(Today, October 25th is the first time in 16 days that I have been able to log onto our site. I apologize for not being able to post! I appreciate all the support from everyone.)
It was just another hot dry night at our home in Santa Rosa, also the home of Music Junkie Press. Brandon and Stephen were at the park playing baseball. Rockin Ryan was busy playing his guitar as I was going through mementos from my parents, separating things from their estate to be given to each of the six siblings. Reading funny birthday cards and each little note that my mother saved for over 40+ years. I would never have imagined that those precious items would soon be incinerated in a fire, just hours later.
October 8th 10:45 pm
Power went out briefly for approximately 30-45 seconds, happened twice in 5 minutes.
Brandon and Stephen were sound asleep which means that Ryan and I \would stay up and take care of Music Junkie Press work, Ryan editing photos and I writing articles. Ryan took Hunter out and came back inside to tell me it is raining ash and smoky. I checked the internet for news on fires, only to find that there was one reported in Calistoga, miles away. Told Ryan not to worry but he continued to patrol outside.
Ryan came inside to tell me it is getting worse. I went outside and could see large pieces of ash falling on us, breaking up in our fingers, still warm. I kept checking the internet and nothing showed except Calistoga. The smoke was getting thicker. I figured the wind was making it travel quicker to us. Ryan had put our cat in the bathroom to keep it contained as he had been patrolling the yard. He kept saying he felt something was up and kept telling me it is close, he could feel it.
approx 12:30 am
I went outside and it was like a tornado of dark thick smoke. Now I went online and found out there was another fire reported on Mark West and Riebli, which was a couple blocks behind us. We went outside and could see a bright red glow behind our house. Continued to check online and walk around the neighborhood. The glow grew over the next few minutes.
I ran inside and called 911. They told me that we didn’t have to evacuate but to prepare. Prepare? What in the world! I was in shock. I called my brother-in-law who lived around the corner from us and told him what they said. He told me that there has never been a fire in the area and to not worry. He had lived in the area for over 35 years so I truly thought I was over-reacting. I started to think about what to take. I was preparing to wake up Stephen and Brandon.
the phone rings (our landline on AT&T) and it is a recording stating IMMEDIATE EVACUATION. FIRE IMMINENT. EVACUATE IMMEDIATELY. Nothing came through our cell phone or our Xfinity phones. I ran to wake up Stephen and Brandon, they were still groggy as we told them to get up and we had to get out NOW! The power went out and now we were in the dark, getting dressed and trying to grab what we could.
The next ten minutes were like seconds….. I remember that right after I heard the call, I went in circles, walking around the house wondering what to grab. I literally walked through the house with nothing, but asking myself, what do I do, what do I do? I couldn’t believe this was actually happening.
In the dark, we grabbed Hunter and Delta (our dog and cat). Fumbling in the dark to take things out to the car. A small Chevy Cruze that barely fit the four of us. As we went outside, the neighborhood was quite in most of the houses and others were awake and running around trying to flee. I looked behind our house at the glow that was previously there, only to see flames. Stephen went to wake our elderly neighbor, who was still sleeping. He told the other neighbor to get out as well. They were awake now and running to their cars, with just their pajamas and bare feet.
We tried to get things into the car, I grabbed my parents’ old movie reels and I grabbed my bag of ScanDisk cards (which go back 20 years of family) Ryan grabbed his hard drives, some of our MJP gear, and other items. With the power out, we couldn’t even think of what to grab. As we stood outside trying to get things into the car, we could hear explosions behind our house. We were told they were transformers as well as propane tanks exploding. It was like a war zone. Ryan went to run back into the house to grab Lemmy (our chinchilla) and I begged him to get into the car, pleading with him as I could hear the explosions. I knew it would be minutes for him to find where Lemmy was and take so long to wrangle him into his hands. He had this huge 4′ cage and it would usually take us 10 minutes to get him into his ball, and that is with the lights on and with treats. Here Ryan was in the dark attempting to head into the house as things were exploding behind us. He went to the door and it was locked and I begged him to come back. He reluctantly did and I drove away.
1:13 am we are evacuating.
I truly thought we would be back and would only be dealing with a wet house or smoke damage. I had never imagined that our house would burn down. I told Ryan Lemmy will be fine, we have the fan in there for him and his food and water, windows closed. I really thought we would be returning in hours to our home. My heart breaks to know that I left behind Lemmy and it is a guilt that I will live with forever. I panicked when I heard the explosions, I couldn’t let anything happen to Ryan. I just couldn’t. I get sick thinking about those moments.
We made it to Windsor to get gas, cash, and re-group. Gas pumps weren’t working, ATM’s weren’t working. The fear was taking over every inch of my body. Stephen and I would tell the kids it isn’t bad and we will go back home soon when it was all clear. People gathered around to tell us various buildings were on fire and the whole town is evacuating. I couldn’t comprehend the things that were being said. They were saying Mark West Estates is on fire. I didn’t believe it when they said it, I figured they meant the back area of our neighborhood; the trees, etc.
We gathered at my brother-in-law’s Vet hospital in Windsor and it turned into a makeshift evacuation center as neighbors from our neighborhood would come to rest and feel safe from the fire.
We could see the fire off in the distance and they would tell us that the big flames were of our neighborhood. It was like an inferno, I was still in disbelief. We prayed for sunlight so the water tanks could fly over and put this fire out. We spent the next 6 hours sitting staring out the front window watching the flames grow. Uneasy about how close it was getting and wondering what our next plan of action would be. Neighbors would drop in all night for safety, to get supplies for their pets as they just ran out with nothing and to share their latest news.
