Jeff Hall: My name is Jeffrey Hall and I live in Spicewood at 525 Nomad Drive.
KUT News: Okay and Jeffrey, what do you do for a living? I don’t know anything about you.
Hall: I sell high-tech equipment. I sell emulation technology, so it’s a product that helps developers of integrated circuits to test the design before it comes – before it goes to silicon and also to develop the software that will be used on that silicon early. So, before the chip actually comes back, they can develop silicon early.
KUT News: So have you been working for a company in Spicewood or –
Hall: No, I work for a company called Emulation Verification Engineering – EVE for short – and the company is headquartered in France, near Paris, and my – the U.S. office is in San Jose. So, I just cover the central territory. There’s quite a bit of the high-tech development and high-tech companies in Austin. So, primarily Austin, Dallas, Houston and then there’s a bit here and there throughout the central part of the country.
KUT News: And have you been doing this for many years?
Hall: Yes. Yes, I’ve been in the same industry for quite a long time. Yeah, probably – I’ve been in the high-tech sales area since 1980, I guess, so I’d call that a long time.
KUT News: And Jeff, do you have a family?
Hall: Yes. Yes, I have a wife, Lori, and four children and three grandchildren.
KUT News: Wow, so where…
Hall: Keeps – keeps us busy.
KUT News: I’m sure. Actually, I’m one of four as well.
Hall: Are you really?
KUT News: Yeah.
Hall: That’s great.
KUT News: So are they all grown or…
Hall: Yes, my youngest, Brett, is 24. He’s out in the Vail, Colorado area. I have twin daughters, Leigh and Kyle, that are 28 – just turned 28. Leigh’s in Pennsylvania and Kyle just moved to Colorado Springs Sunday and my oldest son, Ryan, lives in Houston or kind of in the south of Houston, Missouri City and he’s got three kids. He’s got twins as well that are three and then an almost seven-year-old.
KUT News: So you don’t look like – old enough to be a grandfather.
KUT News: May I ask how old you are?
Hall: Yeah, I’m 56. I’ll be 57 pretty soon in August.
KUT News: So, were any of your kids during that weekend or…
Hall: No, not that weekend, they weren’t.
KUT News: So, right now, you live out in Spicewood with your wife?
Hall: Yes. Yes.
KUT News: Okay.
Hall: Yes, when my – when my youngest graduated from high school, we wanted to get out of the kind of the suburbia and we’ve always loved to boat and water ski, so we found a house on the Pedernales River, which not too long later became a ditch, with the drought and, you know, subsequent fires because of such a bad drought this past year, but yes, we’ve – we – we love it out there and got the opportunity to move when, you know, when our kids finally all graduated, but it’s a great place to live because they can come back and we’ve got a boat dock and a boat and when the river’s up, it’s awesome. It’s awesome when it’s not up. So, it’s a great place.
KUT News: So, the weekend of the fire.
KUT News: Is that something that you still think about?
Hall: Sure, it – it was bizarre really. So, sure and every time I drive in and out of my neighborhood, I can see the charred trees and the ruins of some of the houses and a lot of the work that’s been done since to clean up and to rebuild. So, it’s a constant reminder of, you know, that weekend.
KUT News: So, I’m going to take us back to that weekend. It was Labor Day weekend.
KUT News: And it was a Sunday morning, I believe.
KUT News: Afternoon?
KUT News: So, yeah, so this is my question then. Is – is your first moment of – sort of take me back to that morning, where were you, what happened and how did it sort of progress.
Hall: Okay, my – my wife’s good family friend came out to our house and we were going to go to a concert at – on 71. There’s a potter out there. I don’t know if – Susie Fowler is a potter and she has a lot of property on the Pedernales River on the other side of 71 from where our community is. And so, the Opdahls, Chris and Debbie, and Lori and I and Cheryl Meyers who is an old high school – you know, a friend – our kids were friends in high school with her kids. She came out to visit us and we went out to Susie’s house to see a concert. And she has kind of small, intimate concerts at her house where she’ll bring, you know, pretty well-named musicians and then we sit around, have a good time, people bring a dish and we’ll drink some beer, eat some food and have a great time.
