Alan and Ginny were sitting on the front deck enjoying after dinner coffee. It was such a balmy summer evening, and they loved sitting there looking at the lights of the city below. This was a tradition of theirs, enjoying wind-down time after a busy day, and sharing the day’s experiences.

They heard sirens, and assumed it was yet another small brush fire. In this dry year everything was tinder, and fire personnel were on high alert. Since they couldn’t see any red lights from their vantage point, they weren’t concerned.

As they finished their coffee and started into the house, Alan said, “Ginny, I think I smell smoke.” “Yes, I think I do too, “ said Ginny. “Why don’t we take a walk and see if there’s anything going on?”

Alan leashed the dog, Biddy, and they walked around the corner of the house. Suddenly they knew why they hadn’t seen any fire equipment from where they were sitting. The whole mountain behind the house was ablaze, and there were red lights everywhere.

Ginny could taste the fear. They had dealt with forest fires on their mountain before, but nothing like this. As they rushed down the driveway for a better view, a sheriff’s car was coming up the street with loudspeakers telling everyone they must evacuate at once.

Ginny and Alan had done this before, and they were prepared to leave quickly. He grabbed the metal box with important papers and family photos, and she took medications and a change of clothing for each of them. As they loaded things into the car, they could sense the fear their old dog was experiencing. She was trembling, and they had a hard time getting her into the car.

Ginny said, “Alan, I forgot to bring any food for Biddy, I’ll be right back.” She ran back into the house and grabbed the bag of dog food. Since she thought they might be gone for a while, she decided to make another pass through the house to make sure everything was turned off and locked up.

Coming out the back door, Ginny could feel ash blowing on her face. Jumping into the car, she said, “I had no idea it was that close. I hope we can get out through the main gate.” “I hope so, too,” Alan said. “This looks pretty bad.”

As they made their way down the hill toward the gate, they were met by security personnel, telling them they were going to have to use the emergency exit and drive down through the field. “I hope that road has been graded,” said Alan. “The last time I walked down there it was nearly impassable from that last hard rain we had.”

It took nearly an hour to make the trip, along with all their neighbors, but they finally reached the safety of the highway. There was a big supermarket about half a mile away, and they headed there, knowing they would be able to see the fire from there.

As they watched, they assumed nothing could survive this terrible fire. The whole mountainside was an inferno, and there was nothing they could do but look on.

Ginny and Alan, along with several of their neighbors, spent most of the night in the parking lot of the market. It was near dawn when a sheriff drove up and approached the waiting group. “Your homes are safe,” he said. “The fire crews managed to keep the fires from any structures, but they did burn right up to the edge of your patios. You can go home now, but keep your eyes open for any smoldering hotspots. Fire crews will be on the scene until they’re sure it’s totally out.”