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September 17, 2015
After the Fire

A view of our mountain home from the southeast

More than a week after the Butte Fire had begun, we were finally able to return to our mountain home on Thursday afternoon, September 17.

The foot of our property borders our neighbor Kelley, and we stopped to deliver some flowers to her. She was well, and her property looked completely untouched by the fire. Kelley also shared some terrific news: her power had been restored the previous evening.

So it was with increased optimism that we drove the last quarter mile up a dirt road to our house. While areas of the property were burned, the house itself was intact. It was also bright pink, as we expected, from the borate fire retardant that had been dropped by the air tankers.

Everything is pink!

No sooner did we arrive than we heard our neighbor Scott’s truck pull up behind us. He wife Janice had just returned that day. The fire crews were still staging out of Scott’s property, and they were up there now.

Scott updated us with the status of several other neighbors, as well as stories of what had gone on here during the fire. A week ago, Scott had stood in front of our house as the fire raged up the hill from the west. “I saw Hell coming up that hill,” he recounted. Then, miraculously, the fire split into two branches going north and south of us, skirting the house. As we described in a previous letter, it was as if the fire had made a bubble around our house.

When the fire crews arrived, they created several fire breaks around the house, using both shovels and a bulldozer. We could see where these breaks prevented the fire from advancing further. The crews worked in full 24-hour shifts. Scott himself has gotten about eight hours of sleep in the past week.

Janice, Gail and Scott survey the land to the south

We have new roads on our property. Gail walks one of the fire breaks cut by Cal Fire.
The Butte Fire containment line literally ran right through the middle of our property
(Source: Enplan Wildfire Viewer)

The fire came within 10 feet of the tree swings…

… within 10 feet of the trampoline…

… and within 15 feet of the house

Our house is completely fine and intact. There were several reasons why our mountain home was saved:

Tonight, we will be able to sleep in our own beds, in a house with power and water. We know that many, many others have not been anywhere near as fortunate as we are. As Gail said, “We are very, very lucky.”

There are still several hotspots burning on the property. The ashes here came up to Gail’s knees.


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