Thursday, December 14, 2017

My Thomas Fire Story

(Thank you to my neighbor Duke for letting me use this picture)

Monday night Charity went out to do some Christmas shopping and put the kids to bed. I was at home watching some TV and the lights kept flickering; they would go on and off. Finally the power died around 10pm. I knew the Thomas Fire was out in Santa Paula but had no clue how close the wind had pushed it in such a short period of time. The winds were hitting gusts of 60mph and were blowing extremely hard all night long.

Around 10pm I texted Charity and told her I was going to bed. See at this point I hadn't been out front of the house, only out back to take Roxie potty. I got ready for bed, in the dark, and laid down to close my eyes hoping my wife would be home soon. When Charity got home about 30 mins later she told me to start packing the house, that we need to leave because the fire was rapidly approaching. She could see the huge glow as she drove home and the fire was spreading rapidly.

I got out of bed and to my surprise the night sky was light up with a glowing red. We began packing what we considered “irreplaceable.” We stayed as calm as possible and thought about what our next moves would be.

That night was filled with many trips outside, conversations with neighbors and watching the fire slowly creep over the hills north of our home. It was sobering to see massive flames take over the hill and head towards homes just to the north of us.

It was a sleepless night where a handful of times I planned to wake up the kids and leave our home.
It was an anxious night with many text messages and little battery life.
It was a worrisome night as we thought about the food we might loose with the power outage.
(Thomas Fire on Tuesday AM from Ventura College)

We weren’t the only ones going through a variety of emotions. Neighbors were climbing on their roofs to see the spreading blaze. People were forced to leave their home on a moments notice. People in our church lost their homes. The fire hopscotched through Ventura on Tuesday, burning hillside homes, reaching into subdivisions and also consuming a hospital and a large apartment building. The fire swept through blocks, taking some homes and sparing others.
(A downed palm tree at our church)

Thankfully the only damage we know of at Coastline was a downed Palm Tree. God spared our church and our home but not everyone was as lucky. The Thomas Fire continues to spread. The work to restore what was lost will take years. Hundreds of people are displaced for their homes. Some will never see their possessions again.

As I write this, school is still closed for our children. The air quality is nothing like you'd want to breathe on a daily basis and our city smells like a campfire. It's been a hectic time. But, the church has gathered to pray and help. Leaders in our community are continuing to lead well.

Many of you have texted, called and messaged me to see how we are doing. We are safe and thinking about what is next. We are not first responders, in a situation like this, but the church is mobilizing to help. Please keep Ventura in your prayers!

4 comments:

Lorie schultz said...

Thanks for sharing your story . Glad you are safe. I pray the fires will stop and the air you breathe will soon be free of smoke.

Neal Benson said...

Thank you Lorie! We're so stoked God protected us

Mandy Jonas said...

I'm glad you and your family are safe and if you need help or anything just ask ok.Love ya

Neal Benson said...

Thanks Mandy! I'm really glad we're safe but lots of rebuilding