Things They Lost In the Fire

photo by Keye TV of Bastrop, TX
Right now, surrounding Austin is on fire.

Small pockets in Austin are on fire.

Yesterday, I was having drinkings with a friend at the Black Star Co-Op (the world’s first co-operatively owned and worker self-managed brewpub) and noticed a plume of black smoke behind her shoulder. The smoke cloud could not be more than a few miles away in Central Austin and we both got concerned. The entire city is combusting, I thought to myself. We scrambled to Twitter to see what was going on (both our first go-to for news) and didn’t see anything. Later we learned that a fire started about a mile away but was quickly extinguished. Over 40 counties are on fire in Texas and local news reports new fires in Austin daily.

Everyone is on edge right now and heartbroken over the destruction the fires have caused, most notably the Bastrop fires. Over 550 homes have been damaged in Bastrop.

It’s eerie how this complete annihilation can be occurring so close yet not touching us at all. This morning we all got a reminder when we woke to a hazy, smoky air. I walked out to my car and sniffed the wind, having momentarily forgotten what I cannot see across the horizon. Things can be taken so quickly.

Our script supervisor Brandi had to evacuate their family home in Bastrop. Her father initially stayed behind to hose down the house, but when it became too dangerous, he left. Her family is now staying in hotel and anxiously waiting to hear what has happened to their house. The sweet girl has continued to show up to work though the look of worry on her face tells us things are close. She heard a rumor that the fire could have jumped over her house, but she really has no idea yet. The fire is now only 30% contained after four days.

A few years ago, my friend’s lost everything in one of the yearly fires in Southern California. Seven friends lived on a ranch in the foothills of the Angeles National Forest in Los Angeles County. The property was bought by a young USC graduate who wanted to have a place where he and his friends could create. I was connected because of a childhood friend who lived there. I became friends with everyone and the immediate and expanded “ranch” community reached at least 50 people. Every weekend there was something going on at The Ranch- music, film, dance, conversations, drama, and love. We were a close-knit and incestuous bunch and The Ranch is what brought all of us together.

Then one day it was gone. Nobody really thought it would be. Fires in the area were common and the property proved resilient. The inhabitants of The Ranch evacuated just in case, but didn’t take many of their belongings thinking that everything would be ok. When they were allowed back in the area, they discovered what looked like the aftermath of a nuclear bombing. Everything was leveled, completely gone. A plastic chair melted into the pavement looking like nothing more than a chalk outline. A Steinway piano in the main house ceased to exist. Twisted metal and chimneys are all that remained- and notebooks. Notebooks that when looking at them appeared completely unscathed. When the owner of the notebooks reached down to touch them, they crumpled into dust.

photo by Andy Rydzewski

The passing of The Ranch was the turning of a page for all of us. It closed out my chapter in Los Angeles and because of it, I’m not sure I’ll ever view Los Angeles the same again. My anchor there had been pulled up not by choice, but by an act of nature that we’re all incapable of battling. The inhabitants of The Ranch moved on with their lives, but the tragedy definitely left a hole in everybody’s hearts. My thoughts are with the families in Texas effected by the fire. If you’d like to help, the Statesman has a wonderful list of resources and ways to help here.

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  • Reply Riff Dog September 7, 2011 at 5:15 pm

    That's an eerie image. Having been "close" (here in SoCal) a couple times myself, I feel for the people in Texas.

  • Reply Chip2Stan September 7, 2011 at 5:27 pm

    More than 10% of Bastrop residents lost their homes, unless we assume everyone lives alone. Nitpicky maybe, but I always forget whether blogging is journalism.

  • Reply Hipstercrite September 7, 2011 at 5:33 pm

    @Riff Dogg- The fires in California are always scary.

    @Chip2Stan- Thank you for your comment. I've amended that line based off of your suggestion. I'm definitely not a journalist and never claim my blog to be a news source. 🙂

  • Reply kwerk September 7, 2011 at 11:35 pm

    My brother is in Austin, their area had a narrow escape but they were able to get the fire that was a danger there under control before it affected him (& his wife, 8 cats, & visiting mother-in-law). It was scary, I'm glad they are safe but feel for those who have lost their homes & more.

  • Reply Brooke Farmer September 10, 2011 at 12:07 am

    I remember about a year ago, Colorado was suffering it's worst wildfire in history. And it was in the community that I call my "hometown," although I've lived in so many areas throughout the state. I cried watching the news coverage of my favorite canyons burning. I cried because memories of picnics with a boy I once loved were, in some way, being erased.

    I can't imagine losing my home in a fire. I cannot imagine the devastation.

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