Imagine this. It's Friday afternoon. The kids have finished a busy week at school and are ready to blow off some energy at the neighborhood park. The girls see quite a few friends at the park, including two of our neighboring families. Everyone is having a grand time - playing, laughing, chatting. You notice a strong smoke smell and someone comments "Is someone throwing a barbecue without us?" There are a few chuckles, but withing minutes the air gets hazy and smokey. You and a few of the moms walk from the playground to the street when you notice a thick column of smoke rising from the next street down. You look at the roof lines of the houses and the realization hits you like a ton of bricks...that smoke is coming from YOUR street, very close to YOUR house. Your heart drops.
As other moms start to scramble for their phones, you find yourself quickly gathering the kids, the stroller, the scooters, and everything else. You hastily leave the park, one set of neighbors ahead of you, the other coming quickly behind in their car. As you approach the corner, someone runs past yelling "Who has the yellow Mercedes? Who has the yellow Mercedes?" That's not yours, but that car belongs to the grandparents of family who lives directly across the street from you. You try to stay calm but the fear is rising inside you. You know the family isn't home - the grandparents and the son were at the park with you, the parents are away for an anniversary over-nighter. But the dog is in the side-yard, and you know she must be terrified. You turn the corner and instantly see a huge fireball. You cross to your side of the street and get a little closer so you can see what's going on. The fire is two houses down and across the street from your own. The fence and a truck are on fire, but it seems to be spreading and the smoke is ridiculously thick. The firefighters have already arrived and are doing their thing. The crowd of spectators is growing, and you find yourself praying the fire doesn't spread. You make sure your kids are safe with your neighbor and out of the way before you go to the get the dog. You have to. She is part of the family and you know she has to be terrified. You quickly cross the street, move through the crowd and the smoke, get to the gate, and find her trembling and panting. Relief. She's okay. The leash must be inside, so you latch on to her collar and guide her away from the chaos. You get back to the your kids, only to find 2 of them confused and crying (insert guilt trip here). You grab everyone in a hug, let them know it's all going to be okay, and sit back to watch the growing blaze with wonder, awe, and amazement.
Once the fire was under control and things calmed down a bit, the girls forgot entirely about being scared and had a great time. One of the firemen asked the kids to help him turn off the hydrant - they each got to take a turn. They also got to go on the truck and see all the cool buttons and gadgets. They thought it was awesome. At the end of the day, no one was injured, no homes were hurt, but there was an estimated $90,000 worth of damage and a whole lot of excitement. I was a little too preoccupied to get photos, but I did manage to snap one once the chaos subsided.
A special thank you to the firefighters of Costa Mesa FD for their quick response and very efficient handling of the situation. The fire spread very quickly and could have been much, much worse if it hadn't have been for this remarkable group of men!!