Reflections on the Thomas Fire “The morning of the fire, Birdie stayed home with the babysitter and played in her sandbox while I went to the doctor and then got all our Christmas decorations out of storage. I set up the Christmas tree, lights and stockings while she napped. When she woke up, she was so excited to see it all. It was one of the sweetest moments she and I have had in that house. Donny came home in the evening, I cooked dinner and then went off to work while he put her to bed. I was seeing a client who lived a couple of miles down the street from us. As I was carrying my massage table into their house, I saw the full red moon in the sky. I thought, "Wow, it's a lunar eclipse!" About 15 minutes into the session, my client's baby woke up and she went to tend to her. For the next 15 minutes, I was on my phone looking at the news and realizing that the moon was red from fire, not an eclipse. Shit. Then we started to smell smoke in the house. We decided to end the session early, and I went straight to Target to buy an air purifier. There was some ash in the air, falling like a snow flurry. We thought, "the fire is 25 miles away, so we are safe but it will be smoky." As I was in the store, the power went out, but I was still able to purchase the air purifier. The parking lot was pitch black, the street lights were all out. I realized I needed gas but the gas stations were all closed - someone told me the power was out all the way to Camarillo (20 miles away.) So, I just drove home. Donny was still awake (around 10:45 pm), which is rare indeed. He was on the phone with Peter Stuart, whose house had just burned down. We were devastated. Stuart said the fire was moving into the East End of Ojai, so we called our friend who was visiting the farm Donny managed near Lake Casitas for the evening and told him to drive back to Santa Monica, since he had respiratory issues. 30 minutes later, he called us, "There is fire on the hill next to your house." I didn't believe him. I had seen a red glow on both sides of the highway past our home, but assumed it was from the very common occurrence of the gas company "burning off gas" which also leaves a big red glow in the sky. (For those of you who don't know, we lived on a ranch on the Ventura/Ojai Valley border right next to a very large oil field.) But just in case, I grabbed a flashlight, went looking for our birth certificates, and put them in a bag. We spent the next 10 minutes debating if we should pack things up. It is possible we did more than that, but this hour is so blurry... Donny stepped outside quickly and ran back in yelling, "We need to go NOW." I looked out and saw a seemingly new stream of smoke coming from the hill just behind our house, in front of a VERY large and bright red glow in the sky, neither of which had been there 10 minutes earlier. Birdie woke up in the chaos, and as I tried to comfort and hold her, I packed a few clothes. Since there were no lights in the house, this consisted of completely emptying 2 drawers without looking, both of which were sparse (I wish I had put away the clean laundry that day). My eyes went to some framed photos of my childhood, some ties that belonged to Donny's grandfather, and a few other things that I wish I had taken. But with a crying baby in one hand and a flashlight in the other, I just grabbed the computer, and went down to the car. While I was out there, I heard it start to rain heavily, lasting for only about 3 seconds. Except it wasn't rain, it was cinders falling on us like hail. I ran back inside. My hands shook as I put Ninja in the cat carrier. Victor jumped out of Donny's arms into the darkness and I caught him almost mid-air. We drove away very quickly in 2 separate cars, and as we went down the street, we saw our neighbors all looking up towards our house. I did not turn around to see what they saw. But once we were on the highway, ashes falling on our windshields, I looked at the hill and saw that the entire ridge was on fire. We called each other and stayed on the phone as we drove, deciding last minute whether to drive North or South. We decided on South because we know alot more people in that direction. The fire on the ridge went for miles. We must have driven 10 minutes before the flames disappeared. We arrived in Santa Monica at Howard's house around 2am. I think I slept from 5-6:30. I would like to say this is an experience I will never forget, but it hs been a blur right from the start. Including the first few days afterwards... I know a few people stopped by to bring us things... One friend I had not seen in at least 15 years brought us pizza. Another brought toys for Birdie and sent clothes the next day. An amazing client of mine went shopping for vitamins and prepared foods and dropped them off for us. Burning Man friends who I have not seen in years rallied and brought presents for Birdie, including a handmade card. A complete stranger (friend of a person from high school who I thought didn't like me) brought me beautiful clean clothes. Etc, etc. You people are angels. I hope you all know how appreciated you all are. We are so blessed to have you in our lives - even those you of we have never met. Thank you.
Donny and I went back 2 days ago and saw the remains of our home. There is (almost) nothng there. No walls, no floors, just ash with a twisted metal roof on the ground. But... A necklace my mom had given me just 2 months earlier was sitting on the unburned front step. On the other side of the house in the garden was a ceramic dog I picked up in a thrift store in 1999 while attending my grandmother's funeral in rural Washington. And at the end of the house, there the 2nd bedroom had been, I saw a small white figurine sticking out of the ash. It was one of the wise men from my Nativity set. I had decided to not put it out this year (Birdie-proofing), so it had been in the box. I dug a bit and found the other 2 men. Then the Jesus, the Joseph, and finally Mary. And although I am not religious, I do love Christmas, and this has to mean... something.”