Mary Jane Stevens joins Building a Better Story with Miracle at Soda Canyon, A Tale About One of the Worst Fires In California History. Mary Jane, a Napa resident for over 30 years, lives part time in Truckee. A retired business owner, she has begun to write about her life, her two adult children, one grandchild and husband Bob. She feels blessed in her marriage, which recently has survived more than the usual troubles of modern life. Please enjoy Mary Jane’s harrowing tale of fire and miracles.
Late Sunday evening, October 8, my husband Bob, called me at our home in Truckee to say that there were helicopters with bright lights hovering low outside our house in Napa; over loud speakers they were saying, “Fire! Evacuate! Evacuate Immediately!”
Bob asked what he should take and I suggested a few necessities, cash, the insurance policy file, our laptop computers and my good jewelry, all which were in easy to reach places. I said, “Get out of there fast and call me when you get down the hill.” He wanted to take all the paperwork out of the office but I told him to leave it, his life was the most important thing. I told him we’d made it through a fire in 2011 when the house was gutted, and we could do it again.
About twenty minutes later I saw Bob’s name on my cell phone screen. I was relieved—a little prematurely it turned out. He was calling to say he couldn’t get down the hill—the road was blocked. He and about twenty-five people, including neighbors and some vineyard workers who’d been picking in the dead of night, were trapped by the fire. They were at the top of Soda Canyon Road near Atlas Peak Road seven miles from Silverado Trail, close to where the fire may have started. No way out!
And no one knew they were stranded.
The helicopters had moved on to warn others. The group decided to move to a clear area at Stagecoach Vineyards which happened to be near vineyard manager Esteban’s home where they still had cell service.
I sent my kids a text then called them to let them know what was going on. Casey and Kelly deserved to know their dad was in serious danger. They would never have forgiven me if something happened to him, and I hadn’t warned them.
Kelly, as it turned out, had her phone turned off for the night, so she did not get my messages until the following morning.
Casey, who is a Los Angeles City Firefighter, immediately hung up and called Bob to get the GPS coordinates from his cell phone. With those coordinates he called someone he works with at the department’s command center. Casey told his contact about the people stranded near a fast moving fire in Napa, gave him the coordinates and asked him to contact the Cal Fire Commander in Napa with the information to rescue his dad and the others.
Whenever Casey was not out on calls we talked on the phone during the night. Both of us feared the worst, but neither said what we were really thinking. Friends from Napa had told us the fire was huge, and the winds the strongest anyone had seen in recent memory. Bob told us, in our last conversation, the fire was raging right toward him. It was excruciating not having more information.
Earlier my friend, Carolyn, called me from the deck of her home in west Napa as soon as she saw the fire across the valley. She was supposed to join me, along with several of our friends, at my home in Truckee the following day and knew Bob was home alone. A childhood friend, she’s has known Bob all his life. She was watching the fire scream across the mountain at an unbelievable pace and worried about him. She stayed on the phone with me, off and on, most of the night giving me much needed emotional support. Many of my Napa friends texted me throughout the night with words of encouragement and prayers for Bob’s safety.
When we talked, I told Casey how quickly Carolyn could see fire spreading and it wasn’t looking good for Bob’s evacuation.
To be continued…