The California Wildfires Eyewitness Account
Submitted by STG3 Randi Roberts
We woke up on the morning of the 25th and thought it was
. My ship had been in port since the 17th. I had stayed out
overnight with some old friends from the ship and we had woken early to go back
to base. We walked outside to see fluffy white flakes falling from the
sky. Our 1st thought was that it was snow, but it was too warm to be
snowing. Upon closer inspection of the cars in the parking lot, we
realized it was ash. None of us had seen the news yet, so we didn't know
going on. We walked though the parking lot shielding our eyes and making
"ash" jokes along the way. By the time we reached the car, we
have decided that everyone, "smelt like ash" and being hung over, we
"looked like ash." We were not hungry after that walk because we got
our fill of ash for breakfast.
We got back to the ship just as the sun was rising. The sun rise was full
of weird colors and a blanket of dark skies stood just off the horizon.
The air smelt like smoke and people were coughing, but it wasn't quite thick
enough to actually choke a person. Every where we looked, there was ash.
We finally got to a TV showing the news. There was fire burning all around
us. That was when the calls started pouring in from our shipmates stuck
beyond the borders of
. A lot of people had taken off to visit family or see
for the weekend. All the highways were closed except for I-5, which runs
along the coast from LA to
. All flights were diverted to
The only way into
was for people to drive all the way up to
just to hop I-5 back down. By then, the news was calling the fires the
had seen and it was only a day into them. It was a mess.
We all showered and decided to brave the madness, since it would be one of the
few days that we had off. My friends and I put on clothes that we thought
would blend with the gray of the ash. We walked out into the twilight
zone. The sky was an eerie yellow color. The sun was high in the
sky, a muted red. That was when I called home to see if they were watching
the news. No, my Mom said. Kali and her were doing homework. I
told her about the ashes, the sky, how Navy housing was burning just a few miles
away. Over 3,000 Navy homes had already been evacuated by then. My
Mom caught the preview for the national news and told me to keep her informed. I
told her I would and she ended the conversation by telling me she loved me and
to be safe. Thanks Mom.
My friends and I took the trolley to Mission Valley Mall. The passengers
on the trolley were speculating the cause of the fire and how long it was going
to last. Nothing out of the ordinary for
public transportation, with the exception of a middle aged woman in the seat
across from us. She claimed that the fires were caused by terrorists, who
ruined her vacation. "It was ok," she followed on, "All I
am going to lose is some
clothes and five pairs of panties at 88 cents a pair from Wal-Mart."
Wow, you have to love public transportation.
We got to the mall, which is open air for the most part. The fires were
only three trolley stops away and it smelled like we were standing directly in
the smoke of a bon fire. Half of the mall was closed, but the movie
theatre was still open. We went in to Under the Tuscan Sun. It was a
great movie, but we were all a little tense during it. We were waiting for
the movie to stop and to be told to evacuate. The movie ended without
interruption and we made our way back though the smoke filled air and the
The next day, everyone was issued respirators to go outside in. The sky
was still yellow, the ash was falling at a slower rate and we were all calling
this Armageddon. The ship was supposed to be leaving and heading back to
, but the smoke was so thick that we couldn't see the
to navigate out. By the end of the evening, all of our shipmates had made
it back to the ship. They were exhausted from driving and stinky from the
smoke, but never the less, safe and sound.
The fires were contained a little bit that night and we woke up to see the
outline of the bridge. It wasn't clear, but it would do. The ship
got underway and left behind what we were all calling the "ashtray of the
world." My friends and I tried to laugh about it as we left, but I
know deep inside, we were all a little more nervous than we wanted to admit.
We knew we were the lucky ones, we got to sail away on the ship we call home.
Many other Navy and civilian families were not as fortunate. To
them I send my deepest sympathies.
This was not the most pleasant trip the Navy has afforded me, nor the worst.
It was another experience to take with me through life. It would have been
better to watch the fires on a TV from afar, but since that couldn't happen, I
will just be happy that my family is safe and tucked away in the arms of
beautiful Charlevoix and
NOTE: Thanks, Randi, for sharing your experiences with all
Don't forget to check the Community
Calendar for upcoming Beaver Island meetings and events. I try to keep
it current so if your organization would like something posted on it, please get
me the information asap. I must have it at least one week in advance,
Page Two of the News on the 'Net