My twin daughters, at the time, were climbing Kilimanjaro and so I got a phone call while the concert was just about to start inside, so I stepped outside to take it and started talk to my daughter, Kyle, and she has completed her first day of the trek up Kilimanjaro and as I was speaking to her, I smelled smoke really strong and we were concerned about it anyway because it was so dry and we live back where there’s really on one way in and out. So, we’d actually talked about it maybe a few weeks before saying, “You know, if there’s a fire here, which seems pretty possible with everything so dry,” that it would be very difficult to – to get out and so I – I called my neighbor, Chris, and I said, “Chris, let’s go check it out.” So, we left and went and we went past our street to where we saw the smoke and went up to Barton Creek Lakeside and we saw the flames coming and the wind was strong. You know, it was gusting up to 40 miles an hour, I believe, and so, it was heading in the direction of our neighborhood.
So, we went home and we called our wives to come home and started to – I started to take pictures of every room in my house and then the police came and said, “You need to get out,” and by the time my wife got – got there, I collected my computers and my guitars and left. That was it. My dog, put him in a kennel and we got out of there and by the time we got to the end of our street, Red Brangus, the flames were already – already up to the street and we got out of the neighborhood and my wife called me and said she saw Chris on his roof and that she found out he wasn’t’ going to leave. So, we were pretty upset about that. But – so that’s how – that’s my first memory of that, of the events that led up the actual fire.
KUT News: So, when you said that – is this Chris Opdahl?
KUT News: Okay, so when you said that you found out about that and you were pretty upset, can you tell me what that was like?
Hall: Yes. When – when I thought about the potential of a fire with all the, you know, the cedar trees and they were so dry, my – my vision of what a fire would be like was just spontaneous combustion, the whole neighborhood just exploding because it just seemed – you know, I’ve burned cedars before and they just explode. So, I thought if a fire came into our neighborhood, we just had to get out and everything would, you know, just be gone. So, when I found out Chris was still there, I thought – I thought he was crazy. You know, I thought this is – “That’s just suicide.” And so, we – we left and well met at Pootie’s and kind of regrouped there. Several of the – of the neighbors were at Pootie’s and then we decided to go back across to the other side of the river and we ended up at – there’s a boat launch that’s just across the river from my house and where we could see everything that was happening. And Debbie, who’s – you know, Chris’ wife, Debbie, was in contact with Chris from time-to-time, whenever he could answer his phone and, you know, telling us he was okay, but he was running around trying to, you know, put fires out with shovels and stomp on them because there was no water. You know, the – the fire took out all the electricity. Our neighborhood is – it has community wells and so the electricity was gone, so there was no pumps to bring the water, you know, out, so Chris really didn’t have anything to fight the fires with and so we went to the other side of the river and were watching what was going on. It was just – it was surreal.
KUT News: That’s what I was going to ask. So, you were watching what was going on. What did you see?
Hall: Well, across the river I could see my house on the – on the river and I could see huge amounts of smoke around it, behind it. I thought for sure it was going to burn down. Across to – to my right, we have several friends in that neighborhood, which is a neighborhood that, you know, is right along the river and then there’s kind of a little inlet and then our neighborhood and that neighborhood was engulfed. It was – there were fires everywhere. It looked like the whole neighborhood was just gone and, you know, house after house was burning. A friend of mine, and the Opdahls, he was in California at the time and he called me and he said, “Do you know what’s going on?” and I was looking at his house and, “Well, your house is still there,” but I didn’t’ really want to say much. I didn’t think there was a whole lot of hope, you know, that his house would – would make it through. I felt the same way about mine. I thought everything’s gone, you know, and my – my concern at the time was, “What,” you know, “how’s –how’s Chris going to get out of there?” but the more I looked at it, I realized that it wasn’t just going to be spontaneous combustion and that there was a way to, you know, to escape. So, that – that made me feel a whole lot better. Your mind’s eye when you – when you think of a fire like that, it – it just imagines the worst and then you really see what happens. It was pretty bad, but I thought it would just be like, boom.
