We left this morning to go to our cottage in the country and had planned to come back tomorrow. We came back tonight. There's a massive wildfire in that area, with over 14000 acres already burned and around 300 homes destroyed, and it's only been burning for around 8 hours.
We had gotten to the cottage around 11 a.m., and settled in for a relaxing weekend. My wife's birthday was yesterday, and we were waiting on her sister and her husband and step-son to show up, so we could drive into Bastrop to meet her parents for a belated Birthday dinner at a local Cajun restaurant.
They arrived around 3 pm, and we sat and talked until it was time to leave to go to the restaurant, which was around 4:45. They had mentioned seeing a fire on the way down, but said that it didn't look too bad, and so we thought nothing more of it.
As we started driving, I noticed quite a few cars headed our way, and mentioned to my wife how odd it was to see so many, since normally you would meet only a few on that road.
After getting on the highway, and heading north towards Bastrop, we started to understand why. The sky in front of us was black, as if a huge rain cloud had settled down low. We didn't get too far before the highway was blocked off, and we had to turn around. There were already many cars pulled to the side of the highway, and people were staring north, with a look of shock on their faces.
We pulled over, too, parking behind my sister-in-law and her family. We all got out and tried to figure out what to do. The smoke was so thick and wide, you couldn't see anything past it. It was as if the highway had just ended there, having reached Hell. As we stood there talking, we heard an explosion, and a whole new plume of dark black smoke billowed up just down the road. Probably someone's house, we assumed. I had never seen anything like this. My wife called her dad, who was already in Bastrop waiting for us. Apparently he had left before it had gotten this bad, and even though the highway was already closed, he managed to find an alternate route. I don't know why he didn't let us know about it. He tried to tell her of another way to get there, but she was having none of it. She told him that we would come back next week to see them, and then we drove back to Smithville, to grab something to eat there.
As we drove back, scores of cars were parked all along the highway, and I even saw a group of people on the side of the road, holding hands in a circle, praying. It was all very surreal. I wish I had taken some pictures, but I didn't think about it. As we got into Smithville, his "alternate" route wouldn't have worked anyways, as they had that blocked off as well, since it was headed straight into the conflagration. My father-in-law...I wonder about him sometimes.
After dinner, we went back to the cottage. We were debating whether or not to stick with our original plan, and stay the night. But looking westward, the clouds of smoke looked so close, that cinched it for us. We packed up the pooch, hopped in the car, and drove back to Austin.
Now that I'm back in Austin, and trying to catch as much coverage of it on the news as I can, it looks like the fire is going to miss our place, as it is just to the west of it (but not by much,) and is moving southward. Of course, that could change if the wind shifts. Especially since they're not even trying to contain it.
As I was putting my daughter to bed, she was very upset, and started crying, worrying about the cottage. It was my grandparents' house, and holds a ton of wonderful memories for me, and my daughter absolutely adores it. I tried to reassure her that it would be alright, but she wouldn't believe me, and even got upset with me for not being more worried about it. I told her I was more worried about all of the people who had already lost their homes and everything they owned. If we lost that house, of course I would be sad, but we would still have a place to live and life would go on. Most, if not all, of those people would not be that lucky.