“I Wasn’t Sure Where We’d Be Going”: Tales of an Oak Fire Evacuee


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The Oak Fire burning on September 5, 2020 [Picture from the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office]

Damian Amaya, a Junior at Ukiah High School and staff member of UHS News, offers this first-hand account of evacuating his Brooktrails home as the Oak Fire raged.

On September 5th, a mandatory evacuation was placed north of Willits and in the Brooktrails neighborhood. The Oak Fire began raging in the area and the fire line moved quickly. My mother told me I had to pack up. I wasn’t sure where we would be going. 

After quickly packing and leaving with my mother and pets, a car crashed into us. I remember my mother quickly pulling to the side and the car just veering at us. I thought it would clip our vehicle and maybe cause scratches at most, but then it was like everything changed faster than I could process. Suddenly, there was a car filled with smoke, an airbag in front of me, and the other car sliding backward down the road it came from. My mother had said she had a pain in her forearm and asked if I was ok. I had only had really fuzzy vision (partially since my glasses fell off) and a loud ringing in my right ear.

I quickly jumped out to check the damage and it seemed the car could still run. I quickly opened the windows and helped my mom air out the car so the animals wouldn’t get smoked out. A man offered me ice and an old ripped shirt to make sure my mom’s arm was fine and tried to exchange info with the guys who crashed into us. He had no insurance but gave me his other information, he wasn’t able to drive away since his car had been damaged more. We then left and my mother started to call her insurance. 

Worried we would run out of gas, we decided to stop in Laytonville to fill up the car. The line was so long it filled the gas station lot and the street next to it. I went to buy water while my mom waited in the line. I came back and she conveyed that the fan was broken so we had to be careful with how long we let the car sit or it would overheat. 

We couldn’t go south since that was where the fire was coming from, so we decided to head west to Fort Bragg. It took hours, there was so much traffic, but the coastal breeze helped our car keep cool. 

Once we reached there we had to spend the night in a car at a Safeway parking lot. Before going to bed, we waited the recommended time for minor concussions since my mother had shown some symptoms, and we fed the pets. The oldest dog was shaky on her leg, and we thought it might be busted. There wasn’t much we could do, however. 

The next day my friend Gavin and his dad picked me up along with my stuff, and my mom’s friend helped her get the pets and rest of our stuff somewhere safe. After a week at my friends where I was able to do school, relax a bit, and help get my ukulele fixed (it’s still in progress), I was told that my mom was able to help other people get their pets and items to safety and that the oldest dog had to be put down due to her hurt leg adding on to the pains she had from cancer, weak hips, and memory issues. 

Overall it was a bit stressful but I didn’t feel panicked or depressed. I was able to return home and continue my everyday life. I feel lucky for that.

Damien Amaya
Damien Amaya
Interested in controversial topics Like educational subjects Total Geek

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