Evacuating Your Home: What It Feels Like

The cities of Phoenix and Talent, next to Medford, have been burnt to the ground in the historic wildfires that raced through the Rogue Valley in southern Oregon.

When wildfires threatened my home, and my family, we had to flee from our southern Oregon community of Medford. At the same time a new reality dawned upon us; climate change was coming faster than anyone predicted.

It wasn’t that my wife and I didn’t believe in climate change. We just naively thought it was something our grandchildren had to face. The fact that the entire West Coast of America is now on fire has cast cold water on that theory.

There’s more signs across the planet that point to climate change, but we’re dealing with the worst air quality on the planet here in Medford, Oregon, and it’s got my undivided attention.

How we got here is no longer important. The dystopian future of famous fiction writers is reality. I look at the bruised orange sky from my backyard during the day and wonder if I’ll ever see blue skies again.

When my wife and I had to flee our home last week after a Level 3 warning of impending wildfires, it was a first in our forty-six years of marriage. As we raced to an evacuation center at the Jackson County Expo grounds, the fire followed us north in a shower of flaming sparks until we arrived safely at the designated sanctuary near Central Point.

We arrived with our five animals – three cats and two dogs – packed into our Nissan King cab pickup truck alongside family photo boxes, important papers, and food and water for us and the animals, and parked alongside 500 other vehicles containing refugees like ourselves. Most of us stayed in our vehicles because of the fear of COVID-19 inside the Red Cross refugee center.

My wife and I sat up all night. We couldn’t sleep. The thought that our house was burning, like hundreds of others, was a nightmare. When we found out that it was safe to come home we were relieved to find that our our house, and neighborhood, still stood.

I wish that I could properly recount my feelings. All I can say is that it’s a surreal feeling not knowing what happened to your home. You go for a ride on a roller coaster of fears that leave you weak and exhausted… until you find out that everything you owned was not destroyed by the fires engulfing the state you live in.

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