Mario Hernandez: Surviving the fire

We are used to watching the news and somewhere in California there is a wildfire destroying nature and people's homes. In 30 years I have lived in the Los Angeles area I have never experienced this first hand. I've have been a victim of earthquakes but this was my first as a fire victim.

We first heard about the fires earlier in the week and the night of November 8th we knew the fires were escalating, but they were nowhere near our neighborhood. All this changed when we went to bed Thursday night and we noticed winds were pretty strong to the point that they would make loud and weird noises as they blew through trees and roof of our place.

We went to bed without a single concern. At 3:30 am. the morning of Friday November 9th, we woke up to loud screams and knocks on our door by the Fire Department. As I opened the door still half asleep, they told me we had 15 min minutes to get out and to head to the nearest shelter in place. They had to repeat this information about 3 times as I was still in disbelief and completely confused. As I looked out our door, this was the image I saw:

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You probably can't tell from the picture but that fire is only feets away from our house. That is the same hills I hike on and now they are completely burned.

It gets worse

My wife and I got the kids ready and were only able to pick up passports and personal documents. We didn't have enough time to grab anything else except change cloths to something more practical for the weather.

We arrived at the shelter in place at around 4:00 am. and it was packed with people and pets. We also had a pet of our own. After registering we sit there for a while waiting to hear news but nothing was coming in. At around 5:00 am. we decided it would be best to leave to my parent's house, about 28 miles away. As we are ready to leave we see one of our neighbor who proceeds to give us the worst news of the morning. He informed us our building complex has been completely burned and our house is gone. We didn't know how to respond or react to these news. The thought that we no longer had a house was unreal. I recall telling my wife I didn't believe it but I had no way to prove it. I was probably in denial or perhaps hoping it wasn't true.

As we leave the shelter in place at around 5:30 am., my wife asked me to drive by our house to see for ourselves what it looked like. To our surprise, there was zero damage to our building or buildings in our neighborhood. I was both relieved and extremely upset at my neighbor for giving us such as bad and inaccurate information. I hope I can put this behind us, but for now I am still bothered by this.

The fire stopped short of our place and we could not be more fortunate. I was relieved and felt like we had made it through the worst when we saw our place still standing.

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Then it gets better

While at the shelter in place, I notified several people at my job,, that I was being evacuated and would not be able to work that day. The response from everyone was unbelievable. Mediacurrent's partner Paul Chason responded within seconds of my email to let me know that they were behind us and to let him know of anything we needed. This was the same message I received from many colleagues and friends. I have always felt fortunate to be part of a great team like Mediacurrent's, but they go above and beyond to support their employees. This is not the first time they have shown me this kind of support. The first time was when my wife was diagnosed with Chronic Kidney disease and Mediacurrent's response was unbelievable.

As other friends in social media learned about our situation, the flood of support was so great and it gave us strength and hope that we were going to be okay.

As we started communicating with other neighbors we began to feel more confident that we would be able to return home soon.

We came back home on Friday evening to pick up some stuff, including my wife's dialysis machine, which she uses every night as treatment for her chronic kidney disease, and also to clean up and change cloths. Things by then looked pretty normal in our neighborhood but the air quality was still pretty bad so we decided to go back to my parent one more night. On Saturday evening we returned home for good and began the cleaning process which was not as bad as it could had been.

In closing

I hope we never have to go through something like this again, and really hope our friends and family never have to go through this, but having the support of our family, friends and coworkers made this horrible experience more manageable. We want to thank our family for always being there, and for providing a place to stay during this emergency. Our Mediacurrent family for showing us that we are more than coworkers, we care for each other. Thank you to our friends who would continuously check on us and offer help. Finally, our deepest and most special thanks to the everyday heroes who risk their lives to help others; first responders, fire fighters and law enforcements who worked and continue working tirelessly to protect us.

Thank you - The Hernandezes. 🙏 ❤️