15235Re: [orthodox-synod] Is Fr. Alexander Lebedev OK in California, wildfires?
- Oct 4, 2005Dimitra wrote:
>Does anyone know if Fr. Alexander Lebedev is OK there in southernDear Dimitra and all of the others who have enquired about our well
>California--I see the wildfires are still raging nearby...
being and the situation of our home with regard to the wildfires.
Glory be to God, we are well, and our house has been spared.
We live in the foothills above the San Fernando Valley, in a small
community called Bell Canyon, which was in the midst of the path of
the brush fire that roared across the mountain canyons last week.
On Wednesday last, in the early afternoon, we heard on the news that
a serious brush fire has started in Chatsworth and was moving
Southwest--in our home's direction. We decided to move Matushka's
mother, who is 91, out of any danger, driving her to her son's house.
Meanwhile, we remained calm, expecting that the fires would pass our
community by, as they had on two occasions in the past. We served a
supplicatory canon to the Mother of God, asking for Her protection
and proceeded to prepare dinner.
At about 8 p.m., a Ventura County Sheriff's vehicle pulled up, and
informed us that the fire was approaching and he suggested that we
make preparations in case we would have to evacuate. He also was
performing a survey, taking down the names of all residents,
visitors, and workers found in Bell Canyon at that time.
We began to load up the vehicles with our most treasured
belongings--icons, irreplaceable church books, family pictures,
diplomas, certificate of ordination, etc., as well as necessities,
such as medications and toiletries--not to mention the home computer
(just the box) and external disk drive. Matushka insisted on
evacuating with all her hats.
By this time, we could see much more than just a red glow in the sky.
I took some pictures of the approaching firestorm, and noted a tree
outlined against the sky on the ridge closest to our house. I
said--"if that tree goes, we're out of here."
Fifteen minutes later, the tree was spectacularly ablaze. By this
time, we could see the fires coming down the hills toward our house
from three sides. The fires roared up the hill toward a house across
the way from us, and we could see the balcony of the house begin to
burn. We were sure that house would be lost, but an aerial drop of
water extinguished the flames. (It should be noted that air
operations (water drops and chemical retardant drops) normally cease
at sundown for safety reasons, but they continued into the night for this fire.
With only one road into and out of Bell Canyon, it was clear that it
was time to leave. As we decided this, confirmation came from
sheriff's vehicles announcing, using bullhorns, announcing mandatory
It should be noted that this is horse country, and many of the homes
in the area have their own stable facilities. Horse trailers began
arriving and the staging area for loading them was directly below our
house. It was heart-rending to see these magnificent animals so
obviously frightened by the smoke and the flames visible from all sides.
We loaded up our cars with our own animals (a very big dog and a very
small dog, both quite excited about this adventure) and left the
house in God's hands.
That night, we slept in our cars, with the animals.
In the morning, the fate of the homes in Bell Canyon was not clear.
All we could see was towering smoke above our area, and helicopters
and planes flying all over.
That day, we were not allowed back into the canyon at all. After many
phone calls, we finally were able to find a hotel that would take us
with our animals, and stayed there the second night, watching the
news reports on television, which continuously talked about Bell
Canyon being the place where the fiercest battles with the blaze were
occurring, and where the most "hot spots" were. The most encouraging
news was that only one home was reported to have been destroyed.
In the morning we were able to reach the Bell Canyon guard gate and
were informed that residents with identification were being allowed
back in. We drove in and were appalled at the sight of the hills
surrounding Bell Canyon completely blackened--and many of the
interior roads showed areas around the homes that were blackened, as well.
Our house, thanks to the Protection of the Holy Mother of God, was
untouched, although from the windows we see how close the flames came
to many of the houses in our area.
The firefighters had done an absolutely magnificent job.
We thank all of you for your prayers.
With love in Christ,
Prot. Alexander Lebedeff
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