KUT News: So – so what was it like if it wasn’t? Because I would think the same thing.
KUT News: I mean, so it was like gradually kind of – what was it?
Hall: It’s hard to – it’s hard to imagine what fire does because it – it’s not really predictable. It jumps from place to place. It burns – you would think it would just take a very organized route and take everything down for the most part, in the path of the strong wind, it did that. All down Red Brangus, the wind was very strong in that direction. I don’t think anything survived, but the wind would occasionally turn and it – it took out houses that were, you know, in my neighborhood, just kind of selectively. It would come along and grab one here and then go, you know, maybe six houses down and grab one here which didn’t make a whole lot of sense and for days later, trees would just start on fire. You know, where you wouldn’t see a lot of other trees burning and then a tree would just catch, which was kind of strange and right up until – this was on Sunday, we were putting out trees until Wednesday. They kept just catching on fire which was pretty strange. But the fire did take the path of the wind and took everything out there and it continued across the street and actually, Susie Fowler’s house burned down, the house where we, you know, where we were, which was, you know, farther along the path of the fire from my house. But, you know, we – we were lucky that our house – it didn’t turn and come across the, you know the river at – at that little inlet and continue up the bank.
KUT News: So, you’re seeing this fire sort of go every which way and decide whichever house to take and what does that feel like to watch that happen?
Hall: I was – I was just trying to get my head wrapped around the fact that it’s just stuff. You know, I was like, “Okay, my house is going to burn down. It’s just stuff.” It – you know, it can be replaced. It – you know, we can get out. We’re – we’re okay and it’s stuff. So, I – I was wrapping my head around that and not too panicked. I was really concerned about Chris being over there by himself and – and that was – that was bugging me. You know, I was just like, “This is crazy.” So, the – it’s – it’s scary to watch your stuff go and you don’t want to think about it too much at the time and you’re seeing some of your friend’s houses just burn down. So, you know, you’re in the midst of this. So, it’s hard to wrap your head around it, but on the other hand, again, it’s stuff. It’s not people. People weren’t going to, you know, to die in this as far as I knew as long as Chris could get out of there.
KUT News: I was just about to say. I mean…
Hall: But, you know, from time to time, you would hear a propane tank just go, psss, pow and, you know, go way up in the sky and the tops of trees would catch on fire and so that, you know, that’s pretty crazy. You don’t know where they’re going to end up. So, that – that part was – was very scary watching it from where we were watching it and also seeing the house, having hope that it’s not going to burn down and then see, you know, a lot of smoke all around it thinking, “Uh-oh, I think it’s on fire,” or “Uh-oh, Chris’s house is on fire,” and that is – that kind of feeling is – is pretty scary.
KUT News: So, can you tell me how – when did it occur to you that you also want to go help to fight the fires?
Hall: I started to look at the escape route, the direction of the wind, the fact that there was no river left, and that I could get out if, you know, if I needed to get out, if the whole thing went completely, you know, just – did just blow up, that we could get out. At that point in time, I said to my wife, “I’m going.” You know, I – I couldn’t stay anymore. I was – it was driving me crazy to stay there, so I was just like, “I’m going.” So, at that point, I think she – she felt the same way. You know, I think she was afraid to have me over there because you never really know what’s going to happen, but on the other hand, I think we all felt the same is that Chris is over there doing whatever he could do and we’re standing here watching it and at a certain point in time, just like, “I can’t deal with this anymore. I need to go.” So – and it had been I don’t know how long, you know, probably – it may have been three hours that I wasn’t there, you know, three hours that I was away. I’m not sure. Time just kind of got away from me, but it was quite a while that he was over there by himself doing whatever he could do.
KUT News: May I ask how well did you know Chris at the time or how well do you know him?
