Fire and smoke in the canyon
My family is one of the fortunate homeowners of Kings Canyon who survived the fire with very little damage. For those of you who went through the fire trauma, here are a few hints that might help your body and mind recover.
When first we noticed the fire at 4 a.m. Wednesday, the fear was terrible for the whole family. We had been through many fires while living in Lakeview, and it was interesting how flashbacks from those traumas took over reason.
Clothes were thrown everywhere (by me), and all animals were thrown into the garage. Hope for containment and fear were constant. When the first evacuations were set, we were ready, we thought. Several hours later, the word to evacuate our home hit hard. Having been evacuated before, we knew this fire was dangerous. Your body goes through hope, fear, worry and tremendous mood swings.
With only minutes to throw frightened animals into cars and leaving other vehicles, we heard propane tanks exploding behind us as we made it to the home of family members on Ormsby Boulevard below C Hill. Two hours later, with all hope lost for our home, we were again evacuated when the fire reached Ormsby Boulevard.
I had given up. We ended up at the Carson Community Center with three cats and a dog. The mind does crazy things while going through this process, mostly due to the memories of prior fire danger and losses occurred in previous times. My husband thought he had packed three days of clothes to find out the next morning that he had only packed medicine and a swimming suit. We spent a lot of time being hysterical, laughing and crying.
Lack of sleep, lack of knowledge regarding homes, pets, etc., inability to contact immediate family members to check for safety and fear for friends who are going through the same chaos with nothing to breathe except smoke, all adds up to tremendous adrenaline releases in the body with following periods of depression.
Now that things have settled down, depression, fatigue and after-effects of smoke inhalation have set in on all who have experienced this disaster first-hand. Viewing the devastation is hard. How do you handle the mood swings and anger?
The first thing is to realize it is a normal reaction to a disaster that you could not control. Right now we are handling a depressed teenager who is angry that his outdoor life is restricted and in some cases completely gone. The fact that the home is intact does not matter because some of his friends in the canyon have lost their homes.
Lack of understanding and guilt about why our home survived and not others will bother us for a long time. That is our lingering effect of the fire. And the fear of another fire will always be in the back of my mind.
For me, there will always be the possibility of waking up to another day with “fire up the canyon.”
Jerry Vance is owner of The Sweat Shop/Wet Sweat, a fitness instructor for the Senior Center and writes a fitness column for the Nevada Appeal.