Adam was in his second class, preparing to be the host of a film festival later that week, when a friend rushed in saying there was a fire near her house. Adam realized, “She lives in the same area I do, so I had the teacher pull on the news for me and there was a fire at the intersection somewhat near my house.”
A few minutes later, Adam’s mother called, urging him to go home and help his father and brother pack. As he left school, Adam saw “a giant cloud of smoke, almost right where my house is.” All the roads to his house were already blocked, so Adam waited for his father and brother in a parking lot. He says, “I was picturing the truck would just arrive with all sorts of crazy and weird things sticking out of the back – [but] I didn’t see anything – I just saw a couple boxes and our dog.”
His father later told him that they had received a reverse 911 call warning them to evacuate within two minutes. As his father left out the front door, the fire was climbing the back fence. Adam and his family went to an evacuation center and waited for more information on their home. While watching the news, they recognized their yard and as the camera panned, they saw the shell of their home – totally destroyed. They left the center and parked at the barricade, making their way to their house on foot. Adams says, “It was the most surreal experience, seeing something that you spent so much time with completely burned to ashes.”
Battalion Chief Nick Schuler was one of the first on-scene at the Poinsettia Fire. An 18-year CAL Fire veteran, with years of incident command experience, he describes the scene, “For the public it is chaos. They’re overwhelmed with the thick smoke, their eyes begin to burn. They begin to panic. Their heart rate increases, they’re beginning to be unsure of what their next move should be…they are overwhelmed with the noises of aircraft overhead, the sirens of engines coming, police cars, people yelling to evacuate and trying to get their things together.”
The Poinsettia Fire moved quickly, immediately impacting homes. As the chief arrived, he had to rescue a woman whose car melted to her driveway while she was trying to evacuate. He says, “If you’re trying to prepare while the emergency’s going on, you’re too late. If you a see a wildfire and now you’re trying to clear around your home or now you’re trying to pack your things, you are already behind the curve. We want you to have an emergency kit with you; we want you to know what you’re going to take, we want you to understand where you and your family are going to meet and what you’re going to do.”
Is your home ready for a wildfire? Watch "Cloud of Smoke" to start the conversation with your family about what you can do to protect your home.