At 5:50 in the early morning of Friday, November 16, 2018, my wife woke me up to say the house was on fire and we had to get out quickly or we would die. We ran outside and asked where it started. Joanadele said, "It seemed to be coming from the porch."
Suddenly, I remembered our cat named Zychiatrist, a name that my wife's mother Joan Bloyd liked. My grandson Collum from Aptos (a bit south of Santa Cruz) named the cat Zike, a more masculine name.
I was only in boxer briefs and an old sweatshirt. My wife was in her nightgown. She had immediately phoned 911 to get the firefighters. I went back into the house to save our cat. No luck. Then I went in again and got scorched in my face and could see the flames licking up the stairs from the guest room. So I got out of the second story of the house and ran by our main house below that we actually lived in most of the time. It was old but had been refurbished recently. It had a beautiful dining nook made of madrone that Rich Bloyd built. Above the madrone it was glass all the way around. Tom Jones did the remodel of the lower story house with logs supporting the guesthouse above, held steady in the air over the canyon. It was a great view.
I went in my boxers and sweatshirt to wake all the neighbors. Joe and Monica Rubin, then to the old Andy Fish place, and the Kilkers’ and Dr. Apfel's house. But the only response I could get was from Anne Fashauer’s house. I think it was her husband Van, who told me, "What do you think you're doing out here, boy?" I said, "I'm trying to alert my neighbors because there is a house fire not far from here."
With my blackened and scorched face and minimal sleeping outfit, I thought I probably looked like a full-blown nut.
I went back to the fire and saw the firefighters from Anderson Valley and Elk fire departments were magnificently gallant in fighting that hot, hot fire. Fire Chief Andres Avila was sitting in a lawn chair with a map directing the battle. Olie Erickson was #2 guy, organizing the other firefighters to follow the Chief’s directions.
Anderson Valley Fire brought five or six engines full of water and Elk brought one water tender. They were suppressing the fire in its tracks with water and calm courage.
For example, Chief Avila was sitting near a barrel of kerosene. Kerosene isn't supposed to explode, but still the big barrel was changing shape.
Olie Erickson was standing next to me and said, "I'm glad you're over here.” I said, "I'm glad you're here." Olie said, "I hope it's true that the kerosene doesn't explode."
Then firefighter Don Gowan gave me a pair of Levis to get my boxers and legs covered. But I couldn't get them past my knees. I said sadly to Don, a big guy himself, "Are these your Levis?" He said, “No, they’re George's.” My wife asked for them. They fit her fine, if a little large. Don also gave her sweatshirt.
Then some kind of missile burst out of the flames on fire. It was a propane tank that Lauren Bloyd had just set up for our outdoor barbecue. We never used it because I wasn't sure how to use it. But Olie and some other guys were on top of it in a split second with a fire truck and a tender full of water. It had started a small fire on both sides of the dirt road which they extinguished quickly.
We lost both houses and a garage full of chainsaws and tools. We did save our old pickup and two cars.
Don Gowan took us to Joe Gowan’s house to make necessary calls and calm down. Don and Joe are always so nice and soothing. Then we went to the Red Cross and got some advice and a small check at Laura Bayham's house. Laura was very tender with us.
Firefighter Regine Boudoures was so thoughtful about our cat. She said, "I promise to bring her food and water every evening." The first evening we went to check on her food, my wife thought she could see the cat’s pawprints in the area. The next evening Olie showed up to check on that cat also. That was wonderful because it was such a sad time and we thought all that was left of our cat was our memories.
We stayed at the Super 8 Motel in Ukiah for five nights. My sister Dana and her family came down and took us to a Mexican restaurant. Then Bill Long, Anderson Valley High Achool Class of 58, in the running for the best all-around athlete ever at the high school, arrived. He and his wonderful and beautiful wife Amelia with three suitcases and stayed for two nights when we really needed them.
Then I dropped by to visit one of my oldest and best friends, Sam Prather. He offered me a beer or a Coke. I said, beer, and he brought us both Cokes. He said, "Christine Clark wants to talk with you and Joanadele. She wants to help you out." Christine Clark is giving us a very generous rental rate in a beautiful old home that is her summerhouse. It was built in 1910 on Indian Creek. Almost 27 years later it was rolled on logs on a dirt road from Indian Creek to Navarro's Fairhills area, a beautiful location.
Last weekend my daughter Daisy and her husband Chris Boger and kids Collum and Sylvia arrived. Chris brought a tent and rain suit and flashlight. He said cats are nocturnal and we will see his eyes with a flashlight. But it was raining like hell and I said I had had no rain gear, so Chris went to check by himself at dusk.
He came back very excited and said, "I saw the cat's eyes. At first it scared the shit out of me because the cat had climbed onto limb and looked as tall as mountain lion. Then I realized what happened and I went closer and he meowed a few times. But you guys have to come to actually get him. He won't come to me."
We were very happy and excited to hear that. We went to get the cat after the rain had eased somewhat. I think the cat just stayed near the the area where the house was.
Joanadele brought the small rope that the cat played with. It avoided us for hours but finally to it game to play with the rope and we had him. He was thin and coughing and nervous. So we were worried about him. But after a week he was running and jumping all over the place.
Brad Wiley came by yesterday with a box of fruit. Fortunately, we were recently re-insured and we are now thinking we will rebuild on our old homesite. Our mood improved when we got our cat back, finally!
Thanks to my son-in-law and all the firefighters — our heroes in our loss.