Though I grew up in Southern California, I’d never experienced a wildfire until 2016. There had been many fires in the high desert area that year, including a few that were close enough to see clearly, but an afternoon in August 2016 proved to be one that I’ll never forget. As it happens, I had to drive to Los Angeles that day, so I left early. It was my intention to head back before the notorious LA rush hour started, but as I got onto the freeway, I noticed a cloud that resembled a nuclear mushroom cloud angrily billowing over the mountains to the northeast. Traffic was even worse than usual, and as I inched along in bumper-to-bumper chaos, I heard on a news station that a fire had broken out near a major interstate…the one close to home. By now it seemed like the entire planet was diverting to the few routes leading to the high desert. Hours went by, and as I finally crept toward my destination the sky got darker and smokier. I was starting to panic as I headed east toward my place and saw the mountains on fire. Roadblocks diverted me along potholed desert roads, and after a grueling 5-hour drive, I finally pulled into my driveway. My roommate, a Forestry Dept volunteer, said we needed to be ready to evacuate, as there was a mandatory evacuation in place a quarter mile south of us. If the fire got any closer…we had to leave. She already had her stuff and the pets ready to go. I ran around like a maniac stuffing valuables, photos, and other important items in whatever bags I could grab and placed them by the front door. It was so dark and smoky it looked like midnight. I ran a mental checklist of where we’d go, and how we’d leave the area. We waited to hear the bullhorns ordering people to leave, but as the night progressed, the danger finally passed. I was shaken by the close call, but beyond grateful that we got through it.