Ever wonder what you would grab to take with you when a police officer bangs on your front door, and hollers, “You have to evacuate now —as fast as you can — there is a fire out there”?
That was just the position I found myself in Friday, May 3. Oddly, I felt very calm. I quickly changed into a pantsuit. Threw a blanket and pillow in the car. Then a couple of bottles of water. A warm scarf. The ring my husband gave me many years ago. And the handbag, containing some cash and the credit card. And so I pulled out of my garage within three or four minutes of the police announcement.
There was an overwhelming smell of smoke. Chevy Chase was crowded with passenger cars, police cars and fire trucks. It was not easy to get through, but there did not seem to be any imminent danger. I was able to park my car south of the fire zone. People clustered around, observing the hillside.
Several firemen worked on the fire. Helicopters roared overhead, zooming in and out above the hills, dropping tons of water. It was mesmerizing. People were generally calm. I left and headed for the Americana to pass the time. People were relaxed and enjoying themselves, oblivious to the crisis in the hills nearby.
As dusk fell, I headed back to Chevy Chase. Alas, we were still not permitted to return home. Come back in an hour, we were told. So I drove to a friend's house in the Hoover area. I visited with her for an hour and then returned to Chevy Chase. Access to our homes was now permitted. Fortunately, no structures had been lost. And thankfully there were still a great many fire engines parked on the nearby street, a comforting sight.