Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Machine Gun Fire

As many know, we were affected by the fire in Herriman. Camp Williams decided to do machine gun practice even though it was a red flag day and the winds were very strong. Even after they accidentally started the fire, they thought they could contain the fire themselves and waited 3 hours before calling the fire department. While I'm pretty disappointed with Camp Williams, I'm so grateful for the firefighters who saved hundreds of homes.

Around 6:00 Sunday evening, we decided to go to my parents house because we could smell smoke and thought someone was doing a prescribed burn in the area. As we pulled out of the driveway, we noticed it was literally raining ash. We wanted to get some clear air and figured it would be cleaner air when we returned. Around 7:45 we were packing up to go home when my sister called me at my parents house, telling me that there was a fire near my house and I needed to get home immediately - assuming I could even get in at this point. She also told me that the Cove had already been evacuated (I live in the subdivision just East of them).

As we drove into Herriman it was like something you see in a movie. The entire mountain side was on fire and there were emergency vehicles everywhere. Cars were stopped all over the roads to look at the fire, causing roads to back up. We headed up toward our neighborhood and the main entrance to the neighborhood was already blocked by the police so we turned around and tried a back way, successfully. We got into the house and immediately started packing important documents, picture CDs and computers. We also packed enough stuff for over night. For nearly 2 hours we were in the house, bathing the kids and deciding what we should do. In that 2 hour time period, Kris threw up 4 times and I had a sore throat from the thick smoke in the area. We decided it wasn't worth waiting for an evacuation for health reasons and we left.

Leaving the area was surreal. Every street intersection was blocked off by police allowing people out, but no one in. I've never seen so many emergency vehicles in my life. The roads were blocked all the way to Bangerter Highway off two exits. As we drove out, we could see the entire mountain on fire. I took the dogs to my parents, and Kris took the kids to his brother's. When we arrived at Rusty and Amy's we didn't realize at the time, but we smelled terribly of smoke and when we went back to the cars for our belongings, the cars had filled with smoke too and we didn't realize it until we were in clean air.

We spoke with our neighbors who never left and one of their children was throwing up through the night and still coughing the next day. I'm glad we left when Kris has a breathing problem, Kyson has asthma, and Kodi had RSV last winter. It wasn't worth it for us. The next day the neighborhood was still blocked off by the police. 7 schools were also closed in the area so Kyson's preschool was closed.

I needed more clothes and medication because I only brought a 24-hour supply so I was going to see if I could get a police escort to the house. Fortunately they had taken down the barricades to our neighborhood by Monday afternoon so I was able to get in without any hassle, but the smoke was too thick to stay. I opened the windows and planned to air it out so we could return the next day.

Tuesday morning Kris returned to the house. The smoke smell was faint at this point and there appeared to be no damage or problems from the smoke. Before we evacuated on Sunday we turned on all the ceiling fans, closed all the closet doors, and closed up the furnace and laundry room and put towels under the doors to try and keep the smoke out. I had also replaced my furnace filters only 2 weeks before the fire. I believe all of these things really helped keep the smoke out.

In all this fire burned 3500 acres, 3 houses were destroyed and one other was damaged severely. When I look at the burn lines, it is so scary to think about how bad it could have been. The flames were traveling 25 mph and it truly is a miracle that only 3 houses were lost.

The view from the neighborhood

Hundreds of houses could have been burned

Too close for comfort

It's a miracle - the fire burned all around the house


Nicolette said...

Wow, this was quite the fire! I'm so glad your family and home are ok! It was a miracle that more home weren't destroyed! I think you guys did the right thing for evacuating. There is no way I would have stayed!

Sam said...

of course I live by your dad and when I heard it was coming up and over the top of the mountain I didnt believe it but as I walked out onto our back porch I could see it. It was very much like a movie. Me being that far away was still too close for comfort. I think it is a miracle that no one was killed! I am glad your family is safe and sound.

satomblablabla said...

so crazy! thanks for sharing.