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Fire Bad, Trees Pretty

Sunday started out well enough. The plan was to mosey down to the Indian cave dwellings south of Sedona by way of evergreen-filled Oak Creek Canyon, and see off fresne and anomster there, then head back to the cabin for our final evening. It all went without a hitch--Oak Creek Canyon, usually clogged with traffic on summer weekends--was a casual, beautiful drive into the Sedona Valley with numerous scenic view pull-over and photo ops; we had a lovely picnic of sandwiches at an open air kitsch market south of Sedona; and we finally made our way to the cave dwellings--actually a village of stone carved out of the side of a hill--and found a shady spot beneath the main ruins to chit-chat awhile about Gatherings to come.

Eventually, I got up and wandered down the path to see more sights, then the group headed back up to the visitor's center to cool off before heading off to our various destinations. In the center, I got a phone call from the owner of our rental cabin telling me there was a "warning" about "possible evacuation" of the area where our cabin was due to a new fire in the Flagstaff area. We decided (atpolittlebit, dlgood, midnightsjane, and me) to head up immediately in case we were asked to evacuate. We got as far as three miles south of our cabin (which is itself about 15 minutes north of Flag) when we hit a roadblock "closed to residents" of the rural subdivisions north of town. Which was us, under the circumstances. And for good reason--there was a huge cloud of smoke hovering over the hills that divide downtown from those subdivisions. So huge, we'd seen it as far away as the Indian caves 50 miles south.

We were forced to turn back, leaving our clothes, computers, identification cards, DVDs, and my car up at the cabin, and go to the alternative accommodations the rental company arranged for us.

We spent the night at a pretty swank place across town, but we were eager this morning to get back up the cabin and retrieve our stuff and leave. Dave had already had to change his 1:30 pm flight, and 'Bit had joined us in our new digs, hoping she would not have to change her hotel reservations in Barstow and on down the line of her itinerary as well. Jane had a flight out Tuesday morning she hoped to catch.

We went up towards the cabin around 9 am with high hopes--the cloud over the hills we'd seen the night before was gone. But we were turned back at the roadblock again, and told to come back around 10:30, when they hoped to start letting local residents in with sheriff escorts for brief periods. So we went for breakfast and came back. They said they still couldn't let people through. So we went to the mall. God, that was bad--loud music inside and hot winds outside.

The owner of our cabin sent one of her employees out to get me and Dave. She was going to try to get us through the roadblock herself. It was after noon at this point, and by then we could get as far as the rural road leading up to our cabin's subdivision. But we could also literally see the fire itself in the hills beyond and the smoke over the entire rural area where our rental cabin was. And sure enough, the police blocked us right at the road leading into the subdivision and sent us back, telling us that the fire had worsened due to increasing winds ,and they were having to use all their escorts to evacuate people further south, closer to the city.

The cabin owners arranged for yet another place for us to stay today, and possibly tonight, if need be. Dave was good to keep calling the sheriff's dispatcher trying to arrange another escort for us. It was miserable staying in a vacation rental (less swanky, this time) with a few token belongings when you'd rather be headed home. Finally, the sheriff dispatcher told us to proceed back to the roadblock, where we would hopefully, but not with any guarantee, be assigned an escort. It was about 3:30 pm at this point. We went to the road block and gave the officer the dispatcher's name and message, and he sent us into a local convenience store to talk to someone, who told us to proceed to a gas station a few miles up (inside the evacuation zone). No one was letting us out of the convenience store parking lot, so eventually, we just snuck our way out onto the road and headed to the next stop in our treasure hunt.

At the gas station, half a mile from the road to our cabin's subdivision, the cops tried sending us back to the convenience store we'd just been at. We called the dispatcher again, and finally, FINALLY a loud speaker from a sheriff's truck scared the bejeezus out of us asking us to pull out and proceed to our cabin with them trailing us. The road block at the cabin subdivision let us through. The road block at the cabin street let us through. There was a fire truck at the cabin itself with firemen waiting and smoke hanging in the air all around. We could smell ash in the air as we ran quickly to the cabin. We had our salvage operation planned tightly from hours and hours of nothing better to do. We each went to our designated belongings, and just started throwing everything together into the front foyer of the cabin. We then threw half of it in Bit's car, half in my car (still in one piece! yay!) and got the hell back to our latest rental home to pull our belongings and wits together.

Dave was feeling ill from the heat and smoke and lay down for a bit as we took stock and repacked. Finally, Little Bit hit the road. I had to admit that two seconds after my mime of tears at her leaving, I started having real tears. Sad to see her go, sad to see the Gathering end, and so relieved to have my things and my friend's things and be heading home.

Pretty pictures of red hills, green trees, and Indian cave dwellings later.


( 27 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 22nd, 2010 05:23 am (UTC)
Boo about the abrupt and confused end to the Gathering! But it's great that you guys hung together and I'm really glad you're all okay and have made it out safely. *hugs*
Jun. 22nd, 2010 05:27 am (UTC)
We had finished all the sight seeing and only planned to chill and do cabin laundry for the final night. So no sight-seeing or activities were interrupted--only our last chance to relax, at least in a stress-free way.

