Greg Woodcox pleaded with his friends to leave everything behind and flee. The firestorm that would become known as the Camp Fire was bearing down on their rural home. They had only seconds to get out.
Despite Woodcox’s efforts to save the small group, a fast-moving wall of flames overtook their vehicles as they bunched up behind him at the end of Edgewood Lane on Thursday morning.
Had they gotten out mere seconds sooner, they might have made it out, too, he said.
The horror of watching a close friend, the man’s mother and three others die before turning and running for his own life. A fox, he said, scrambled across the road and showed him a path down a steep embankment into a stream, where he stayed submerged for 45 minutes, waiting out the relentless inferno.
This story is in today’s San Francisco Chronicle. In minutes, the entire town of Paradise was destroyed by the massive fire. The grassfires in California now turn into “firenados” in minutes fueled by dry grass and strong, warm winds coming from the east.
In the past, we've had forest fires in rural California which rarely affected our towns and people. The debate about forest mis-management is a hot topic today and a topic for another day. The fires just never happened near our bigger towns and cities.
Today, the fires are happening right in the towns and cities where we live. Last year, the fire in Napa and Santa Rosa turned thousands of lives upside down as thousands of homes were destroyed in just a few hours.
I live in Marin county just north of San Francisco and never worried about fires because we’re in a suburban area. Today, the fear of fire scares the hell out of me. Marin county is primarily open space with lots of dry grass in the summer and fall. When these fires start, the warm winds we experience in the fall can carry the hot embers miles in just a few minutes. The Camp Fire was traveling the length of a football field every three minutes. You literally have a couple of minutes to get the hell out of dodge or you would perish.
This is just another reminder that life is precious and you need to appreciate every day like it’s your last. I’ve gotten back into the habit of starting every day by journaling and focusing on what I’m grateful for. It’s very cathartic to focus on being thankful for even the simplest things in life.
My best friend, Dieter, used to start each day being thankful that he woke up and had the opportunity to live another day. At first, I used to tell him to set the bar a little higher than just waking up but I didn’t understand how hard it was for him to just wake up every day as his health declined. Despite his constant pain and physical struggles, he was the most positive person I ever met and he’s an inspiration to me every morning as I wake up.
As Dieter was leaving my daughter Alicia’s wedding in August, he put out his hand to shake my hand and say “thank you for a great day”. For some reason, something came over me and I stopped, gave him a big hug and said “you’re welcome and I love you”
Dieter died in his sleep a few hours later and to this day, I am so grateful that I didn’t just shake his hand thinking that I would see him the next morning.
Every day, as my wife Ellen runs out the door on her way to work, we both stop what are doing, give each other a big hug and kiss and say “I love you”. We make this a priority because you never know when it may be the last time you get to appreciate the person you love.
Take time every day to appreciate what you have in life, even if it’s just waking up every morning. I know many of you are struggling paycheck to paycheck and life isn’t easy. I know some of you have “made it” and live an amazing life of abundance. I know many of you are somewhere in between the struggle and making it.
No matter where you are, stop and appreciate the littlest things in life. Give someone you love a big hug. Stop what you are doing and help a friend in need. Give your leftovers to a homeless person. Take a day off from work to have a “you” day and do something you love. Live every day like it’s your very last day on earth because you never know…