Me and my fabulous son, Max

Me and my  fabulous son, Max
Powerscourt, Ireland

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


So much has been happening at our new house that I've been remiss about blogging.  Back in June we came closer than I'd like to losing everything to the Powerhouse Fire.  Living in Southern California, you hear about brush fires from Summer through Fall.  Smoke in the air is not uncommon.  Living in California for over 30 years, this is the first time I've been personally affected by a fire.

Fire from Kitchen early Sat., June 1, 2013
The fire began the end of May in the remote area of the Angeles National Forrest, South of us.  We were not overly concerned because there are several lakes, a large reservoir and the California Aqueduct between us and where the fire originated.  We began to see the fire on Saturday.

We soon discovered that the Los Angeles media sources were about 8-12 hours behind on news and not a reliable source of what was happening real time.  Through our friend Kimberly Thorpe, we discovered the facebook page of AV Fire News, which was invaluable in tracking the fire and giving us up to the minute information. Below are updates over several hours and illustrate how fast and accurate the info was. 

Update: ‪#‎PowerhouseFire‬: New Road Closure - Ave D (Hwy 138) closed in both directions between 110th St W. & 190th St. W due to smoke making driving conditions unsafe.

Update: ‪#‎PowerhouseFire‬: 2 fires burning on the north side of the aqueduct. One is 3 acres and holding. The second is an unknown size and moving north. LASD evacuated an approx. 5 mile radius northwest and south of 160th St west and Ave H to Hwy 138.

Update: ‪#‎PowerhouseFire‬: Lancaster Road is closed between Munz Ranch Road and 170th St West.

Update: ‪#‎PowerhouseFire‬: The fire has crossed Lancaster Road and is well established in the Poppy Reserves.

Update: ‪#‎PowerhouseFire‬: Fire is now 25,000+ acres.  New Evacuations: LASD evacuated everything from 170th St West to 185th St West, from Lancaster Road to Ave D (Hwy 138).

Evacuations expanded: LASD evacuating everything from 170th St West to 190th St West, from Lancaster Road to Ave D (Hwy 138). Fire is just east of 190th St West at this time.  This is exactly where we live!!

Traffic Control requested for Ave D. Avoid Ave D (Hwy 138)

Saturday, June 1

This picture was taken from our back porch looking South on Saturday night.  We watched for hours as the fire planes and helicopters knocked the approaching fire back to the other side of the ridge, about 5 miles from our house.  The firefighters are truly amazing!

Sunday, June 2

This picture was taken looking South from our back porch on Sunday morning.  The fire did not appear to be a threat at this point as the winds were blowing from the West.

Sunday, June 2

We began to worry when we started to see flames again mid-day on Sunday.  We were reassured because the fire was on the other side of Lakes Hughes & Elizabeth, the Fairmont Reservoir and the California Aquaduct.

Sunday, June 2
 On Sunday afternoon, the wind shifted and began to come from the South, where the fire was burning.  Although we hadn't heard anything about evacuating, there was an eerie quality that could not be ignored.  When the power went out, we decided to get ready to evacuate.

Sunday Afternoon, June 2
Smoke blowing towards our house on Sunday afternoon shortly before we evacuated.

Under the green lid in box

Kittens, fish & Max ready to roll...along with Super Grover.

Evacuation is a strange thing.  Your mind is super clear and frazzled that the same time.  I brought our passports & other important documents.  Larry packed up the computers and some work documents.  I then packed a bag with some flashlights, binoculars and a change of clothes for Max.  After we left, I asked myself, why not take more stuff with us?  There are plenty of things we could have used.  Snacks?  Drinks?  Clothing and such?

The answer is clear.  We look what was most important...Max (our kid), Bubba-Wubba, Dixie & Trixie (the kittens), Dottie (the fish), Larry (husband) and me.  Everything else seemed inconsequential.

Driving away from the house felt wrong but we knew it was the right thing to do.  On the way out, we saw our neighbors, who are still building and have not moved in yet.  Since we are all on well systems, they were pumping their two 5000 gallon water tanks to make sure the firefighters had access to the water if needed.  They had seen the Sheriffs on their way in and let us know that it was only a matter of time before we would be asked to evacuate. 

