Fire on the Mountain

WHEN THE GOOD NEWS IS, "We've saved your house – your house is still standing" – you don't even want to know what the bad news is.

We left home Friday afternoon, with neighbors, for a jaunt up to a ski resort in northeast PA. It was a jolly caravan – boys, dogs, skis, boots – complete with the requisite McDonalds dinner stop. The plan was to spend the long holiday weekend hanging out, skiing, geocaching, eating, drinking, and relaxing.

As we headed north into the mountains, the wind had become strong and gusty and tossed our high-profile vehicle around in a way that reminded me of turbulence on an airplane. It was white-knuckle driving, to say the least.

We got to the house, quickly unpacked and immediately settled into relaxation mode. Jenga was played. Gin was consumed. Dogs were walked. Hours passed. We stayed up too late Friday night and slept late Saturday morning.

Half of our gang suited up and drove to the top of the hill to ski, and I ventured up the hill to make a grocery run in town. As the skiiers were lacing their boots, I was filling a grocery cart with things I would need to make Sunday night's dinner.  And that's when our cell phones began to ring.

Some of our neighbors had urgently been trying to reach us with dire news, and our cell phones didn't have reception at the house. Our next door neighbor called to inform us that a wicked brush fire had swept through behind our house, right up the power line right-of-way, and had gotten into our back yard. Did we need to come home now? I asked. Probably not, but if you wait, he said, I'll walk over to your property. He described a scene of several firemen trying to extinguish the back yard. Then he put one of them on the phone, at which point he delivered the "good news."

I was a little bit dazed as I stood there next to the peanut butter and jelly in aisle 17. I phoned back to the house to inform Curt. He said he'd received a call, he was already packing up so we could leave, and could I hurry home so they could load the car?

And I actually said to him, sure, let me put all this stuff in my cart back where it was…


Oh, right! Yes. Of course. Be right there.

So, we threw everything back into the vehicles and pointed our jolly caravan back down the road, for a trip even more harrowing than Friday night's, owing again to the strong, gusty winds. Which of course did not bode well for fire control.

We missed all the drama, the many firefighting units from all over the region that descended upon our neighborhood. We missed seeing the fire come raging down the right-of-way, through our back yard, where it gobbled up the leaves and brush laying around (it's a woodsy lot). We missed the next-door neighbor who stubbornly refused orders to leave his property so he could stay and turn a hose on the embers. We missed seeing fire consume the split-rail fence on three sides of our property, our metal shed and its contents, and approach the back of our house, singeing our patio furniture.  And we missed the part where the fire started to burn our house, at which point the fire fighters broke the French doors to the patio so they could get in side and stop it from turning our home into a pile of rubble.

Back fence 
In fact, it IS good news – miraculous, really – that they were able to save our house. The fire surrounded our house. Our front yard burned. The side yards burned.

This could have been so, so much worse.

February 2011 116 

Our awesome neighbors covered the hole in the wall with plywood before we even got back home.

The weirdest thing is, I went to bed last night feeling enormously lucky. The last time I felt that way was a few days after Seth had his stroke, which was five years ago this month. (And people wonder why I hate February.) Then, the initial experience was harrowing, like nothing I've ever experienced. But we came to realize, especially when he entered inpatient rehab, that he could have gotten so much worse than he did.

And so could've we, it seems.

17 thoughts on “Fire on the Mountain

  1. Thanks for writing this. Such a moving description of something so scary for u all. It answers lots of questions from at least one superfan of the soup family ( me). Funny I was thinking about everything u went through with Seth too when I saw this news but more about how impressed I was with your grownup snd silve lining reaction .but five years. Wow
    So sorry you’re going thru all this. And lost your ski vacation! Hope the repairs are quick and easy. Hugs!

  2. How easy it would be to see all the negatives here, but this miraculous story if just filled to the brim with positives. The fact that you all weren’t here is the first miracle of all.
    Your family sure has suffered more than its fair share; but your family sure has survived more than its fair share too. There’s a reason for that. I’m not sure we’re supposed to know what that reason is, but I’m so glad you’re on the receiving end of all the miracles instead of the potential tragedies that could have been a part of this story.
    If you need a place to stay, you know where I live. Bring everyone. And some Chevy’s chips and salsa. Hugs to your whole family. And I’m dead serious on the offer to stay here.

  3. Oh, Meg! I am so happy that your house was saved. You told this story quite well, and I was wondering why you would want to put the things from the cart back onto the shelves. I was saying to myself, “get outa there and head home!” The wind here was incredible. And this could have been so so much worse. Thank God you are safe.

  4. Meg, Steve and I are thinking about you guys…so glad the family is safe and the damage wasn’t worse. Here’s hoping for a generous adjuster, and fun redecorating….m

  5. Oh, Meg. I can’t believe it! Aunt Anne just called to ask if I have been on Facebook today, wondering if I had heard about your place. Had to admit I haven’t been on FB ever, following your advice from 3 years ago! But of course I got on your blog immediately.
    So sorry to hear. Anything we can do to help, let us know.
    Love, Aunt Cathy, Cabin Aunt

  6. Meg, came across here from cbw. I am so pleased you are all ok and that your house is too! whew! What a nasty end to what was going to be a fun weekend. Hope all will be ok from now for you all.
    We have had our share of disasters here in Queensland this summer…rain rain, floods floods everywhere , cyclones, more floods…and now we have bad storms coming through today. Oh and my brother in law is quite ill in hospital in Chile. But I do hope to be in NYC soon for the birth of the ninth grandchild.
    All the best, Meg

  7. Over from CBW, if you are her friend, then consider me a friend too! I am glad you were away for the weekend, and I am glad the damage was minimal considering everything. If there is anything that we can do, please please let us know – hugs, deb

  8. Dear Meg,
    I’m over from CBW site. I want you to know that I’m thinking of you and your family and I’m so very glad you all are ok!

  9. Thank you all for your comments, and how nice to see some of CBW’s commenters chiming in as well! We will be fine, it’s just a matter of clean-up. I can see squirrels running around outside right now, looking rather bewildered – WHERE ARE THE NUTS? THERE USED TO BE NUTS HERE! – and daffodils just starting to push their promise of green through the scorched blackness of my yard. The clean-up / restoration crew has been fabulous… life will return to normal one of these days.
    Stay tuned, I’ll have more to share in the near future…

  10. Wow, how did I miss this? So glad you’re okay and that you weren’t home. Raging wildfires are supposed to be a west coast problem! Are you hogging our disasters? Just kidding, of course.
    Foolery of Head-In-The-Sand, California

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