The last eight days have felt like one, long extended night. It is hard to believe that more than a week ago, I was awakened by my dog Nellie a little after midnight, followed quickly by a text from my friend Patricia Trimble, and then a Nixle alert on my cell phone saying evacuate immediately. I did not have long and quickly grabbed my animals and threw some things in a bag and fled.
I went down the street and saw this fire behind my place:
I went to Patricia’s house for about an hour (3:00-4:00 AM), but then I drove around again, went to the shelter to see if I could get any information (and get some water), got back in my car to drive some more, and this was what I saw the next morning near my place. This was as close as I could get:
Another shot from my neighborhood–Browns Valley (this is a portion of southwest Napa where Carneros is, and just over the hill from Sonoma). My fire is the “Partrick” fire, which joined and became part of the Nunn’s fire. From this perspective, I am looking across the Napa Valley basin to the Atlas Fire, which devastated the Silverado area:
That day (Monday) I checked into the Embassy Suites where I stayed for several nights. I stayed with a number of families, many of whom had already lost their homes. There were a lot of tears and hugs all around. Tyrion tried to provide some comfort:
Next afternoon, my street was barricaded by CalFire, but they looked on the map and said I could “check” my place quickly. I put my iPhone on video in my lap. I was surprised, scared, yet relieved to see this…
I thought everything was ok by then. But it was not. It had also been two days and I still had no cell service–no one did in Napa. We were all trying to get reliable information, which proved difficult.
It is hard to tell from this photo but by Wednesday evening, things had flared up again. The valley was absolutely toxic, a ring of fire and smoke so thick you couldn’t see 10 feet in front of you. It was also hard to leave the valley–Sonoma was ablaze and roads closed. I got a text that evening that said “Bulldozers at your place, fire coming south, looks bad.”
There is a clear and visible burn behind my hill to the left.
On Friday I was able to go back again for a few minutes and see all still standing, but still a little bleak.
Finally, I was able to go home on Saturday. And while wearing my N95 mask, start cleaning.
It was therapy to clean and try and gain control what has felt like a totally out-of-control situation this past week. These fires were unprecedented and historic.
I have changed the air filters in my house, and for the most part wearing that N95 mask as I clean, wipe down, and pitch stuff, including pillows, dog beds, etc., and all food in my refrigerator and cabinets. I also have ordered two HEPA air filters from Amazon to help get rid of all of the residual smoke inside my home. I am GRATEFUL and LUCKY, my place is still standing, and I know it.
I am forever indebted to our first responders, for those firemen who kept watch on my porch that first night and next day.
I am thankful for Eli Ponce Construction who volunteered his time and energy and for almost 24 hours straight, bulldozed around my place and my neighbors’ homes in Browns Valley to create a fire break. I am thankful for SO MANY family members and friends from the Bay Area who called me and reached out (multiple times), offering me a place to stay, and kept checking back in with me. I am grateful for Napa…I have made some incredible friendships here, especially Patricia Trimble from The Roost Napa and those in my neighborhood; our bonds have only deepened.
I also want to thank everyone, too, on Facebook, who gave me so many cheers and just overall words of support and comfort when I was distraught, confused, incoherent and tired. I needed it, and I hope I can return the favor to you some day.
I learned a few things, that I hope are helpful, too. There have been so many devastating floods, fires, hurricanes this year…I think this is good generic info. to prepare, no matter what the threat may be:
APPS to download on your cell phone:
-Next Door, a neighborhood APP to keep in touch with each other.
-Nixle, which coordinates county and state emergency services, letting you know timely updates of threats or concerns in your area.
-MyTuner Radio (this allows your iPhone to access AM radio and local news–great if you don’t own a radio anymore)
If on Facebook, make sure to follow both the official page of your county/city and local police. I found this invaluable, especially when I had no cell service, but was able to go to a hotspot for WiFi to learn the latest from county officials.
What I wish I had done (and will now do):
-Get a fire proof safe/ container to put photos and important docs in.
-Have water and batteries and other emergency misc ready. I thought I did, but it wasn’t organized as well as it should have been.
-Have an extra bag of clothing and toiletries to grab and take.
-Make sure my pet carriers (leashes, medicines, etc.) are easily accessible. (I had to dig around to find my cat carrier.)
Here is a picture of Clarence tonight in his new, plush, smoke-free dog bed. His face says it all:
We are all looking forward to catching up on sleep, to finding our humor again.
And I don’t think I am alone in saying this, but after Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, and the Vegas shooting, can we all just scream UNCLE!?
With my deepest gratitude for all your support this past week, and my sincere well wishes that we all stay safe and find a sense of calm,
So grateful you and yours are safe.. and that your place has survived the trauma.
(I was evacuated during the Witch fire 10 years ago. We lost 120 homes in my small town. I know these feelings.)
Blessings as you proceed… and hugs.
So glad this ended well. Looking forward to Houston. Let’s all let our hair down and have some fun! Celebrate!
