Williams Lake Fire evacuee learns firefighters saved her home: ‘I was so overwhelmed with gratitude and gratitude’ | New

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CHENEY, Wash. — Monica Brandner was in Cheney when the Williams Lake fire broke out earlier this week and received a phone call from her daughter.

“She was like, ‘Mom, you had two sheriffs come to your door, and the last one said you have 15 minutes to evacuate (’cause) there’s a fire,'” Monica recalled saying her daughter, before telling her she’d be home in 10 minutes.

“Mom, maybe we don’t have 10 minutes,” her daughter replied. “What do you want me to take?”

With a fire fast approaching, how do you decide what to take? For Monica, the decision was easy, as she and her husband had prepared for something like this after a wildfire two years ago in nearby Badger Lake.

Monica told her daughter to take sentimental and irreplaceable keepsakes, like wedding rings, an original wedding photo, and personalized Alaskan artwork.

“That’s it?” Monica remembers her daughter asking.

“That’s it,” Monica told him. “We talked about it, your dad and I, and at the end of the day, our lives are what matter most in our family. Nothing else matters in the end.”

For the next 24 to 36 hours, Monica was at a nearby hotel, unsure if her house was still standing. She tried several times to come back but was told it was still too dangerous. However, if her house was missing, it was something she was at peace with, after discussing the potential scenario with her husband.

Then Monica received a text message from a neighbor who decided to stay. It was a photo of his house. Still awake.

“For me, that moment when I saw him still standing, all I could do was cry,” Monica said. “I was so overwhelmed with recognition and gratitude.”

The Williams Lake fire continues to burn, but Monica’s house remains standing thanks to the selfless courage and determination of the firefighters standing guard at her home.

“For the past two days, there have literally been firefighters and their truck in our driveway to protect our property, just because of the winds,” Monica said.

And as firefighters protect her home, Monica also has a message of gratitude to her neighbors who chose to stay and fend off the flames from their homes, while tending to Monica’s as well.

“Some of them came down to my house, they watered my plants. So thanks to my neighbors, if you hear that!” Monica smiled, before offering a message to anyone likely to watch the flames approach their home during this or any other wildfire season: prepare now.

“I think preparation is key because then we’re better able to deal with the trauma and the unknown much better,” Monica explained.

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