Hall: Well, we’ve lived there for, I guess, five years. They’re – there are neighbors that live two house down and have been, I would say, most like family since within, you know, a few months of when we moved in there. So, how well do I know him? I mean, he’s like a, you know, very well – very well.
KUT News: So, you decided, “Okay, I’m going to go,” and – and what happens from there?
Hall: Ron McDonald – McDonald came over with me. We were staying at their house at that time. Their house is directly across the river from my house. So, I can watch my house from there and so I said, “Come on, let’s go,” and – and he came over with me and Matt, who also lives in our neighborhood, I think you talked to – to Matt as well.
KUT News: What’s his last name?
Hall: What is Matt’s last name? You would ask me. Of course, I know until – until you ask me. I’ll have to give it to you in a minute.
KUT News: He does sound familiar.
Hall: Yeah, but Matt had gone over, you know, just probably maybe 15 minutes earlier. So, we got over there and found Chris and then I – we – we grabbed some – some pails and I guess, golf carts and pick up truck and got water out of a hot tub. Our neighbor’s house, Randy Newhart, who is on the end of my street, his deck was on fire and he’s – he’s right at where the – there’s an inlet to the river that the water had jumped – or the – the fire had jumped and it got his boat dock, then it got his shed, then it got his pump house and his deck was on fire and if his house had burned down, I think the rest of the houses on the riverbank would have been in big trouble like my house and Chris’s house. So, we kept grabbing water and trying to put that – that deck out and his deck is very high, so the supports for the deck are probably, in some – some cases, maybe 20 feet high and there’s kind of a steep embankment or cliff that goes off the back of his house and then down to the – to the river. And I remember Chris saying to me as we were out there and, you know, by now it’s dark out and the trees are all on fire and the trees are falling down and Chris just stops and he goes, “This is really something.” It reminded me of the movie, Bambi, you know, when my kids were little watching Bambi running through the forest. It was just crazy.
You know, fire everywhere and it was very hot and the trees directly above the deck were on fire and the trees below the deck and the deck itself and we kept bringing, you know, five gallon buckets of water and shovels and trying to get – get things put out and I had a saw in my garage, you know, one of the long-handled saws and I was trying to saw off a branch that was on fire above his deck and it was just – it was surreal because it was – it was just, you know, a few of us on his deck trying to put it out and then we’d take off and go get more water. And, at the same time, Randy Newhart house is directly across the street from the hot tub and that was completely on fire and his neighbor, we were putting out the flames that were coming over to his neighbor’s house. We moved his boat, we moved the gas tank. We moved propane tanks to try to keep that house from burning down. Then, Matt’s house, everything around Matt’s house was on fire. His neighbor’s house burned down and we’d go back to Matt’s house and put out trees and put out, you know, logs in the back of his house that were on fire and so we just kept making the rounds wherever a house was in danger of catching because that was out of the direct flow of the wind.
If it was in a direct, you know, if the wind was direct hit, it would go, but the wind would turn every once in a while and if we could keep that flame from – from hitting those houses, we could, you know, keep some fire from happening, I think. So, I think that’s what we were able to go is just kind of, you know, keep – keep from getting worse.
KUT News: So, I’m gong to ask you to – to describe to me like when you first get there, first of all, isn’t it like super hot and like – I mean, is there fire everywhere and how do you know where to get the water from? Like, I mean, how does that work exactly?
Hall: Yeah, Chris had been there for, like I said, three hours and he’d – you know, he’d tried to stop the fire from hitting Randy’s house, but again, he didn’t even have the water at that time. He was using a shovel and the fire came from behind the house and got his garage and it just – there was nothing that – that he could do, but by the time that he’d gone through all that, I think he’d been through that thought process of, “Okay, there’s at least some water over here. Let’s use that.” We have a hot tub but I’d emptied because, you know, it was so hot in the summertime and we really weren’t using the water, so we just emptied it. So, we didn’t have any water in their hot tub. Luckily, they did in theirs. So, I think, you know, Chris came up with the idea of, “Let’s use the hot tub,” which was great because it – it did give us a pretty good source of water for the – the number of people that were doing this and at the time it was basically Chris and Ron and Matt and I. So, the four of us – with four of us running around, you know, we could – we could take enough water, run over there and just try to do whatever we could do with five gallon buckets of water. It’s hot when you get close, yeah. The clothes I had on that night have all burn holes in them. The shorts have burn holes, the shirt had burn holes.
