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Updated 3/23/12

The Gafford Wildfire and my Home

I returned from my artist in residency at the Kentucky Horse Park and was greeted by dry, desert weather, heat over 100 degrees, and it is still April.

The following weekend,  I went to Glendale to see Cavalia, and upon my return, saw smoke from the freeway. "Another wild fire," I thought. A closer look, and the thought turned to horror as we realized the mountain behind our home was aflame. Smoke rising hundreds of feet above our mountain told us that this was no small fire.

Coming up the road to our neighborhood of two-and-a-half acre parcels, we found our way blocked by California Highway Patrol and Sheriff's Officers. Parking our car, we walked to the top of the low hill to look for our home in the conflagration. Although the sky was completely black with smoke, we could see the windows of the studio glinting through the haze--the house was still standing! I was emotionally overwhelmed, because my dogs and horses were still on the property, and the thought of them losing their lives in a fire was more than I could stand.

For almost four hours we waited. Several times we saw the flames behind our house, reaching twice as high as the roofline, and our dread was that there was no fire service defending it, and we would lose our home. We frantically called our neighbor below us, who refused to evacuate, who assured us that he had seen four trucks go by his place and up the road to the three houses above his.

We finally jumped a couple of fences and walked in below another neighbor's house, and came up the road to our place. The fire crews were working on flames across the cleared area from our house, and we thanked them profusely.

From our yard, we watched the flames move around our house and behind the neighbors'.

The helicopters made water drops to slow some of the advance.

Throughout the night the flames were just outside our back fence. Spending time and money to create and maintain 75 foot fire breaks have paid off.

The following morning they brought out the "big gun" helicopter, and they were flying directly overhead to battle the flames.

Again and again the helicopters came in and continued to fight the flames. This is below the house, and was a flare up after the majority of the fire had passed.

One sad part of our fire was the loss of the oak tree I had come to love. It was profiled on the horizon for many years, and I've even painted it several times. As the fire swept in an arc around the ridge, the oak tree, damaged by beetle infestation, was taken. Its sister tree, behind the flames, still survives, spared by the fickle flames.

Now the mountains are charred black and grey, with small islands of vegetation spared by the flames. We are safe, and our lives continue, humbled by the power of Mother Nature.