I had heard somewhere to leave your house unlocked, so we did.

So the weird thing is...what now?  You've left your house, so now where do you go?  We were thinking positively.  We were hoping the wind would shift back to it's usual direction (from the West) and that the fire would be diverted and we could return home.  So with a kid, 3 kittens, and a fish, we headed to the closest McDonalds, about 25 miles West, in Gorman.

Hwy 138 at 210th Street, Sunday, June 2
So we went to McDonalds in Gorman and decided to head back towards our house to see what was going on.  We got a bad feeling when we saw the smoke blowing towards us as we drove down Hwy 138.  Our house is well beyond where the smoke was.

Our house is still standing, center of picture
We stopped at the Wee Vill Market on Hwy 138, about a mile North of our house.  What a relief to actually see that our house was still there!  We went inside and found a gathering of several neighbors.  We introduced ourselves, figured out where everyone lived and compared notes about the fire and evacuation.  We should have come here right away!

Max's first day of riding--Mr. Dave, white shirt in background

In a "what a small world" moment, we met Dave, Max's soon to be Horseback Riding Instructor.  Max went in and sat down at our usual spot.  However, there was already a guy sitting there eating.  I asked Max to move and the gentleman said Max was fine.  We introduced ourselves and began chatting.  Dave then asked if Max likes horses.  I told him yes, actually we were starting lessons on Tuesday.  It turns out that Dave was going to be leading Max's group at Saddle Up, a theraputic riding school for kids with special needs.

So after speaking to one of the Sheriffs at the Wee Vill, we decided that we needed a more long term plan.  My brother and his amazing wife, Kim offered us a place to stay, so it was off to Hermosa Beach with our fish & three kittens in tow!  I have to say that once we got there and had some pizza, I slept like a rock.  

On Monday, we watched the TV news and got no information whatsoever!  We monitored the AV Fire news site.  At around noon, I decided to give the Wee Vill market a call.  I'm so glad I did.  They let me know that the area was reopened to residents with ID.  So we packed up our pets and headed back home!

So for about 4-5 days after we returned, we had to show ID to get in and out of the area.  Ironically, when we returned from being evacuated on Monday, there was a UPS package waiting for us on the steps!

South at Top-North at Bottom of Map, our house located bottom center

Picture taken from AV Fire Site--Carmine's Horses
These two pictures were borrowed form our favorite AV Fire News site.  The top is a map showing the progress of the fire.  Our house is located between the fingers of the fire on the bottom center of the photo.

The second picture is of our neighbor, Carmine's horses around Lancaster Rd. & 190th Street.  I spoke with Carmine after the fire and he said that he had come to get the horses, but the firefighters had already cut the fences.  He wasn't mad.  He knew they were trying to do the right thing.  His entire horse facility was burned to the ground.  He put things into perspective when he told me that he was grateful that the firefighters had saved his trees.  He has a 10 acre peach orchard on the other side of Lancaster Road, directly across the street from his horse facility that was lost.

Here are some images I took of the Powerhouse fire the day after we returned:

Looking South down 180th Street at Avenue E (our Street)  Notice the burned hills.

Same view but closer, 180th street at Lancaster Road.  Notice the burned areas.
Looking from Lancaster Road at 180th North towards our house.
Fire burned right up to our mailbox farm on Lancaster Road and 190th Street

Phone lines still down on Lancaster Road near our mailbox

Here is a facebook post after we returned to our home.  I think it sums things up well!
Feeling so grateful! Thanks to the firefighters who stopped the fire less than a mile from our house. Thanks to the site AV Fire News for the invaluable information. Thanks to the random strangers rescuing pets and horses. Thanks to SCE for getting our power back on in the middle of an active fire. Thanks to the sheriffs for making sure we're safe and no unsavory characters enter our the area. Thanks to our local gathering place, the Weeville Market for providing the best info and a spot for neighbors to come together. Thanks to my family for putting up with us (kid, fish, 3 new kittens) while evacuated. This has really made me realize how fortunate I am!

Thanks for reading.  I hope none of you ever have to go through this.

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