KUT News: I was going to ask, what were you wearing?
Hall: I just had a pair of shorts and a t-shirt on and, yeah, they all were burned. So, it was hot. You don’t – I guess you don’t think about that so much other than back there on the deck where the woods were on fire, it was pretty hot. I know that at one point I had a five gallon bucket of water and I was standing on the side of the deck on a very steep incline where it – it went down for maybe five feet then dropped probably 15 and below was – there was a big tree on fire. So, I had the bucket trying to pour down on that tree that was burning and I started to slide. I thought, “Uh-oh.” There was nothing to hold onto. It was just like I’m going and all of a sudden Matt grabbed me by the belt buckle and pulled me back and like, “Whoo, good catch, dude.” You know, I thought that would have been – that wouldn’t have been good. But, you know, it was pretty exciting, but you don’t think about that at the time. You’re just trying to, “Okay, let’s get the water on the fire,” get back, get some more water, keep this guy’s deck from going up so his house doesn’t go up and, you know, a little bit selfish because if his house goes, I’m pretty sure mine’s going. So, at that time, it looked like the – the fire had really raged through already and things were still on fire, but we could do something about it where when it’s, you know, just going straight in the path of the wind. It’s kind of hopeless, I think.
KUT News: So, it’s interesting because I can – I can see – I don’t know how much you’ve thought about this in detail, but at this point, you know, when you tell these stories, you’re kind of like laughing…
KUT News: At it, but I’m wondering, at the time, it must have been kind of scary.
Hall: Well, when I think back at the time, we – even though – what was happening was happening and we were doing everything we could do, but I don’t think we were scared. You know, I don’t think we were scared. I don’t remember feeling scared except for that one moment when I started to fall, but other than that, I didn’t feel scared because you could stay out of the way and we were just more thinking, “What should we do? What can we do to kind of keep things – keep things at bay the best we can at this point?” You know, “Let’s – let’s make sure we – we keep as many houses from going up as possible,” and by the time I got there, no more additional houses caught on fire and I think that, you know, I think Chris probably kept most of the neighborhood from, you know, just going away, but I – I do think that at that time, we really weren’t scared and although you – you kind of feel like, you know, you feel – I don’t know – I don’t know how to put it with the – it’s just surreal. It’s just very – a strange feeling when – when your neighbor’s houses are burning down and there’s potential that, you know, more houses will burn down and you’re there with four people and no fire department. It’s just how much can we really do with no water, you know. So, it’s a little bit – you feel a little bit hopeless knowing you’re doing the best you can do with what you’ve got, but really, four people and a hot tub doesn’t do a lot for a major fire. You know, it’s not a whole lot you can do.
KUT News: So, you guys would just keep going back to that hot tub to get water?
Hall: Yes, we kept going back to the hot tub. That was our source of water at the time and, you know, we would – we would get probably, you know, four or five – for or five five-gallon buckets each trip and then just go back to the different areas where there were fires still happening that could spread and try and control them.
KUT News: And did this hot tub eventually run out of water?
Hall: No, it continued to – I mean, it kept getting lower and lower, but we didn’t – the hot tub probably had 500 gallons of water. So, you know, what’s that? A hundred buckets and we didn’t use a hundred buckets that night. So, it continued to have water. Through the next day, we were able to get some of the water and then, I think, by – probably by Tuesday, we got the water back. So, it was – it was very helpful, to get that water and I think by about five a.m., I think – we saw the first fire truck come in and that could be totally wrong. It could have been earlier. I do know we’d been doing this for a quite a while and all the resources as far as the fire departments were completely tied up in the next neighborhood because they were a lot worse than we were, so…
KUT News: The next neighborhood being?
