15 Minutes

Burning building (on Fountaingrove Parkway, I think)I don’t recall if I ever revealed that “Salem” – the fictitious name I chose to keep where we lived anonymous – is really Santa Rosa. So, guess what? We used to live in Santa Rosa.

In October, wild fires burned about 20% of the housing in Santa Rosa, CA.  Until July 2016, we lived in a “luxury” apartment complex, one that was not affected by the fires. However, had we remained in Santa Rosa, we would have moved out of that complex. It was getting too expensive for what it was. Some friends of ours had just moved to the Fountaingrove complex. The apartments were less expensive, with more amenities. Although we would have preferred to go to a house, with as tight and competitive as the rental market in Santa Rosa was, there is a very good chance we would have ended up in the Overlook at Fountaingrove apartments.

Some of the first structures to burn down were the apartments at Fountaingrove.

Because the city chose not to use text messaging to alert all residents to the fires – they didn’t want to cause a panic – the residents of Fountaingrove had about 15 minutes to evacuate.

What can you really grab in 15 minutes?

We would have been lucky to get the kids, the cat, the rabbits, and the computers in 15 minutes. I doubt we could have grabbed clothes, favorite toys, or any of the dozens of scrapbooks I made before I had kids. It all would have burned up. Cassie would have her Mimi, and that would have been it.

For several days, we thought our best friends’ house had burned down. It appeared to be right in the path of the fire on the fire maps. However, the fire didn’t jump the highway, so while structures as close as one mile away burned to nothing, their neighborhood was spared.

I still think a lot about that. What if… what if we had lived in Fountaingrove? What if the fire had taken our friends’ house?

I decided it might be more productive to think about what I would want to grab in case of fire.What I would grab to pack some outfits for the kids. What I would tell the kids to grab for themselves. Would we think to take cat food? Should we keep the pet carriers more accessible for emergencies?

Then, when I was packing up our Christmas decorations, I thought about how many of our Christmas ornaments were handmade. Made by Max’s mother and aunt, my “baby cousins” (who are now grown and having babies of their own), my kids, and even a few made by Max and myself. We can never get any of that back… and it’s not something that I would have thought to try to grab in 15 minutes.

Some of our friends did lose their houses, and everything in them. I try to fathom it, and I can’t. All I can do is play the 15 minutes game in my head. How much of our lives could we gather up in 15 minutes?

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