A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

The second fire


As the Tubbs fire neared my home, I had a close encounter with another episode with fire.

When the wildfires broke out, I noticed more and more stories in the headlines, television and radio news reports. As they increased, a feeling of paralysis began to set in.

My apartment complex issued an initial advisory evacuation. As a native New Englander, I started receiving phone calls from friends and family, especially those on the East Coast, family in Chicago and my friends from Boston University. It started to feel as if I was in an episode of the “Twilight Zone” or the “Outer Limits”—all too surreal for words.

When I was two years old I lived in Massachusetts, the first born to my parents. I got out of bed one night in the middle of winter to go to the bathroom. On my way back I stopped at our pot belly stove to get warm. The next thing I remember was looking over and seeing my dad in his pajamas staring at me. He saw me standing there, my nightgown ablaze. He quickly grabbed a blanket off the sofa, wrapped me in it and ran me to the hospital, clear across town.

I spent the next year in Shriners Children’s Hospital bed, staring out the window in my room. Most of the time I saw kids playing. I went from the bed, to wheelchair, to crutches and finally learned how to walk again.

Fast forward to present.

What I remember about the news reports of the wildfires was a familiar feeling of fear—rooted in childhood—as I stared out my window, knowing the fire was approaching my home. I live a stone’s throw from Howarth Park and Spring Lake, close to the blazing inferno. One of my best friends—who is like an older sister—called and asked what I was going to do. I had no idea.

The next thing I know, she showed up at my place, and told me to pack a bag. We drove off to her place near Guerneville where I spent the next three days.

The first night I slept through the whole night. I didn’t watch any TV coverage of the fires.

I began to feel my blood pressure return to normal, although I did worry whether or not my apartment was still intact.

When Mina Jean, my friend, asked if I was ready to go home, I was hesitant to say yes. But I knew it was time.

What I didn’t know was the devastation I was about to witness.

From wineries to homes and businesses, places I once visited had burned to the ground. Nothing left but ashes and smoke.

When we arrived at my home, things felt almost as normal as when we had left.

I breathed a huge sigh of relief as I unlocked my door. Everything looked the same.

Clothes, books and magazines thrown about, with a few dishes in the sink.

Ah, home sweet home.

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About the Contributor
Lenita Marie Johnson, Staff Writer
Lenita Marie Johnson is in her fourth semester at the Oak Leaf and is a writer for Arts and Entertainment and Opinion. Her talents lie in her written and verbal skills and can create timelines and deadlines to complete projects. Lenita worked at KSRO and KBBF radio, creating media campaigns and designing marketing material.  She has been a broadcast, television and print news reporter since she graduated from Boston University.

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