My cabin home burned down

I moved into a funky 600-sqft cabin in the wilderness of the Santa Cruz mountains 30 years and 5 months ago, just a small rudimentary cabin bolted to huge wooden poles set into the steep slopes of a deeply forested hill.

It was surrounded by groves of huge redwoods, many oak and madrone trees, and all kinds of wild critters from mountain lions and deer to coyotes, raccoons, and adorable little deermice. With large windows, few neighbors, and no need for curtains, it was like camping out in a tree house.

It was a difficult place to live: 30 steps of stairs up to the cars, 10 miles of tiny crinkly roads to the nearest town and 20 steep curving miles “over the hill” to jobs (and medical,care) in Silicon Valley. The only heat was from a woodstove and we cooked on a miniature stove fueled by a propane tank in the kitchen.

Power outages were common and winter storms often closed roads for days due to downed trees and mudslides. But we could walk miles of the neighborhood driveway/road system through deeply forested hills with spectacular views to the coast, rarely encountering anybody else, and our dogs never needed leashes.

We were woken at 3am last Sunday by booming thunder and innumerable dry lightning flashes that went on for hours. The storm marched across the whole San Francisco Bay Area, from south to north, with 11,000 lightning strikes igniting over 250 fires. One started less than 10 miles away from us out in the wilderness but it was small and there was no wind.

There were just too many fires all at once, many much nearer populated areas, and fire-fighting resources were quickly overwhelmed. They had to leave the remote fires unattended and our thinly populated area was rightfully not a high priority.

The fires near us initially stayed small, but a couple of days later a lovely cooling coastal breeze arose and fanned them together into a monstrous conflagration just over the ridge from us.

We didn’t see or smell it, but suddenly a helicopter was hovering low over the neighborhood with sirens and a loudspeaker telling us “you have to evacuate NOW!”. So we consulted the “to go” list we had created in previous fire seasons, grabbed what we could, and drove away in two packed cars.

Three days after leaving, we got final confirmation that our cabin, along with almost all the neighborhood, had burned to the ground. Our two cars and what we had stuffed into them are now our only worldly possessions.

However, we’re blessed with an incredibly generous friend who lives down in Silicon Valley who happens to have a spare furnished guest room, and a fenced yard with a dog door, and next to a huge park. We could not have landed more fortuitously.

As of this morning (8/23), there are 71,000 acres burned, 24,000 structures threatened, and 77,000 people evacuated just from this single fire. There are currently 4 massive fires burning in the area, ours to the west, and others to the south, east, and north, so the Bay Area is encircled by fire & smoke. On its 5th day, our fire is only 8% contained and still burning south into Santa Cruz, east into more populated areas, and north toward San Francisco.

Even worse, they’re expecting another dry lightning storm to ignite more fires tonight.

If you’re curious:
– Twitter hashtag is #CZULightningComplex
– Local news story https://www.ksbw.com/article/fire-breaks-created-around-santa-cruz-ucsc-to-protect-the-city/33674876
– New York Times article about the devastation of Big Basin Redwoods State Park which is/was literally in our back yard: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/21/us/big-basin-redwoods-ca-fires.html

21 thoughts on “My cabin home burned down

      1. lingeringson

        Aww Zyp…
        I thought my life was nothing but cinders when I lost my son. I can’t grasp losing 30 years of memories…many thoughts are with you, and with those you care about. I’m relieved you are safe and well…

        Liked by 1 person

        Reply
        1. Zyp Czyk Post author

          We, our loved ones, and friends are all safe and lost only possessions and “stuff” – there is NO comparison to losing a child – that’s a pain I can’t imagine.

          We have the support of our family & friends and will be fine: “stuff” can always be replaced and mementoes are of the past, easily released as we can focus and move toward a new future. But when it’s a loved one, the loss can’t ever be escaped or outrun. It becomes a permanent “stain” on life even though you can rebuild all around it.

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  1. kristenogden

    Zyp, I am so sorry. Glad you got out and are ok, but so hard to lose such a beautiful and unique home plus the beautiful woodlands. I’ll be thinking of you. Louis Ogden and I built a very similar mountainside cabin in West Virginia about 30 years ago. It’s our getaway place, not our main home, but I can relate to living in a place like you describe. So so sorry.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Zyp Czyk Post author

      Thanks for your understanding – there’s something very special about living “up in the boonies” in these hyper-modern times. It feeds the soul and strengthens the spirit.