When it was sunlight, no planes came. The wind was too fast for them to safely drop, so air tankers were not an option. A neighbor came in to tell us that they went to the neighborhood, or as close as they could. He told us it is all gone. I again, did not comprehend what he was saying. I figured he was talking about other streets. I denied it and kept the hope. I did not want to believe what he was saying.
Another neighbor came in and went into details of what remained of our neighborhood. We called out street names and every time, he would confirm that there were “no standers”. Nothing remained. I was crushed. I couldn’t stop thinking about Lemmy, poor Lemmy. I could feel it, that he was gone. I went to tell the kids that the house was gone and most likely Lemmy. I was so sick to my stomach to have to tell them. It was horrible to see my kids cry and feel such pain. Ryan looked up and told me, “well now he is running free”. I couldn’t believe how strong he was and how he was helping me through this tragedy.
That day the fire raged on and the smoke was thick and dark. A fire sparked North of us and now, I was in constant fear that the fire would meet up with the Tubbs Fire South of us and consume us all. We had to get out. The smoke thickened. Our safe haven was now in the middle of two fires. We packed up the car and just thought about driving South around the fire. I needed to get out.
We left the vet hospital with a drawing of back roads by my brother in law to go South and get to 101. They wanted to stay there until they got word to have to evacuate. Throughout it all, we are so glad that they never had to evacuate. We tried to go the back roads and we could see the onramp to 101 was shut down with cones, Stephen followed another car that went around them and proceed onto the freeway. I told him to go fast and get us out of there. We drove South and the smoke thickened and darkness consumed us. I then doubted if we did right by going on to the freeway. As we drove South with other cars, we could see fires on each side of the freeway. We could see young men trying to put out fires on the side of the road, just regular citizens trying to protect their property and put out the fires. It was crazy. Brandon was terrified and screaming, Ryan was in disbelief and a state of shock. We prayed and just drove as fast as we could. Within 15 miles the smoke cleared and we could actually see light. We made it, we made it through! We decided to go South more and head to San Mateo, our old hometown. We just needed to feel safe.
We couldn’t return to Santa Rosa with the roads closed and we stayed with family and friends. The kids said it was like being on tour, living out of a bag and house hopping each night.
At 3:08 on October 10th I received a picture from my sister. The sheriff went to take a picture of our house for us. We had held out hope that part of our house remained. The photo changed my whole world. If it weren’t for that great big tree and the 412 on the street I would have said it wasn’t my house. I was crushed.
On Otober 16th, we were escorted by the police to survey our home. We couldn’t go up to it, but they allowed us to drive up and survey from the street. Here is that video as we went to see our home in person for the first time.
We have been staying in a hotel in San Mateo that FEMA has approved for us. Today was the first day I could get online to finally post to our site. I feel so disconnected from it all. We lost it all, 40 year history of music memorabilia, Ryan’s guitar and camera collections, all my parent’s home, all of our home, Brandon’s extensive Lego collection, paintings, Stephen’s Nascar collection, our Music Junkie Press inventory, everything. It is hard to think about how everything is gone. We were renting and didn’t have any insurance. We had only moved in January to take care of my mom when she was on hospice. I was still dealing with her estate and hadn’t fully taken care of getting insurance, etc. It is all a loss.
The park which was right outside of our house remained green as all the houses around it were burnt to the ground. So I guess you can say, ‘The Grass is Greener on the Other Side” or at least the other side of our house!
We were finally allowed to return to the house on Monday. We were eager to get in there and sift, in search of something. We spent the last few days sifting and sifting, only to find a few ceramics. It is 2-3′ deep of rubble and ash. Ryan found 39 of his guitars! Well not really, he only found the metal truss rods, they lay in a row under the ash, like a guitar graveyard. Brandon keeps asking if we have found his Legos. I don’t think he realizes they have incinerated, he still hopes we will find a big melted glob of Lego plastic that he can take a picture of to remember. We haven’t found any of my jewelry but are still looking. We remain optimistic but area also realistic. We might have to face the fact that it is all gone.
So the adventure begins. We will see where the future takes us. We do know that we will rise from the ashes and become stronger than ever. We have so many amazing friends and strangers who have helped us through this all. We couldn’t do this without each and every one of you. A couple wonderful friends have put together fund raisers for us and we appreciate it.
Fundraisers for Music Junkie Press – Richardson Family
It was interesting to find out that Metallica will be performing at a Benefit Concert for the North Bay Fire Victims since earlier that same day of the fire, Brandon made his unboxing video for his new YouTube channel, ShamaLlama. He had just went out and bought the Funko Metalllica Pop Rocks Figures. Sadly, he lost them also in the fire. Here is that video filmed earlier in the afternoon of October 8th.
We truly don’t know what to do next, but we will continue to take it one day at a time. It will take time, lots of time. Our emotions are on a rollercoaster each and every day. One day we hope to not shudder at the sound of a siren, or the smell of smoke. We go to bed and pray that the dreams will not become nightmares. We relive that horrific night over and over. I think of Lemmy and my heart just breaks. We feel so much pain right now but our spirits are not broken.
Peace, Love and Hope to all of you.
Lemmy Von Only Sixx Page
The Most Rockin Chinchilla ever!