LOWER LAKE — Wayne Fischer tried to fight the Rocky fire — and the fire won.
When officials delivered an evacuation order to Fischer and his wife, Judy, on Wednesday evening at their home off Morgan Valley Road about seven miles east of Lower Lake, the couple decided to make a stand.
It nearly cost them their lives and they lost their home of 25 years, reduced to a 2,300-square-foot gray-and-black mass of charred rubble.
Recalling the episode Sunday in the hilly, burned-over landscape surrounding the remains of his home, Wayne Fischer said the couple had laid out garden hoses as the flames crested a ridge above their property. “We’re going to fight this thing,” he remembers saying.
Twice before in the past 15 years they had faced down a fire, including one that came to the edge of their driveway.
But this time, a 150-foot wall of flames came at them in a matter of minutes. “It sounded like a freight train,” Fischer said. “Nobody could have stopped it.”
The Fischers and their daughter, Trudie, who lives nearby, jumped in a car and pickup and fled for their lives.
“If we’d have stayed, we’d have been dead — no doubt about it,” he said.
The daughter’s home was scorched but otherwise undamaged.
Surveying the rubble, Fischer pointed out a kerosene tank, water tanks and a bed frame that remained among the otherwise unrecognizable remnants of their home. Fischer said he hopes to rebuild on their 160-acre property.
He’s still amazed that a barn located well below the house survived the blaze. He found a charred pine cone that must have rolled down the hill and up against the barn wall, which was singed. “Why it stopped burning, I’ll never know,” he said.
In Clearlake, Heather Regan and Daniel Plowman were moving back into their apartment near Cache Creek, sweating in the 96-degree midday sun on Sunday.
The couple had hastily packed up and left Friday, when flames from the Rocky fire were visible on a not-so-distant hillside. Ashes were floating down like snow.
“It was pretty scary,” Regan said.
Although the road, sidewalk and landscaping in front of their apartment complex was stained with pink retardant, it was from a much smaller fire that started nearby on July 26. Flames in the trees rose higher than the three-story apartment building, and the electricity meter covers were partly melted.
City firefighters made quick work of that blaze. Five days later, the couple evacuated in the face of the Rocky fire.
“It’s been a crazy week,” Regan said.