Hall: The – it’s – the neighborhood that – that first caught on fire across the river from where we were watching the fire in the first place. So, you know, that neighborhood is – in fact, I do have some pictures that kind of show you that better, but the – the river comes along like this and my neighborhood is here and the neighborhood that caught is here and then there was an inlet that is between, you know, the edge of this neighborhood and where Randy’s house where the deck was on fire and then our neighborhood kind of goes off in that direction and Red Brangus, you know, is back there, so the wind was heading back toward 71 and just cut through Red Brangus and took all of those houses out.
KUT News: So, how long were you guys at this?
Hall: I think – I think I left and went back to Ron and Leigh’s house, across the river where we stayed for a few days, I think that I – I went back there sometime around, you know, five a.m. Again, I’m not sure. It could be – it could’ve been 3:30. It could have been six. I don’t know. It was still dark and by that time, Randy, the homeowner and his son, had come back over. I think they got over there at like one a.m. and were helping us with – with the deck and I remember his son drove us back across the river in one of those, you know, four-wheel things. It was still dark, but…
KUT News: How was he able to drive you out in the middle of the fire?
Hall: Well, by now the fire was – you know, there were – there were a few trees on fire and there were – the majority of the fire had gone, but there were, you know, for instances, deck would still pop up. The woods would have trees that were smoldering and then would catch again. That happened, you know, for the next three or four days. So we continued as – as a neighborhood to just keep putting the fires out, driving around trying to find the fires, the trees that were still on fire, we put them out so it wouldn’t continue, although most of the fuel had burned from the original fire, but he took us down the road, down the boat ramp and then across the river because the river was dry.
KUT News: I see. So, I know your – I know your sense of time with all of this is a little bit vague…
KUT News: Because, obviously, you were so – but do you have any sense of how many hours you guys were at this for?
Hall: I would imagine that I probably went – went over there at, you know, maybe seven at night and probably came back somewhere between three and five in the morning. So, the first night and I think that’s about how long I was over there. Again, that could be wrong. I don’t really remember. I didn’t really keep track as far as I know.
KUT News: Sorry, I just want to make sure this is still going. Yes it is. So, you came back at five and you left at what time?
Hall: I’m thinking I went over there at 7 or 7:30. By the time we got out of the neighborhood, I’m not sure if maybe it was three. I really don’t know. I’m thinking the concert probably started around one or two and by the time we got back home and got out, it could have been three or four and then I went to Pootie’s, went back to the other side, watched the fire for a while, went to Ron and Leigh’s and then decided to go. So, I’m thinking it was probably 7 or 7:30 by the time I went back across. Then I remember when I first took a picture on my cell phone of Randy’s house, it was dark. So, I don’t know what time it gets dark Labor Day, but, you know, probably at least 8 or 8:30, right?
KUT News: Mm-hm.
Hall: Maybe nine, so you know, I may have been there for a while by the time I took the picture. I don’t remember, but it was dark by then. So, it couldn’t have been – I’m thinking I went over at 7 or 7:30 and left probably between 3:30 and 5.
KUT News: So, how many hours is that? So, eight to nine, nine to ten, ten to eleven, eleven to twelve, one, two, three.
Hall: Yeah, so between like eight and ten hours probably.
KUT News: So you’re sitting in that truck when his – his son is driving you back.
Hall: Oh, it wasn’t really a truck. It was one of those little, you know, mule-type things and, yeah, I was sitting in the front seat and Matt was sitting in like the little dumpster part on the back.
KUT News: And are you covered in – what do you look like? I mean…
Hall: Oh, I was a mess. We were both a mess. We were both just completely covered with ash and, you know, burn holes and it was very, very caustic on our eyes and in our lungs because we were breathing that. There was smoke everywhere and we’re breathing it in and it – I tried to wear a mask, but it was – it was a lot of work. You know, I’d be breathing very heavy and I couldn’t breathe through the – through the mask. I just couldn’t get enough oxygen. So, yeah, my chest was hurting. It hurt a lot and my eyes hurt. It was – it was – there was smoke everywhere. So, it was not a – they weren’t great conditions and it felt pretty disgusting.
