Nick Brown, 12800 Dunbar Road, Glen Ellen
Nick Brown spent last Sunday at the Glen Ellen Fair, working the Safety Committee’s booth as its co-chair. At the end of the parade and its street activities, a friend reminded him that their next meeting was dedicated to disaster preparedness.
“OK,” Brown thought absently, heading home for the night. He was beat from the long day, and fell asleep on his couch.
Sometime after 11 p.m. a neighbor came knocking. “There’s something interesting going on,” the man said. Together, he and Brown drove up Dunbar Road.
“Beltane Ranch was silhouetted against the fire,” Brown said. “And fire was landing in spots all around us.” Still, he wasn’t overly alarmed. His house was situated between two fire stations, after all.
He went home, woke roommates and neighbors, grabbed two shovels and went outside.
A neighbor sped past, terror in his eyes. “It’s the wind! It’s the wind! We can’t do anything! It’s the wind!” he screamed, disappearing around the bend.
A second neighbor sped past shouting that bulldozers were coming. “I had hope then,” Brown said.
Five minutes passed, then 10, then 30. No bulldozers, no firefighters. Just Nick Brown and his shovels. He took breaks on the pavement of Dunbar Road, dashing in and out of his property, keeping flames at bay. “It started to become very, very scary,” Brown said.
“And then it became untenable.”
Nick had to drag his foot behind him, marking his path to keep his bearings, keeping himself oriented as he moved toward the road. The smoke was thick, visibility was negligible. Brown found his Jeep and prepared to go.
“But then I heard this noise coming down Dunbar Road. It was a tractor, going just as fast as it could without blowing its tread. It blew through the fence and went straight into the fire. Straight into the fire,” Brown said, and then paused.
Three of the five houses at 12800 Dunbar Road burned, including Brown’s. The artifacts of his life were all up in smoke. He’s got the Jeep and the two shovels and the clothes on his back. And his two shelter kitties – Tabby and Black Cat – who were found the day afterward, one with burned paws.
“I found my pets in the woods,” Brown said, his voice trembling a bit. “When I found the cats…that made everything OK.”
Peter Hansen, 12550 Henno Road, Glen Ellen
Sunday nights are typically quiet when you are a teacher. The job is relentless, requiring energy reserves. Peter Hansen went to bed at a reasonable hour, but was awakened at 1 a.m. by the wind. “Damn wind,” he thought, shifting position. There was smoke in the air, a faraway hint. The teacher rolled over and slept on.
At 2:15 a.m. he woke again to an eerie red glow and, grabbing binoculars, stepped to the window.
He didn’t need the binoculars. Flames were everywhere.
He jumped into his jeans, threw on a T-shirt, scrambled into his shoes and grabbed two valuable paintings. Palming the first set of car keys he found, Hansen ran. At the car door, he paused, thinking to perhaps go back for a few things. He took four steps toward the house when an explosion of flames stopped him. For a moment, he feared that his tires had melted.