EDITOR’S NOTE: We’re proud to share this first-hand account of what it was like to be one of the evacuees from the Pike Road Fire in Bay City. Romy Carver and her family live on Doughty Road. When the evacuations started, I began to list in my mind all my friends and family that were in the “zone”, and began checking in with each one of them to make sure they were okay, had places to stay, etc. Romy doesn’t recall our conversation (her phone was exploding with folks checking on her), but I remember her saying, “I thought I was prepared, but I wasn’t … not for ‘this’ type of emergency.” This is a wake-up call for all of us and our emergency preparedness – we need to be “ready to go” for ANY type of emergency — not just a flood, or earthquake or tsunami. A lesson with a happy ending for all … thanks indeed to our amazing community.
By Romy Carver, from her blog “Peace Out Loud”
On Monday, September 8, the coastal weather was hot, dry, and windy. We’re accustomed to cold, wet, and windy, so this storm was a little different. As I stood on the front steps enjoying the powerful gusts, I had no idea how different it was about to be. I could hear the crackling of trees snapping not far away. We lost power and started our usual drill of lighting candles and lamps.
We suddenly noticed a strange red glow outside, which then disappeared. I quickly learned via local Facebook pages that there was a forest fire nearby. I have never been in a fire before and I was in shock as I tried to figure out what to do in case we had to evacuate. I gathered kids, pets, meds, etc., while using my cell phone as a flashlight. At exactly 12:30am, I got an automated call from the Sheriff’s Department, informing us that we were at level three evacuation and to leave immediately. I woke up my sister who was spending the night, put the cats in carriers, and tried one last time in vain to find one of the dogs’ collars.
We loaded up in two cars and headed out into the night. I dropped off my sister at her house, and we ended up at the emergency shelter at the fairgrounds. Some very kind chaplains played games with the kids. I sat numbly on a metal folding chair, and silently inventoried all the things I had left behind. This was the property I grew up on, where pets were buried and a lifetime of memories made. I was completely distraught, and certain I’d never see my house in one piece again.
After a sleepless night, we checked into the Shilo Inn. At the counter, a woman behind me overheard me say we were evacuees. She said the fires had just destroyed her Lincoln City home, then apologized for bursting into sobs. In a normal non-COVID world, I would have rushed to hug her, but I helplessly tried to console her from six feet away. The shelter at the fairgrounds quickly filled with livestock, pets, and Lincoln County evacuees. Our Sheriff’s Department moved rapidly to create accommodations for all.
For the next five days we waited in limbo to hear the fate of our home. I tried to pretend it was just a strange vacation. So many people took care of us, and this post is my thank you.
The motel gave us a huge discount on a room due to our situation. My friend Christy paid for two nights for us. The Rendezvous Restaurant fed us dinner for two nights in a row. Tillamook School District reached out to us and their food bank gave us food we could store and cook in our motel mini-fridge and microwave.
My family stepped in and took both dogs for the duration of our evacuation. My son rescued countless irreplaceable items from our house, even family photos on the walls. Two nights in a row, he cooked us dinner at his place.
Our neighbor Nicole rescued important papers for us on Tuesday morning, as well as my work laptop, and brought them to me at the motel.
Countless people offered up their homes, food, errands, support, you name it. Some scolded me for not calling that first night for a place to stay. We were constantly checked on, even though we weren’t sure what we needed.
Meanwhile, an epic battle was underway. An army of firefighters, and many complete strangers, were saving my neighborhood and my home. Only one person lost an outbuilding, and nobody lost their home.
There’s nothing more humbling than the kindness of strangers. Farmers showed up with their heavy equipment, logging, construction, transport, and excavating companies brought their crews, inmates from the prison camp stepped up, along with the Department of Forestry and our local fire crews. I’m sure there are some I have missed and for that I apologize. Ordinary people dropped everything to save my neighborhood. In addition, a swarm of local people quickly coordinated efforts for food, clothing, hygiene and other needs for evacuees. So many people did so much that they had to be asked to stop. I also heard that the Creamery and Werner Beef and Brew were giving meals to evacuees.
During the fire our power was out for five days, and we had to discard all the food in our chest freezer and fridge. We came home on Sunday the 13th, a muggy, smoky day, and there was no water for hours as a main line was broken down the road. I did my best to clean up, brought home a load of things from my son’s, and slowly and reluctantly began hanging pictures back on the walls. It didn’t feel like home and it didn’t feel safe. The following day was back to school and work, and I tried hard to create normalcy, while feeling guilty for still being so upset when at least I had a home.
A local woman named Melissa had a bunch of frozen meat that had been donated to her; she didn’t have room for it all, so she shared it with us. My friend Shelly took time to buy and deliver frozen veggies, eggs, bottled water, bread, and a whole variety of things. It felt like Christmas and so very appreciated!
My employer set up a fund to help and even covered the time I took off while in evacuation, so I didn’t have to use my leave time. They even sent financial assistance. Thank you CareOregon!
The donations by the community continued to pour in for fire relief for those still displaced, even a silent auction of all kinds of locally made items.
Two of my cousins surprised me with supportive cards in the mail with a check in them.
All of these things have overwhelmed me. I have wanted to write this for a while. I have been home for over two weeks, and I still can’t discuss it without choking up, because I’m overwhelmed with gratitude. How do you adequately thank an entire community for dropping everything and putting lives on the line for you? Just how??
Just know that when you contribute to someone in crisis, it’s not just about the “thing” you are giving. The Rendezvous didn’t just feed my family; they fed our souls. It took one more stress from me at a time when I was unable to function at my normal level. We felt nurtured and cared for. During this time of COVID when we can’t hug people the way we’d like to, I felt embraced the entire time. There’s no way to put a value or price tag on that. It is healing a part of me that was a little broken even before the fire, that prideful ego part of me who was ashamed to ever have needs. I felt shame about accepting help but I’m learning that it’s okay to be the one who needs help.
I still get nervous now when the wind kicks up or I hear there’s a thunderstorm coming in, but I know that will get better in time. We will be okay. We have a great community, and I’m so proud.
I wish I could thank every single person who made it possible for us to be safely in our home at this moment. Untold numbers of people gave without hesitation. It’s impossible to know who you all are, but please know you are so appreciated. Maybe you think it was no big deal to call and check on someone, or bake some cookies for an auction, or bag up some clothes for a family who lost everything, but I can tell you that it’s huge. I am very fortunate to live in Tillamook County. It’s truly love in action.
Thank you on behalf of myself and my family, and any other people who have been impacted. You might think what you did wasn’t a big deal but it means EVERYTHING.
– September 30, 2020