KUT News: I’m sure.
Hall: Yeah. I remember we were – and we were exhausted, too, you know. We were very tired and I said, okay – I don’t think we slept much because I still thought that my house could burn down, you know, and I remember waking up several times. I could look out the window of the bedroom that Lori and I were sleeping in and I could still see my house. I’m like, “Yeah, it’s still there.” Wake up in the morning, “Yay, it’s still there.” So it was nice to be able to just – to be in a safe place and then actually be able to look directly at my house. I’m like, “Yay, I can still see it.” So, that was interesting.
KUT News: So, during that time, before you went back, when like you know your eyes are stinging and your chest is hurting, I’m just trying to like depict it for myself. It never occurs to you like, “Maybe this is not such a good idea. Maybe I should get out of here.”
Hall: Yeah, I guess. I didn’t really think about that. I mean, the one time that I did think, “Wow, this is crazy.” That would have been bad, but the rest of the time I thought, “Well, if we can keep Randy’s house from burning down, that’s going to be a – that’s a big deal. If we can keep, you know, any of these other houses from burning down, that’s a pretty big deal.” So, you know, it’s – I thought that what we were doing was – was worth the risk and that I thought the risk was, as long as we were careful, that the risk wasn’t that great. So, you know, it wasn’t – it – we would take calculated risks, I guess, but I don’t think that – that it was so dangerous that, you know, we had like a, you know, even a – even a 20% chance of really getting injured because we were, you know, kind of staying clear of it. Now, long term, from the – from the smoke may be worse, but yeah, I don’t – I don’t imagine it was a smart thing to do from the standpoint of, you know, of your – your health risk, but on the other hand, if you can keep a few houses from burning down, that’s probably a good trade off. I think that’s how we justified it anyway.
KUT News: And your wife, when she saw you…
Hall: I’m pretty sure they were nervous when we were over there because you don’t have the – you don’t really know what’s going on and when you hear a propane take explode, you know, they would think, “Oh, no, were they close to that?” or, you know, they would see flames somewhere and they’d be, “I hope they’re okay,” but – and then she would call me every once in a while and say, “I think it’s time for you to come home,” and it’d be, “Honey, we’re okay. Everything’s okay. We’re – everybody’s fine and we’re just, you know, we’re continuing to put the fires out.” Having cell phones is great, you know. So that was a way, at least, they could keep in contact and know that none of us were hurt or in trouble.
KUT News: How many of there were you?
Hall: Most of the time it was – it was – there was Ron and Matt and Chris and I. I think Ron went back home and Matt and Chris and I were there for quite a while and then probably around, I’m thinking 12:30 or one in the morning, Randy and his son came and then there was – there was some people that would just drive into the neighborhood kind of randomly and be around and then take off and go somewhere else. I don’t even remember who they were. You know, it was just kind of a blur as we were trying to keep going back and forth and make sure we were being a little bit useful. So, between three and six or seven of us.
KUT News: Did it ever occur to you that you were supposed to be evacuated?
Hall: Oh, we were evacuated and we knew that. But we were evacuated and then there was no one there to see if our houses – you know, to put our houses out and when I was first evacuated I said, “Okay, those are rules. We’d better follow the rules.” I don’t advocate doing this. You know, I think that – sure it’s dangerous and you don’t want people to run back into the neighborhood and try to be a hero. It’s a stupid thing. On the other hand, I couldn’t sit there, first of all, know that Chris was over there by himself and not go, at least to – I mean, I thought maybe I’d go over there and try to talk him out of staying there which, knowing Chris, I mean, he’s like the father of the neighborhood. He’s been there for, you know, probably 25 years and built his house and so the neighborhood kind of belongs to Chris and Debbie. You know, it doesn’t really belong to them, but they go around and pick up trash and it’s like their backyard. You know, so he wasn’t leaving and so I thought, “Well, we can go over there and help and then make sure that he’s okay and whatever we can do, we can do.” And as we got over there, I honestly believed that we probably kept, you know, at least one house from burning down and so, that’s something. Would I – would I advocate doing it? No, you shouldn’t do it. It’s not a good idea. You could get killed. You don’t know what’s going to happen. You don’t know what you’re going to run into and if I went over there ten times, maybe once I would have got hurt. I don’t know, but in the situation that we were in, I felt like, you know, this is something I should do. So…
KUT News: So, you had mentioned that you were using water from the hot tub.
