Utah’s wildfire season is just beginning and already, it’s intense. Recently, over 3,000 Saratoga Springs homes were evacuated because of the Knolls Fire, and one family learned the hard way about the importance of evacuation plans.
Alejandro de Santiago’s family in Saratoga Springs used to do emergency drills. They didn’t have a specific disaster in mind, they just wanted to be prepared. But five years ago, when his wife Paula was in an accident that left her paralyzed and unable to speak or move, the drills stopped being a priority.
So when the Knoll’s Fire started in the end of June, the large family was caught by surprise. The fire was only a few houses away, and their home was in chaos as they tried to figure out what to do.
Then, a stranger walked in the door and asked how she could help them.
“She doesn’t live in this neighborhood, I don’t even know how to get a hold of her,” De Santiago said, “but she was our angel who helped us get through.”
The woman told them to gather their family pictures, important papers, passports and birth certificates. Once they all packed up and drove away from the fire, the family had to figure out what they’d do next. Friends offered to put the family up, but there were so many of them that they had to split up between houses. Alejandro and Paula ended up in a friend’s home that was wheelchair accessible. They were both unsettled by the event, and neither slept much.
“But it was nice, though, because since the accident we haven't shared a bed because she has to sleep in a hospital bed and she also has a feeding tube, so she doesn't choke,” De Santiago said. “So this time, after almost five years, we shared a bed. We had to, we didn’t have an option. So it was really nice to be with her and just cuddle and remember all the good times again.”
A day later, the family was able to return home. Besides some debris, ash and the nauseating smell of smoke, their house was untouched. Alejandro says it's a miracle.
July is just the beginning of Utah’s fire season and other fires are likely to burn throughout the coming months. More information about creating an evacuation plan for your household is available here.