I’m so glad you place is safe. I’m so glad you and your pets are safe.
I am a follower from quilting. I am not much of a social media person but was pretty sure you were in the fire area. Glad you came thru ok and hope it stays that way blessings.
What a relief to know you’re okay! (I left a message on the previous blog post on the 10th since I hadn’t seen anything on FB at that point.) My heart goes out to those who didn’t fare as well, and to you for all the stress and worry. I hope you have a calm, peaceful time of it now, and know that there are so many ‘invisibles’ of us out here who were worried and thought of you and your pet family.
I’m very happy to hear you and your pooch are safe and the studio was unscathed! We are glued to the news and hoping the fires are out soon and there is no further loss of life or home!
Amen, to all those who supported you and your community in all ways Pokey.
Take care of your dear self and grateful that you, your four leggeds and studio are ok.
I am so relieved that you, your pets and home are safe from the terrible fires that ravaged California. I was praying for you, tho I don’t do Facebook. I will take your advice on emergency preparation and apps, thank you.
My prayers go out to all the people that have endured disaster this year. It’s quite overwhelming the number of events taking place almost simultaneously.
Carry on making art, there isn’t a better stress reliever than that and of the wine!!.
I am so gratefull you were spared the horror of losing everything! The band of Guardian Angels on the porch of the Art Barn says it all.. Cleaning will take some time, but it is good therapy also.. Sleep well now and continue to take really good care of yourself.. Susan D-L
So happy you are home safe and sound. I cleaned house yesterday and went back to work today. I’ll tackle my studio Wednesday. I definitely feel like I am on the road back to normal. Happy to hear you are, too.
Thanks, Tracy, and great t hear from you and know you and your place are ok. I thought of having a small gathering on Saturday for those of us who’ve been through a hard week so we can process. I am not sure my place will be ready by then though. I have the smoke folks coming tomorrow. I have to say, Nationwide rocks and has been on top of this!
Pokey, wise words and great advice. I am so happy that you are ok and all worked out for good. Blessings to you
What an ordeal! I just escaped having a hurricane change my life.
Our planet is still changing, evolving, settling.
So glad you and your hard earned business and home (and pets)
are mostly okay!!
Regards and continued blessings!
So grateful you and pups are safe. We had some very devastating fires here in Montana, too, this summer. I agree wholeheartedly about your “what to do’s”, apps, and getting some things prepared for the “just in case”. As one of your fans and person who has admired you for many years, I applaud your guts and honesty in the midst of a emergency. Thank you for keeping all of us updated through out your ordeal. I pray you are able to go to your calm place, take a deep breath, and take a few to heal from all of this. God Bless and keep you in His care always.
Thank you! You as well.
It’s great to hear you, your pets and Home are all safe and sound. It has been a summer of so many natural disasters and gun violence. All of us who have the ability need to help those who lost so much. Thank you for your advice on how to prepare for the possibility of evacuation. Stay safe and keep building those connections!
So glad you, your pets, and your place are safe.
I’d been following your story, but it was good to read about it all in one post. I can’t imagine how it would feel to go through what you did. But I have already printed out the page of suggestions for emergency readiness. I have an emergency kit, but it is disorganized, like yours. Thanks, Pokey.
Hi Cindy, I am glad you found it helpful! Hope you are doing well…
I’m so relieved and grateful that you and your place are OK. I followed your posts and said a lot of prayers, which seem to have been answered. You must be totally drained. I know Houston is coming soon, but give yourself a chance to get your feet under you. This has been a trauma that your head and heart have to deal with. Sending a hug,
Glad you’re okay. Thanks for the update and for sharing those important emergency tips.
So glad that you are no longer in any danger. Homes and stuff can be replaced, but you and your pets cannot. Cheers to those first responders and friends who helped save countless Hines and properties, but bless then for saving people. Hang in there, if your still having trouble with smoke smell, you can rent a machine from a rent a center that oxidizes the air. You and your pets just can’t be home while it’s running.
Hope to see you in Houston.
Pokey, I am happy to hear you are back home, safe and sound!
Your sweet dogs face says it all and really touched my heart. I am sure everything is totally overwhelming right now! As life begins to move forward, please let us know what we can do to help your community, people and pets.
Thank you and Take Good Care,
You & all in your area have been in my thoughts .
The news has shown some of the devistation.
I feel so sad for the others, but am so glad you were so lucky.
You were extremely fortunate as were we (did not flood during or after Harvey). One thing I found was that for at least a week or a little longer I felt very depressed. Came to discover it was ‘survivors guilt’. Why had so many suffered while we survived relatively unscathed. We helped where we could but the feeling persisted. So once you have done your cleaning, if you still feel out of sorts, you will probably be under the influence of ‘survivors guilt’. The feeling ultimately goes away and you will feel productive again. Take care.
I thought of you and your beautiful property, but like you, I was in the dark with no cell service. It was crazy. We had to drive for a wifi hotspot, but even then there wasn’t much info. I saw your post on NextDoor about firemen sleeping on your barn porch – nice to see the video too!
