Sunday, November 18, 2018

Hell in Paradise

Our son, Rick, and his family (wife Julie and son Jackson, aka Jax) live in Paradise, California.  That is, they did until last Thursday.  Their home was one of the thousands that was destroyed in the fire that also destroyed about 90% of the town.

They're lucky: they're safe and they have a nice place to stay for the time being.  A growing number of people didn't make it out at all (76 as I write this, with over 1,000 still missing).  Many of the survivors are living in tents or shelters.  It's a brutal situation.

So what happened with them?  Well, they had been watching the fire for a few days.  It was on the other side of a ridge, so it needed to be watched, but wasn't an imminent threat.  On Thursday morning, there was smoke in the air, but no sense of danger.  Jax went to school and Rick and Julie went their respective ways to work.

A couple of hours later, Jax called Rick at work.  Fire was approaching the school.  It was in the trees nearby and the kids were being evacuated, and Rick needed to come NOW to get him out.  Rick hightailed it over there and retrieved Jax.  They tried to get up to their house to get their dog, Sugar Ray, and whatever else they could.  The way was blocked: police wouldn't let them get anywhere near the area as the fire was already up there and moving way too fast.  They drove to Chico, about 15 miles away, where Julie had been working.  Her boss has a big house and they invited Rick and the family to stay with them.

The next day, Rick and Julie were able to get into their neighborhood, using a little subterfuge since only emergency workers were allowed in.  Their house was gone; in fact, it was still burning underfoot. The only thing standing was the chimney.  Worse, their dog Sugar Ray died in the fire.  Julie's mother lived on the other side of town.  She and Julie's sister had made it out as well, so they were safe, but Rick and Julie went to check on their house.  It was gone, too.  So was almost all of Paradise.

Since then, it's been a matter of regrouping, finding out what they have to do and what their options are, and discussing what they're going to do in the future.  Right now, there's not much they can do.  Rick still has a job of managing operations for Waste Management - a job that will be very important in the near future, I think.  The fire is still burning and people are not yet allowed back to their houses ... or at least, where their houses once stood.  Jax needs to be in school.  Julie's job is still safe since the fire hasn't gotten to Chico.  So they're figuring out what needs to be done first, then they'll work on the long-term plan.

In the meantime, Rick and Julie have been overwhelmed by the support from friends and strangers alike.  Here's what Rick had to say about it on Facebook:

Woke up this morning with an incredibly full heart, here’s why… Since this tragic fire, we have more people in our lives than prior. We have completely new friends. And while our relationship LITERALLY rose from the ashes… They are happy/healthy relationships that will continue to develop for the rest of my days. To be quite honest; if it weren’t for this fire, I would not have these people in my life. 
I have “new” old friends. These people have always been there. We go through life and tend to drift away every now and again. The term “Life sometimes gets in the way.“ describes this group of friends for me. Here’s what I can tell you about this group… They have been nothing short of spectacular. And while my little family is doing well, make no mistake, we are starting to run with our new lives a little bit more each day. It is comforting to know these people are running with us. Often times; they are leading the way! 

If you know anything about me, you know I pride myself on doing and being more for my friends. For me, it is all about relationships. I fear, I could never be more than my friends have been for my family over the last week. I WILL TRY!

This kinda tells me that they're going to be all right.

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