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  2. dharmagarden122

    Oh Zyp, I am so sorry to hear this! It has sounded so surreal on the news, I’ve never heard of lightning-like that before, and to know you have been personally affected…I am so sorry. Your precious piece of paradise has been destroyed. I am so glad you and your hubby are safe, the two cars, and you have a place to live. Take good care dear one.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Zyp Czyk Post author

      If I didn’t have a wonderful doctor still prescribing me pain meds and even adding some “forbidden” anti-anxiety meds I asked for… I don’t see how I could survive this.

      My emotions are generally far more powerful than “I” am so I think my immense anger and grief would have resulted in the spontaneous combustion of my soul/spirit.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
    1. Zyp Czyk Post author

      Thank you – it’s emotionally overwhelming to have so many folks concerned and have great friends who can help with material needs, like keeping a roof over our heads. So many are less fortunate than we are.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  3. Kathy C

    I am so glad that you are OK Zyp. I can’t imagine what it would have been like. We have some fires going over here in New Mexico, but nothing on the scale of California. Smelling some makes me jumpy, knowing if a fire starts up the mountain, we would have to leave too.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Zyp Czyk Post author

      Thanks so much for your kind words, Kathy.

      I used to wonder what it would be like to lose a house in a fire, probably because I knew darn well that each year there would more undergrowth, and without frequent smaller fires, the vegetation would eventually fuel a horrible blaze.

      For at least a decade by now, I’ve suffered from intense anxiety during every fire season and it was getting scarier every year. So there is a bright spot: I won’t be suffering that anxiety any more!

      There’s an advantage of rebuilding in the same place – it will be decades before we have to fear a fire like this again.

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  4. canarensis

    Oh no, I’m so, so sorry that it came the worst possible outcome! I’m do glad you & R & J are okay, but….jeez, “sorry” just seems so inadequate compared to your loss. I wish we could do something; I’m glad you had a place to go that isn’t miserable in & of itself.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Zyp Czyk Post author

      Yes, even in this disaster we have been extraordinarily lucky. One huge door was slammed in our faces, but thanks to friends and so many other kind people, there are many little doors opening. We just have to find one that’s big enough for the 3 of us and opens upon a path to a feasible future.

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      1. canarensis

        I’m really glad there’s some helpful friends for you. Really really hope you find a nice private, forested place to move into. It must be a wrench to have to share digs (even if their good ones) after having such wonderful privacy for so long.

        Liked by 1 person

        Reply
        1. Zyp Czyk Post author

          I think they might be planning to rebuild both structures, but I’m not sure that would make sense. We still don’t have any pics or damage assessment, but Doug (landlord/neighbor) went there today (no cell service there now) and I’m hoping for pics this evening.

          All roads in the whole burn area are officially closed and the evacuation order remains in effect, so we don’t even know how he’s getting there. In a way, I’m very curious to see what happens.

          My detachment and denial skills have been honed over the years and they’re saving me from a total breakdown now. I can literally “not think about it” when something related to the cabin comes up in my mind. I can think about what I need to shop for without feeling grief over why I have to shop in the first place. I can feel waves of gratitude for the generosity of friends without feeling pain over why I need that generosity.

          I won’t be able to maintain this denial forever, but for now, I’m just gonna enjoy this weirdly calm & peaceful interlude before reality finally intrudes :-)

          Liked by 1 person

          Reply
          1. canarensis

            Sounds like your brain has glommed onto an excellent response to the situation. Maybe if you give it some good chocolate at regular intervals it’ll keep it up for a long time…chocolate can make anything better, right?

            Liked by 1 person

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  5. DREW5000G

    Zyp, so sorry to hear of your plight. I know you will only focus on the positives being the person you are, if you need anything let me know. I will pray for you daily, take care Zyp

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  6. DREW5000G

    Debora Tavares of stop the crime.net reckons the fires are started by direct energy weapons courtesy of the rothscilds who own p&g, not sure how true but be safe friend

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