Before I start this blog post I want to take a minute to state that I know I’m lucky. We are safe. We currently have a home to live in. My intent isn’t to complain. It’s not to be negative. And even though I’m not speaking for anyone else, we need to know we’re all in this together and a lot of us are feeling the same way. We each have our own story, our own experience, but in the end we’re dealing with similar situations.
I stare at my packed bag on the floor. My heart races, my palms perspire, my mind doesn’t stop moving. Like thousands of other people, I was evacuated from my home 3 weeks ago due to wildfires. As of 1 week ago we were allowed back in our homes. As of 1 day ago the alert was lifted.
It’s one of those things that you don’t actually know how daunting it is until you’ve experienced it. Being told you have to leave right away, that a fire is coming towards your house, and knowing you have to live the next few days or weeks without knowing whether your house has burned down. The evening after we were evacuated my husband called, as he stayed behind to work while my 4 month old and I took off to southern BC.
“The police and firefighters are 90% sure our whole community is going to burn down within 2 hours.” 90 percent. Entire community.
My heart sunk. I wanted to throw up. It’s just stuff, I know. But I’ll be the first to admit, I like my stuff. I’m a sentimental person. My home is filled with things I have made and refinished, things from places I’ve travelled, and things that were passed down from my grandmother with whom I was very close. Yes, in the end it’s just stuff, but it still doesn’t make it easy.
Where would we live? My husband works here. Would his employer put us up somewhere? How am I going to do this? I can’t do this without my partner. *Breathe*
Thanks to the wind and some extraordinary firefighters, our homes were saved from the Gustafson fire. The amount of gratitude I feel for these men and women is overwhelming.
After we left our home, I drove to a friend’s house about 20 minutes outside of town. We spent the day there and then made a last minute decision to drive down to Southern BC. I remember packing my kid in the car, rushing to make it before the highway closed. I had no idea where I was going. Edmonton, to stay with family? Kamloops, to stay in a hotel? The lower mainland, to stay with friends? In the end I made the right choice. But thinking of that alarmed feeling with a sobbing baby in the back still makes my breath quicken.
A few days after being evacuated we (my infant and I) flew to SK to be with family. I spent the next 2 weeks visiting with friends and family. I spent a lot of time feasting my eyes on updates on Facebook while simultaneously telling myself not to. The weight of worry is crushing. My baby wasn’t sleeping. Waking up every 1-2 hours at night for 2 weeks. Severe lack of sleep, taking care of an infant, stressing about my husband, worrying about my house, thinking about all those homes in danger.
After 2 weeks we were allowed to go home. The drive home was very emotional. Barren land where houses, grass, and trees used to be for miles and miles. Smoke rising and bouncing in the sky. As we drove through Clinton, BC there was what felt like half the town standing at the top of the hill watching the flames scorch the countryside, while it moved towards their town.
I’m breathing a tiny bit easier now that we are off alert. But I would be a fool to assume we are okay. We are still under a Provincial High Alert status. It is a tough pill to swallow knowing that fire season is actually just starting and we will be going through this for at least another 4-6 weeks.
Over the years I’ve developed coping mechanisms to help with my anxiety and worries. This is a new situation, one most of us have never dealt with before. Right now it’s try to live as normal as possible. Because, at this point, what else can we do? Adjust. Help where help is needed. Support each other. Make life as regular as I can for my child. And, breathe.