Fire Emergency Kit 101 – White Wine for Spritzers is essential.

by Debra Chappell

View From the Patio Weds. Eve:Image 7

Mood Reading: ZZZ’s (now that the embers are out, sleeping much better : ) 

So, there we were on a hot, sultry Wednesday evening this week, preparing dinner as usual with the news on in the background. With temps in the 100’s all week – no air conditioning and humidity hanging thicker than molasses in the normally arid desert, I was more concerned with my now-sticky linen blouse and less-then-alluring hairdo than any forces of nature. As I mindlessly washed the arugula at the kitchen sink, (and dreamed of the downpour that photo 1 copynever was,) I noticed the flash out the kitchen window—OMG! A lightening strike on the mountain ridge about a mile and a half in the distance. (When all you have between it and your own kitchen sink is brittle sage and a tinderbox of dry pine and bitterbrush – that may as well be a short hop, minus the skip and jump!) As the plume of smoke rose, and then the unmistakable glow of bright orange flames, I said to the hubby “oh man, I think that’s a fire start – I’m calling 911!” He looked up casually from the condiments he was preparing for the curry and sort of shrugged in that oh-so-calm-if-it-makes-you-feel-better way he has, and said “I’m sure others are calling, but if it makes you feel better…”

I called and he was right, it had already been called in. As we watched the fire quickly spread and dark smoke start rolling in earnest, (thankfully in the opposite direction,) the hubby calmly went back to patiently chopping cilantro while I abandoned the arugula and started grabbing stuff.

“What about the salad?” he asked in an even voice, when I made one of my hurried passes by him withphoto 2 copy family pictures in hand.

To hell with the salad, there’s a fire in our backyard, in case you haven’t noticed…” I exclaimed breathlessly, trying to keep my octave in check as I swooped up a few more photos, pretending I didn’t see his eye roll.

As he proceeded to pour himself a generous glass of his own handcrafted cabernet, I continued grabbing stuff.

Funny how our individual minds work in times of crisis (or don’t, depending on who’s doing the re-telling.) I immediately kick into what I like to think of as “strategic overdrive.” My husband would say it’s just this side of complete hysteria – but knows that if he uses the term ‘wigging out’ in my presence, I will. He, on the other hand, goes into what he considers a calm, methodical, reasoned state of thoughtful assessment – which I call his slo-mo or shut-down mode, otherwise known as the I-refuse-to-get-my-knickers-in-a twist-over-it zen state of suspended reality.   Thus we proceeded into the fire-threatened evening.

I grabbed more photos, our Family Trust paperwork, my father’s scrapbooks, my laptop and IPad and threw them in the car.

He ate his fig salad and arugula on the patio watching the light show.

I ran around the house feverishly taking photos (inventory) on my iphone opening every cupboard, photocloset, and hutch drawer etc shooting all the contents. I then grabbed my mothers silver tea set and my recently purchased French silver antique pitchers and threw them in the back of the car.

He poured himself another glass of his aging cabernet and commented as I rushed past him with my arms full “I think the oak could come of this now, it has the right balance of tannins…” I didn’t hear the rest as I dashed out the garage door.

I continued grabbing everything that I could think of that couldn’t be replaced by insurance. Much of it was photothe very stuff I bought recently from the antique markets of France and Italy. (To hell with the pesky birth certificates and bank statements — I can’t possibly live without the wonderful vintage soup tureen I bought in Isles Sur la Sorgues last year.) Having schlepped it all through train stations, airports, and customs, and paying exorbitant extra baggage fees to boot, I figured one more short schlep out to my car to keep them from going up in smoke was the least I could do.

With it all safely in the car (and my mind still whirling as to what to pack next) I stopped by the back patio table with my chest still heaving, to see if Mr. Unflappable had anything flapping yet. He did not. He was savoring the last of a splendid white bean curry andImage rice with mango chutney and lentils. He looked up nonchalantly and said, “you know, I don’t think its of great concern unless the winds shift. I don’t see any fire vehicles or air activity or…” His sentence was interrupted by a water bomber swooping over the house, fire-trucks suddenly appearing outta nowhere with sirens blaring, and 3 helicopters circling over head. We were suddenly in the core of what seemed like a war zone.

photo 1 copy 2 From our back patio, we could see the direction of smoke shift and a mile long fire line of shooting flames charging down the ridge in our direction, gobbling any and all fuel in it’s path. He looked up from the binoculars and calmly uttered, “I think I’ll put a few things in my car.”

As we both proceeded to pack things of personal priority in our respective vehicles (he his briefcase, important papers, some cash and iphone sound system…I my French Quimper tea set, my mother’s china, some clothes, antique cutlery and an overnight bag) we noticed the flurry of emergency vehicles flooding the neighborhood. Among them was a familiar looking pick-up truck that charged up our drive way.

Our friends Paige and Mike hopped out ready to take action. Paige was already wearing rubber gloves and asked “what do you want help with? We brought the truck in case you want to move furniture or something…”

While Mike and the hubby checked on the fire and set up lawn chairs on the driveway for better viewing, Paige and I continued to haul items out of the house – paintings large and small, my collection of Italian ceramics, brass photo 1coffee pots, my kitchen copper, y’know, the stuff you can’t live without.

Somewhere in the bedlam, two fireman appeared saying they would be protecting our house through the night and explained that a firetruck was parked nearby but to be on evacuation alert.

With my car pretty well full by this time and their truck still having room, Paige asked my husband if he wanted them to take any of his larger items – “one of your motorcycles? Your leather chair? Maybe a case of your wine?”

Mike jumped in enthusiastically at this point, “Wine? Did you say have some wine?”

My husband replied, “Certainly! I’m having a great little cabernet I made, have a seat, I’ll pour you some.”

By this time hot, thirsty and tired ourselves, Paige and I exchanged matching exasperated looks as she said, “you got any Sauv. Blanc?”

photo 3With nothing left to pack that couldn’t be covered by insurance, we sat the remainder of the evening sipping white wine spritzers and watching the fire, which was dancing to the whim of the wind. Exhausted, I fell into bed just before midnight and got up three times during the wee hours to check on the fireline that was subsequently under control. I noted the hubby snoring softly, obviously sleeping peacefully.

When I woke in the morning feeling ragged and relieved, the hubby said casually to me “you know, I think I came to a realization last night…”

Eureka!! He didn’t think I had wigged out after all, he was thankful for my strategic thinking and quick action!

“and what’s that dear?” I replied, waiting with anticipation.images-2

“I think my Cabernet’s going to be really great this year.”