All is well, and the fun parts of the Gathering more than make up for our smoky last 24 hours.
Jun. 22nd, 2010 05:33 am (UTC)
Glad to hear you're all safe and sound and were able to get your things! Glad you got to enjoy your stay before the fire happened!
Jun. 22nd, 2010 04:40 pm (UTC)
The funny part is, it was a fun Gathering. Until the forced evacuation! ; )
Jun. 22nd, 2010 07:23 am (UTC)
Wow, what a story. It must've been stressful wondering if your car and the cabin with all your belongings in it were still in one piece. I'm glad it all ended well for you, and that you guys all had a good time despite the scare there at the end.
Jun. 22nd, 2010 04:59 pm (UTC)
The woman from the rental company told me that early Monday morning, the cleaning lady, whose family lives north of town, actually made it to the cabin *behind the evacuation line* and was surprised to see my car parked there. I guess she had shown up to clean up after us or something. We were all frustrated that she could not grab our stuff and bring it past the road block. But at least it confirmed the stuff was OK.
Jun. 22nd, 2010 08:40 am (UTC)
If you put together the neighborhood map ( http://www.readycoconino.az.gov/uploadedFiles/Emergency/FernwoodSubs.pdf ) with the fire map ( http://www.readycoconino.az.gov/uploadedFiles/Emergency/SchultzFire6.21.10.pdf ) you can see how close it really was. I understand not wanting people wandering around back there!

And I am hugging my laptop. But I would have stayed until y'all were settled even if it hadn't been held hostage by the wildfire.
Jun. 22nd, 2010 11:06 am (UTC)
That is chilling. Wow.
Jun. 22nd, 2010 12:31 pm (UTC)
I didn't realize you were trapped as well. Glad you're all safe and have your possessions back! The descriptions here on Phoenix TV were very accurate. The firemen fought hard to save that area of houses the first night and it paid off.
Jun. 22nd, 2010 04:09 pm (UTC)
We couldn't really take up anyone's offer of help getting out of town, because that would have meant leaving our possessions behind. But the offers and concerns were appreciated.
Jun. 22nd, 2010 04:25 pm (UTC)
Although I don't think it was ever said, I did figure out that Bit was there. I just thought she was hanging around to look out for you three. Didn't know her lap top was begining held hostage by the fire as well.
Jun. 22nd, 2010 04:34 pm (UTC)
Not fun for her, but it made the situation much better than it was. Sorry to leave you confused on the details; conversations had to be a bit short, sweet, and intermittent.
Jun. 22nd, 2010 04:08 pm (UTC)
I know. I'm hugging my car and telling it, "I love you! I'll never leave you! (Until I trade you in and get a car like 'Bit's).
Jun. 22nd, 2010 05:11 pm (UTC)
Just as I thought. Right in our backyard.
Jun. 23rd, 2010 01:07 am (UTC)
Holy crap. I knew it was close, but that really makes it plain.
you saved Harry Dresden too! My hero.
Jun. 23rd, 2010 01:49 am (UTC)
You saved my air mattress! *My* hero!!
Jun. 22nd, 2010 10:14 am (UTC)
Glad your belongings all survived.
Jun. 22nd, 2010 05:11 pm (UTC)
We are, too!
Jun. 22nd, 2010 11:05 am (UTC)
Just amazing. I'm really glad you were able to get your stuff and get out.
Jun. 22nd, 2010 05:34 pm (UTC)
It was a weird 24 hours.
Jun. 22nd, 2010 12:09 pm (UTC)
Glad all of you are safe and have your stuff.
Jun. 22nd, 2010 05:34 pm (UTC)
Still wish you could have come? ; )

Actually, most of the weekend was fun and breath-takingly beautiful.
Jun. 22nd, 2010 12:40 pm (UTC)
You were lucky you were not stuck there with me along. I don't handle waiting for a vague time when "it" will all be over very well. Much better that I could fret about you all from home.

Thank you, Masq for all your work in putting things together this year. I'm sorry it ended so traumatically.
Jun. 22nd, 2010 04:10 pm (UTC)
We were comfortable and safe. It was just a matter of waiting and pestering the authorities until we could get our stuff and get out.
Jun. 23rd, 2010 01:04 am (UTC)
I don't know that I've ever moved quite as fast as I did at the cabin...my stuff!! Yay, grab, run toss in car..more stuff! We really were quite impressively organized.
We certainly have a tale to tell, eh?
Jun. 23rd, 2010 01:48 am (UTC)
Packing together under pressure increases bonding.
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 23rd, 2010 02:00 pm (UTC)
Considering where our cabin was, and where the fire was, they were very accommodating to us. I can understand if they just kept telling us to get lost.
( 27 comments — Leave a comment )