The massive red cloud of the Lobo Fire refuses to back down and evacuating is our only option. We say goodbye to our neighbors thinking at the time we will see them later.

Fleeing the Lobo Fire

We back the car out of the driveway and head down toward the lake. A right and a quick left and we pass the sheep farm, so named for the people who sold their land to make Lake Wildwood possible. I snap a picture as we pass. My husband stops the car in the middle of the road, saying, "We need to get the boat key."

"Why?" I ask.

"If we can't get out, we can get on the boat and head for the middle of the lake."

Not a bad plan, I think.

I ask, "What about E. coli?"

"Scr*w E. coli," he says and turns the car around. "We're not going swimming."

A quick right and now they have people in bright yellow jackets directing traffic. We stop and wait our turn.

"Where are you headed?" a stranger asks.

My husband answers, "We need to get back to our house."

"Why?" he asks, seriously perplexed. You can see it on his face.

My husband says, "I want our boat key so we can use our boat to get away from the fire. You know." He gesticulates wildly. "We can get to the middle of the lake."

The man winces. "You'll die of noxious fumes."

Somehow I am reminded of Ralphie in A Christmas Story. Talk about shooting your eye out. Frustrated, my husband does U-turn and heads back the way we came.

Everywhere, people honk their car horns, trying to wake those who haven't any phone service. We join in. An ambulance drives by, then security. The air is thick with smoke and I can't stop myself from looking over my shoulder at the massive devil cloud I am sure is going to eat us alive. My heart pounds in my chest.

We pull onto Wildflower Drive and head toward the gate.

My husband stops at Commodore Park which has a complete view of the lake and fire. We are mesmerized. Flames gobble up trees and our beautiful Deer Creek is a waterfall of fire. The crackle and snap can be heard when you roll down the window, but the smoke is thick and my chest hurts. I wonder where my kids are but don't want to tie up the lines.

Then I wonder if that is even possible in the wireless age.

"Let's go," I say, when suddenly my cell phone rings. We are out of the dead zone. My cell phone rings then rings again. I quickly discover I can do a three way call. It is Jamie, our distraught daughter-in-law, Ryan, our youngest, and Denny, our oldest son. I can't make out anything they say because they are talking all over each other.

My husband gets angry. He shouts, "Shut up. One person at a time!"

I'm glad I rolled up the windows.

Ryan is stuck on the other side of the lake. We tell him about the gate at the school being opened. Denny is stuck in traffic and both sides are gridlocked. He has no choice but to stay and worm his way out.

We tell Jamie we will be there as soon as we can. We are, at the moment, closest to her.

Eventually we hit gridlock on Pleasant Valley Drive. The massive cloud grows higher and thicker. We inch toward Taco Shell. When we get to Highway 20 we make a left until we get to the Shell station. Surprisingly, we are able to find a parking space near Jamie and the kids. We see Denny, then Ryan, then Nathalia is there with the boys as is my niece, her husband, and her dogs. I am overwhelmed with relief. We do a fast conference.

Altogether we are 13 people and 7 dogs ranging in weight from 20 to 100 pounds. Who in their right mind is going to take us? Our son does a fast Internet search. The fair grounds take animals but they have to be stalled.

Three of our dogs require constant medical attention. All the other evacuation centers do not allow dogs. What are we to do? We look at each other blankly.

Someone mentions the Kmart parking lot. I have no idea why this sounds good to everyone, but it does so we join the mass of vehicles on the freeway and creep up the hill. When we arrive at Kmart, it is as if there is no fire. You can't even see a cloud. There are no flames and no frantic people. Where did they all go?

In the parking lot of Kmart

We settle in. Some are in pajamas, a few of us are dressed in shorts and T-shirts, while others wear long pants and sweatshirts. Strangers bring us water and even offer us money. We are fortunate because we carry cash.

Because of all the fires there are massive power outages. Debit and charge cards simply don't work. Only cash is accepted.

A client of mine gives my granddaughters a gift card to Kmart. The granddaughters in turn give the card to a woman whose house burned down. Someone else offers us their motor home. The influx of refugees begins to grow. For whatever reason, Kmart is a psychological hub for the masses. Some have motor homes and decide to head up into the tall trees. Others decide to go to the fairgrounds and others to churches in the area.

None of us can leave our dogs.

So we stay.