Hi Carol, I hope you are all ok and no loss where you are. The smoke today was pretty awful! Glad to see the winds changing and everything calming down again. Hope to have peeps over from our neighborhood soon. I will let you know!
My family experienced a house fire in June. What a helpless feeling being there and seeing our home burning. The firefighters were so kind and helped us through that first awful night.
I worried about my quilts and fabric that are so important to me. My family survived without injury as did our so loved dog and cat. We are survivors as so are you!
I am really sorry to hear you lost your home. How terrifying! I hope you are resettled and getting back to normal. Thank you for your thoughts!
Thank goodness you are back and ok. I pray for everyone who has been impacted. Love and hugs, hope to see you in houston
Pokey, I’m so so very grateful that you and your pets are back to the magical place you created. No one can go through an experience like that without being forever changed. I was especially touched by the video you posted when you arrived to your place and saw the firemen sleeping on the porch. God Bless Them All!!!
I’m glad you reached out and shared your experience with all of us. I miss my beloved California, and I know she will hold all those that lost everything, including lives, and all will be reborn.
I hope one day to visit your Art Barn and give you a huge hug!
Yes, come out! I hope you are doing great, Sheila. When you make your way back to the states, out west, please let me know! xo,
Thank you for sharing your experiences. Watching your video, and seeing the photo of the firefighters, brought tears to my eyes.
As someone who has always been very “emergency prep” oriented, I really appreciate your list of suggestions. Hearing it from someone who has gone through a real crisis brings it all home. Your advice to have a pet kennel at the ready is especially smart. You don’t want to be unable to find that–or harnesses–in an emergency, when it’s especially important that your pet not get loose or run away. Thanks for the reminder.
Good News. Thanks for update. You were in my thoughts.
Oh Pokey. I am so very sorry you went through all this. I am glad to hear that you and your critters are home and that things for you were not worse! You have such an inspiring attitude. I wish you the best moving forward.
So glad you are safe and your home is not burned down after you just got it fixed up like you had wanted it!! What about your fabric that you had is it ruined? Hope not!!
For those of us living in the Bay Area, it is impossible not to be touched by these fires in some way.
It is unimaginable to think of living the actual experience.
I’m so glad you, your critters, home, and art barn are safe.
I was thinking that you lived in that area and am very happy that you are safe and a bit smarter. We survived Irma. I agree with your comment! UNCLE!!
I am happy that you, your pets and your home fared well. My thoughts and prayers are with you and all of those affected by these awful fires. We survived Irma.
Pokey, I am so happy to know you, your animals and beautiful property are ok. You have been on my mind so much
Hi Pokey so glad to hear this update ….had sent you a brief message on messenger to see if you were ok. ❤😇
I am so glad your family is safe!
(A follower from Bellingham, Wa)
Thank God… and yes, UNCLE!
So very glad you and your pets are safe and back home.
Thank you so much for the update.
Your story gave me goosebumps! So happy to hear that your home is safe as are your fur babies! Thank you for your tips, they are good to know. I started collecting the items I want in a Go Bag this past weekend and am ignoring my unconcernd husband who probably thinks I’m nuts, but who will appreciate it when we have a Go Bag to leave our home with!
Chris, hopefully it will never happen, but putting items together and tucked somewhere, if anything, will give you peace of mind. Thank you for your kind words!
So glad this ended well. Looking forward to Houston where we can all let our hair down and have some fun and celebrate all that is good!
I am so happy and relieved that your compound was spared. (I like to think of it as an artist compound. LOL!) Fires are such scary and devastating forces of nature. They also teach us all a valuable lesson or two. Things can be replaced, but family, friends, animal companions, are priceless. (You may want to see if there is a local company that deal with fire restoration. They will bring in ozone cleaners (?) and you space will no longer have the campfire smell.)
Wishing you CALM !!! Glad that you, your dogs and your new studio survived that harrowing experience. Do you also live at your studio?
Our daughter was married at the Highland Dell Lodge in Monte Rio two years ago. I just went to their website hoping to learn that they are OK. Would you have any information about the status of that area? Huge redwood trees in that area. Such beautiful country. This is so sad. Will keep you and the entire area in our thoughts & prayers.
from Northern Michigan…..also a wooded area.
So incredibly glad and thankful you are ok and did not lose your place. God Bless
Thank you for sharing your harrowing experience. I grew up in California and it was many many years after I moved away before the smell of smoke on the wind did not automatically make me panic. My son and his family (newest grandbaby) live in the hills above Bolinas so I kept a worried watch on your horrific fires. My younger son’s home flooded here during Harvey, as well as two other homes in our extended family. I’m right there with you with ENOUGH already. My studio door has basically stayed closed since all this has happened. I’m looking forward to Market & Festival to see if I can jumpstart my creative mojo. I hope to see you there and give you a hug. Hang in there!
So glad you and your furry family are ok. A terrible experience you survived and you will prosper.