Fire is one of the biggest drawbacks to living out West because it takes so little to set one off. A live cigarette butt carelessly tossed out of a car window. A not-quite-OSHA-approved lawnmower and a stray spark. A little kid playing with matches, as most little kids like to do. In the 14 years John and I have lived here, we’ve been evacuated twice, and believe me, it’s not fun—especially when there’s no guarantee that you will ever see your home again.
Even though it’s supposed to be rainy season right now—which means intermittent rain, snow, hail, or a combination of all three—it is also extremely windy. (And cold!) When there’s a fire and winds that fan it and you are told by a law officer with a bullhorn to evacuate, you evacuate—you’re in the fire’s path.
The first fire was a very close call; I can still see the burned trees on the ridgeline behind our house. We didn’t have a horse trailer then (we bought one after the second evacuation), and we only had one horse—Prim, who hates to load. A kindly neighbor with a two-horse pulled in. His own horse was on the other side of the divider, and for once in Prim’s life she didn’t act as though I were leading her into the jaws of hell. (Having another horse inside was a big help.) And—of course—the wind was blowing, which always makes her extra-skittish. We couldn’t find the cats, but I figured they would be okay, since we’re far enough from the local fire department that we had to install sprinklers throughout the house. Prim ended up at an arena where local cowboys practice their roping skills. John and I and the two dogs ended up at a local hotel.
If you live in the West, it’s not a bad idea to have an emergency plan in place, especially if you have horses. Make sure your horse trailer is ready to be hitched, and make sure your horse will get in it, whether the wind is blowing or not.