Growing up in San Diego, California I was always very used to hearing about wildfires happening all around the state. I never thought that I would ever be affected by it personally. It wasn't until fifth grade, that one of the largest wildfires in the history of Southern California, at the time, came roaring my way.
I remember that my parents were pretty relaxed at first, explaining to me that the wind would likely change directions and we'd be fine. After a few nights of listening to the news in the background in the living room while doing homework, I finally started to become afraid. Before I went to sleep, I decided on packing all of my favorite things in my little pink Barbie suitcase. I packed: my favorite outfits, my favorite dolls, my toothbrush, and a hairbrush. This was all that a fifth grader needed at the time.
The next day, the school called saying that classes would be canceled for the next seven days due to much of San Diego being evacuated. Finally, later that day, my parents received the call that they had been dreading. It was time for us to evacuate. My dad began taking pictures of everything of value that we owned for insurance purposes, and my mom frantically began gathering all of our photo albums and sentimental belongings.
I looked outside while my family was getting the cars ready, and remember vividly seeing the red-orange glow in the sky. It was the oddest sight because the bright warm colors were mixed with black smoke. It would have been beautiful if it weren't for all of the destruction that it brought.
Finally, when the cars were fully loaded, my parents instructed me to get into the car. I ran up to my room right before we left and mentally took a picture of what I may never see again. I went downstairs to make sure that my dog Sparky was in the car with everything that he needed as well. As we left the garage, I turned around and looked at my house through beads of tears. I hoped this house would be there when my family and I returned. My parents told me that we were driving to Redondo Beach in Los Angeles to stay with my aunt and uncle. They were so nervous and on edge, but my dad tried his best to make it fun. He told me it was our "evacuation-vacation."
The traffic on the I-15 was the worst I had ever seen. The freeway packed with trucks pulling cattle, mini-vans swerving through traffic, and emergency vehicles occasionally blasting through. What would normally take us an hour and fifteen minutes took us four. When we finally arrived, my dad decided on taking us all out to eat in lieu of the situation. We tried our best not to think about the fact that our house might have burnt to ashes.
After about a week of staying with our family, it was finally safe to return home. The fire had finally been put out, and it was finally the moment of truth, and we all held our breath. Our house was plotted safely at the end of our street, just the way we left it. I exhaled, knowing that my room was just the way I left it, and I would get to sleep in my own bed that night.
While everything was fine in the end for my family, and our house did not burn down, I do understand what the people in California are feeling to an extent. I cannot imagine having my home burnt to the ground. Houses streets away from us burned down, and some people who went to my high school no longer had a home.
My thoughts and prayers go out to those affected. If you would like to donate even the smallest amount, you can do so here: Wildfire Relief Fund