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Now that the smoke has cleared from the Los Alamos air and the Las Conchas Fire is almost completely contained, I took a few minutes to remember that scary day of being told to evacuate.
Our family of four had been living here for a little over a year and had never experienced an evacuation due to fire, or tornado or hurricane, for that matter. But because the smoke was so thick on the morning of June 27, we had already decided to leave the area before we received the recorded telephone evacuation message.
We had a pop-up camper and were preparing to go camping in Colorado. We loaded the camper and our two vehicles with everything we could get into them, including our pets — a yellow lab and small rabbit. I remember how quiet the neighborhood was as we were one of the last to leave Quemazon.
National Guard trucks were just pulling into the Quemazon entrance as we drove out. What a shock to see the traffic backed up, bumper-to-bumper on Diamond Drive, as we waited our turn to enter Trinity Drive and escape down the hill.
As we drove slowly next to other cars, I could see them piled with clothing and possessions. I was amazed at how quickly the fire had grown and that Los Alamos residents had to go through another evacuation because of fire.
I was nervous and worried, but glad my family was together and safe. We spent the next week camping 13 miles north of Bayfield, Colo. It was a nice place on a reservoir and we had a good time. But we had to drive into town every day to get telephone reception to find out what was happening in Los Alamos.
The hardest part was waiting to hear if or when we could go home. On the Fourth of July we returned home. This year, being home and safe was better than seeing fireworks.
Albert Swenson and Jordon Krepps were just a couple of teenagers forced to evacuate, as well
They also shared their stories:
Swenson, a high school sophomore, said his family of four was evacuated for their first time ever on June 27. They’d dealt with hurricanes before, but they never had to deal with an evacuation. Swenson said he wasn’t really scared, but was a bit nervous. His family left town and headed to Bishop’s Lodge in Santa Fe.
They stayed there until the weekend, then the management told his family they had to leave because all the rooms were reserved for the July Fourth holiday weekend. S
wenson and his family found rooms at Homewood Suites. He said the staff was very friendly. To help pass the time, the Swensons got together with other evacuees, family friends and went out to dinner.
One of the restaurants they dined at even gave them complimentary food items when they mentioned they were Los Alamos evacuees. Swenson said he was amazed at how nice everyone in Santa Fe was to his family.
Krepps also experienced evacuation for the first time. The Krepps’ family evacuation was a bit more complicated because they had numerous family members visiting from out of town for the week. Krepps said that when they heard of the evacuation, his visiting family scrambled to find airline flights for them to return home.
The Krepps headed to Albuquerque and spent the week at a Residence Inn. Krepps said he was shocked to hear that they had to evacuate. But once he got packed, he realized he had his family with him and that his family was all that mattered to him.
He said that the house was not important. During the week, Krepps and his family went to an amusement park for one day. The other days, he swam, practiced tennis, watched television and waited to go home.
If you would like to share your evacuation experience, email Tom Hanlon at email@example.com.
Tom Hanlon is a home-schooled freshman.