At around 1:30 am, the power went off. Then the dogs started barking. I looked outside and our neighbors were leaving. And as I looked out the second floor windows, I noticed a red glow in the distance on the west side, which would've been towards the freeway, towards the Coffey Park area.
I drove to the top of the hill to check. When I got to the top, I saw the police on the north side of Fountaingrove. I went and asked a police officer and he said, "Hey, we're evacuating this area. You should turn around and leave. I told him where I lived and he said, "You should probably evacuate too."
As I was going home, a friend called me and he said, "We're leaving now, we're going by your house, and I just want to let you know. And you should probably get out too."
Subconsciously I was already at peace with the idea that [the house] was gone. It wasn't that big of a shock for me. I think my wife and my daughter were a bit more hopeful than I was. They cried and sobbed on the way to where we were staying but soon after that they seemed to be okay.
There are a lot of concerns about the housing costs, the rebuilding costs. And concerns about how well the communities will get rebuilt to the extent that they were before. There are concerns that not all the neighborhoods will come back to their pre-fire conditions because of rebuilding cost and some people may not be able or willing to rebuild.
Lots of things surprised me [about the fire]. I think one of them was how powerful a fire can get with wind. It was obvious that there was a tremendous amount of force and power. There was nothing that the firefighters could do until the winds died down. Another surprising thing was just how kind and helpful the community is during these kinds of events. There was a sense of community. Everywhere you went, people were patient and understanding. And people were really friendly, which is not unusual for the area, but it seemed like it was over the top. You could just feel the love and everybody’s willingness to help.
You know you have good friends and you say, "I can always count on them." But it's all speculation. And when something happens and you realize you really can count on these people, that’s when you realize how lucky you are. I had so many people reach out. People asked me, “What do you need? How can I help you?” And the reality was…I needed everything. I just didn't know when we needed things, you know? And some people just kept asking, almost daily, like, "What do you need today?" It's such a blessing.