will allow me much more space for brooding young birds. I am very excited to increase the numbers of my endangered breeds; my basque hens, ancona ducks, and midget white turkeys. I will continue breeding my french angoras but will expand to include the endangered beveren rabbits.
Thanks to the love and support we have received, my worst nightmare is turning to a dream come true. Now it is time for a new Begining for Starlight Feathers ‘n Fiber.