We've been home since mid-afternoon Wednesday when they lifted the evacuation order. We're still on alert and are ready to leave again with very little notice. I thought they were being overly cautious until I got here.

When we arrived, there were about half a dozen firefighters in our yard, as well as several trucks. Our house, the yard and the forest immediately surrounding us are all done up in a highly complicated sprinkler system. It looks sophisticated and reassuring. The firefighters were all super nice. They welcomed us home and insisted on helping us carry our gear into the house. We thanks them for saving our world and chatted with them a bit, discovering that none of this particular group were local firefighters, but were from various points around the province. They apologized for all the hoses and stuff and asked if it was OK that our house was thus trussed. No apologies were necessary, of course. We wouldn't take them, plus we offered them food, refreshment and a place to hang their fire hats if required.

They told us to keep the windows in the house closed for a while, then let the sprinklers rip. Wow. It was like a rainstorm and it also crossed one thing off my to do list: watering my little garden. It got plenty watered.

The trussing stayed behind when they left and will remain in place for a few days. Just in case, I guess. Now that we're home, we've really gotten a sense of how much there's still left for them to do and how done with this we aren't. The fire bombing helicopters kept going until a half hour before dusk. (Actually, I've been told it's only one helicopter now, but it seems like half a dozen. The thing really moves!) So, as soon as the firefighters were gone and we'd opened the doors and windows, we could hear the chopper going back and forth to the fire from the ocean. I'm not exactly sure where the fire is right now, but from the direction the chopper was heading, it really seems like it's on the ridge above us. Which is scary, because that's closer than it was when they evacuated us on Sunday, but I'm guessing it's more under control or they wouldn't have let us come home.

An hour after the chopper quit for the night -- maybe less -- we started smelling a lot of smoke. The smell is different now than it was on Sunday, though. That smell was just like a big ol' campfire. This smell has a chemically edge, which we're guessing is from the retardants they dump on the fire. We're also guessing that the smoke is worse because whatever the helicopter was doing was keeping it from smoking. That's a lot of guessing, I know. But it's all we have available. There are probably places we could look or call to get information, but we don't know them and the media knows less than we do, since we're here and they're not. Plus it's all less of a story than it was a couple of days ago. Don't get me wrong: I'm glad about that. No one ever wants to be a story in this way. But it did make it easier to get information when even the national media outlets were doing updates every 10 minutes.

So I was on the phone with my brother in California at maybe half past 10 Wednesday night, the first chance I'd had to tell him about what's been going on with us (and he hadn't heard anything or much because the US media mostly didn't carry anything).

We were having a nice chat, though the smoke smell seemed especially strong. Suddenly, I could feel this dark thrumming through my whole body. And I kind of put my head back and just felt it, sort of thinking, "What fresh hell is this?"

I went out on the deck and was relieved to discover the source: tonight was the first installment of the fireworks in English Bay in Vancouver. We can actually see them from our upper decks. (They look silly and teeny, since Vancouver is about 25 miles across the water. But we've nonethless had a couple of lame parties around this fireworks theme. All of us out there under an inky sky with binoculars and various alcoholic beverages and a good sense of fun since, to the naked eye, the fireworks are thimble-sized from this distance and thus neither impressive nor worthy of even a lame party.)

So, OK: you've been given a small update. I wanted there to be pictures, but I'm just too tired to get my computer to suck them out of my digital camera. I need to sleep. In my own bed!

Our bags are still packed and ready to be whisked out the door. Our computers are unpacked, but are ready to be stuffed back into their traveling cases. I'm hoping that this is the last installment on my evacuation adventure.


Sandra Ruttan said…
Linda, wow. Thank you for sharing in such detail this whole ordeal. I feel almost as though I can smell the smoke, you've done such an amazing job of relaying it.

And I can only imagine that life really never will get back to the old normal. You're in the process of discovering the new normal now, I imagine.
Hi Linda:

It sounds like you've had a scary and exciting time, with plenty of fodder for future books I'm sure. I wish you and your family all the best and hope the fires are soon out.

Galiano is such a beautiful island; it's sad to think of the devastation that will be left. My parents lived for years on Salt Spring...such a wonderful part of BC...of Canada.

Stay safe and take care!

Cheryl Kaye Tardif, author of Whale Song

Sandra, you're right. As I mentioned in the post I just made, at the moment it does really feel like nothing will ever be the same. I hope that's not true.

And Cheryl, this is not the kind of fodder I would have wished for! Actually, one of the things I've discovered is that I write best about a distant landscape. Like the books I'm writing now are set in Los Angeles and I haven't lived there for a number of years. Maybe I'll include experiences from the Galiano chapters of my life when I'm living in the South of France or something. For me, distance is perspective.

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