Friday, October 22, 2010

Evacuating the Herriman, Utah Fire - True to Life Story

Mt. Timpanogos Temple in foreground

After watching the first news report of the Herriman Fire in Utah on Sunday, September 19, 2010, I suddenly remembered that our friends lived there. I felt some concern and quickly called them. The seriousness in the voice of her husband concerned me. We spoke briefly and hung up. Then I remembered I had an evacuation list on my computer. I felt I was moving in slow motion as I emailed them my list, but I knew they probably were not sitting at their computer and would not get it in time.

I needed to hear my friend's voice and called again. This time she picked up and told me what was happening, and that they were packing up. She told me what she was taking and asked if she was doing okay, or had she forgotten anything. I was a bit stunned that she was asking ME, the preparedness blog writer whose brain was all jumbled.

After sharing a few more ideas and telling her she had done a good job, she told me she loved me and hung up the phone. It was then that I cried. Too close to the home in my heart! Praying for them calmed my nerves, but when something like this happens to people you are close to, it is not easy. Even writing this is bringing back memories and making my heart race again. I immediately revised my Evacuation List for others, and posted it quickly on my blog. I had over 1000 visits over the next few days.

Feeling helpless, I stayed glued to the news reports for the next few days. Our friends were able to evacuate, and their home was saved, but the fire was on the hill directly behind their home. Lots to cleanup afterwards. With her permission, I share part of an email she sent me the day after the fire in hopes that it will motivate some of you to prepare to evacuate from anything.

"Dear Valerie,

I thought you might be interested in a few observations and/or lessons that we learned through our Herriman fire. At the time of evacuation, we were having a birthday dinner for our son. We noticed the smoke on the hill. We drove up the road about a mile to the reservoir. Many neighbors were there. We were in our church clothes but I didn't have my shoes on. We got out of the car to watch. The attitude of everyone was pretty carefree thinking this is so strange so close to home. Then all of a sudden everything changed. The wind picked up and the flames crested the hill. Everyone literally scrambled for home. I felt so unprepared for what was happening. Because I was without shoes, my husband carried me to the car.

"The grandchildren were very scared and cried quite a bit. I felt bad that I couldn't take the time to console. We did gather in family prayer (our granddaughter's suggestion). I was grateful that I had just put the majority of scrapbooks in bins. That helped a lot. It helped that I had so many helpers with me. One of my married daughters grabbed collector's books from the bookcase. And another grabbed heirlooms from the hutch. I dug through my cedar chest.

"It was a mistake to have insurance papers in one place downstairs and other documents upstairs. We literally pulled out all drawers in the file cabinet. I definitely need to organize that better. I told my 12 year-old daughter and 17 year-old son to pack for one or two days and be prepared for school. My 12 year-old had a project due and parts were spread between 3 different cars-not good. I told her to pack for the dog (thanks Val) and we packed our meds (thanks Val) but--- we forgot toiletries and pjs and enough clothes. We were out longer than we were prepared for personally. I wanted a toothbrush!

On Monday, we had no place to go. We had found a hotel the previous night that would take our dog. Thanks to our daughter's friend. Hotel rooms went fast and her parents reserved it for us. Anyway, on Monday we went to the Red Cross Center at the High School. I wasn't impressed. Definitely better to have your own 72 hour kit. We didn't because they were too old from Riverside. I had downloaded the list to re-stock them during general conference. Oh well.

I guess what I realized the most is how unsettling this is emotionally. Even for the adults. I am so grateful that all turned out, except for the 4 families. At the time of packing, I didn't realize how much sentimental things and pictures I have collected. I'm going to get them on the computer and start handing out these items to the older kids. It should never be all in one home. By the way, our son-in-law was quickly going around taking pictures of our belongings for the insurance if we needed it. I thought that was smart. I really was blessed not to be alone. Anyway, sorry about the book. Thanks again for all you do in preparing families."
D.S. Herriman, Utah


  1. Wow- It sure puts a good perspective on things listening to someone who has been through it! Thanks for sharing... Now I need to get to work getting some stuff done myself to be better prepared!

  2. I'm so glad she took the time to write down what she did. I always wonder how it would go...

  3. Thanks for sharing this with us. I LOVE THEM!! I'm so glad things turned out for the better. Things could have been so much worse. ;D
    (((HUGS))) <3

  4. So great of Debbie to email you her thoughts after! Sure does make you think...i feel a teensy bit better knowing that all my photos are in one bag already near the door to grab (including my wedding album) & our "important papers" are near the door in one spot too.

    i wonder if we could hold a FHE evacuation night and see what we walked out the door with?!!?

  5. Thanks for helping Valerie! I know my mom felt so much better after talking to you.

  6. Amazing that all of you were there together, Melanie. A great blessing.

  7. Wow, this has been a nostalgia day for me in the blogging world. We were evacuated twice while living in Spokane Washington. The first one was a fire and the 2nd an Ice Storm. We had to go to a hotel for the fire for a few days. My husband was out of town and I just grabbed pictures and the pets; and that was about it.
    Thanks for this awesome preparedness blog; I know you are helping thousands. I wish I would have had a list then. Even now I am casual and haven't keep my 72 hour kit updated and other values in the right places; this was a great reminder.
    Blessings to you! Leann
    I have a blog you might want to visit at some point called Living Waters; here's the link:

  8. My brother took this photo. It's actually the Mount Timpanogos Temple. The fire in the background is the Herriman fire in 2010.

  9. How can the Mt Timpanogos temple be in the foreground of the Herriman fire? Is it possible you meant to say this is the Oquirrh Mountain temple? That's much more plausible. Herriman is wayyyyyy west, at the base of the Oquirrh mountains.

  10. I compared pictures of both temples and the Mount Timpanogos temple is wider at the base like the one in the picture. This view appears to be taken from the south looking at the fire on top of the hills. If Vera's brother took the picture, I can't argue with that. And it was from the 2010 fire.

    1. Yup, I can confirm this. Since its been propagating the blogosphere/facebook/other social media lately, I posted an album of all the pictures I took here:
      It took a bit to get the camera settings just right, even the shot that you posted in your blog is a bit overexposed. I'm an engineer, not a photographer. The first picture in the album I gave you above is a couple of different exposures blended together to get the best detail on the temple, the brightest sky, and the least distraction from that annoying red bush on the entrance to my doorway.

  11. The picture was taken from a higher vantage point up on the foothills in Pleasant Grove, which gives it the altitude needed to be able to see over the mountain to the fire beyond. I think the fire is farther away than you think.

    1. That's exactly where it was taken :) The fire is indeed at least 16 miles from where I live (that's the distance WolframAlpha gives for Pleasant Grove to Herriman), and I live relatively close to the temple. It was taken with a telephoto lens, so things in the background do appear closer than they actually are.


Thanks for your comments and suggestions!