as prospectors would
for nuggets of life
beneath their home's ashes
we venture out
among the charred-stick pines. . .
too fortunate for our bones
—Atlas Poetica, Number 12, Summer 2012
The first major wildfire in our drought-stricken area began on Father's Day, June 2011, when I happened to be in Houston. The flames reportedly erupted only about 1-1/2 miles from our new place to the north, and with the right shift in wind direction, we would have been particularly vulnerable. Though the fire caused significant devastation, ultimately a big rain came. Fire did make its way into the front part of our small rustic community, but no major damage occurred there.
The next local wildfire, far more widespread (up to 22,000 acres or so were affected), began less than three months later, on Labor Day. We'd left the house for Houston (with a bad tire, which was another story) an hour before the first fire broke out. Due to evacuation orders, we ended up staying in Houston, one of us with flu, for eight days. The flames kept hopping around, and at several points our new home was in what appeared to be the direct path of the main outbreak, dubbed the "Riley Road" fire; we'd only just finished moving there. To give a sense of perspective, our community is located right off Riley Road. Fire did damage parts of the neighborhood, but amazingly, no residents suffered any property damage, thanks in great part to the firefighters. A number of others not far away weren't as lucky, though, including the small "Country Haircuts" enterprise (though they're rebuilding). And sprinkled up and down Riley Road, and many other places too, souvenirs still remain: acres and acres of downed fences and charred forest that gradually is being cleared.
Several massive forest fires also occurred in other locations throughout Texas, most notably in Bastrop, where more than 1600 homes were destroyed.