When we went to bed Sunday night, the last thing we were thinking about was a fire though we have plenty of them in California this time of year. We'd lost power somewhere between 10 PM and 3 AM, but didn’t get worried until someone started banging on our door yelling at us to "get out now!"

The evacuation

Panicked, our neighbor ran back to her house while we dashed outside to see for ourselves. After viewing a sky full of soot and ash, I ran back inside for my phone, thinking we had Internet access.

I ran back outside to see if I could get a signal. We soon discovered there wasn't any social media to tell us what was happening and there wasn’t a Twitter feed informing us of what to do or where to go. Instead, we were cut off and it was pitch black outside with an eerie red cloud that looked as if the gates of hell were opening and we were about to get sucked inside. This hell was soon to be part of the Wind Complex, which is comprised of the Cascade, La Porte, Lobo and McCourtney fires. We simply called ours the Lobo Fire.

The reality

Gasping, I ran back in the house. Smoke seeped in opened windows while my husband grabbed a suitcase and I started throwing things into it without thinking. A pair of shoes, shorts, a shirt, more socks, more shoes then pajamas, jeans, and a sweatshirt. My husband grabbed the evacuation box with our pink slips for the cars and boat and the deed to our house. We packed the car, grabbed the dog bed, shuttled in the pups and conferred with the neighbors.

We live in a gated community called Lake Wildwood. There are only two exits for 3000 homes. I knew we had additional exits that could be opened in an emergency and sure enough, a neighbor came over to tell us they'd opened the one near the school. Cars began to honk to wake up those still asleep. Car engines roared to life, their headlights strobing as they stopped and started in the congestion that muddled our usually quiet streets.

I needed a cell signal in the worst way and we live in a dead zone. I took a last glance at our house, dodged a car and ran out into the street to find a signal I could use. Once found, I immediately called our daughter who lives out of the area. I had no idea what time it was, I only knew I wanted to tell her we loved her in case the worst happened. After scaring her half to death we jumped into the car and made it to the bottom of our hill when my husband asked, “Where are we going?”

"Out?" I managed to croak.

Evacuation action

That we didn't have an evacuation route mapped in advance struck me as the height of stupidity. We live in a wildfire area and even though we have fire hydrants, almost everyone outside the lake does not. I tried my cell and once again nothing. Suddenly, my cell phone rang, jangling my nerves. D*mn the dead zone. It was our daughter-in-law. “I am over at Taco Shell and I’m all by myself and Ryan went to get Marissa and now he can’t get out and I am scared to death with two kids in the car and a doooooggggg.”

“On our way,” I said, somewhat relieved.

Now, at least, we had a plan.

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