KUT News: What other types of things were you guys doing to put out the fires?
Hall: Shovels, you know, with dirt and that’s about it. That’s what we had was shovels and water from the hot tub. We had a few fire extinguishers, but they were gone in no time. It was funny that the deck kept catching back on fire in the same place where it, you know, originally started. So, right at the bottom of the post, it just kept, you know, catching on fire. We’d try to put it out with water, put dirt on it and then it would start again. So, that kind of seemed to be the way it was. Fire would get a hold of something and it’d be difficult to put out, but that’s all we had, shovels and water from the hot tub.
KUT News: And did you ever wonder, “Where’s the fire department?”
Hall: No, I didn’t wonder where they were. That was the perfect storm of fires that day. Anyone who had time could come and help our adjacent neighborhood, but with Steiner Ranch and Leader and Bastrop and I think a few others, I don’t think there were a whole lot of available fire, you know, fighters. I saw fire fighters that that night, I think, when they – or maybe the next morning from down near – down near the Y, down near – just, you know, Austin, all over the place, that were coming up to try to help, but it was – it was crazy that day. There was fires everywhere and so I guess with the very strong winds, I think what happened is that they would blow the power lines onto trees that were dry and it would spark and it just – they caught all over. So, there was no way – I don’t blame any fire department for not being there. It’s – you just don’t have enough people. If you have a house fire or even a couple of house fires, that’s okay, but in a situation like that, I think our – our adjacent neighborhood probably had – they probably lost 30 or 40 homes and I’m sure that took every available paid or volunteer firefighter.
KUT News: So you said that – how many homes do you think you guys were able to save between the six of you?
Hall: It’s hard to say. I mean, I don’t know for sure that any actually would have burned down, but I’m pretty sure that if we didn’t put out Randy’s deck and it’s attached to the house and so his house, I think, would have burned down. As far as, you know, what would happen from there because, you know, you get another house engulfed and then its – that’s a lot of energy and it could continue along and burn the rest of the houses on the bluff side right on the river. But, again, I don’t know if that would really happen. The house next door to Randy’s house, we did move some very flammable things like a boat with a gas tank in it. We moved propane tanks and so – and we tried to keep the fire, as it was moving toward the house, we tried to put that out continually. We put out a lot of – a lot of fires, small fires, trees next to Matt’s house. The – my neighbor’s house directly across the street from me, the – the woods all around her house were – were catching on fire and so we continued, for three days, to put those out. After the water was back, those fires were close enough to my house that I could put it out with a hundred foot garden hose. So, I was putting out – you know, trees were just – full on fire. You know, the thing would go up and go over there with a garden hose and put it out when we were still evacuated. So, you know, we’d go back over and we spent a lot of time over there because I was still concerned that my house was going to burn down especially, you know, within a hundred feet trees are going up, so did we save any houses? I couldn’t tell you for sure, but I think we did. I think we probably sold it – or saved at least one, possibly many more.
KUT News: So, you’ve sort of mentioned that you went back and you stayed with – at a friend’s house?
Hall: Yes, Ron and Leigh lived directly across the river and they had – they had a lot of people there. It was great. I mean, it was – they – they fed us, they let us shower, they – you know, we had a place to sleep and that was for a few days and some people, how lost their homes, stayed there for months, actually. So, they were – they were just God-sent. They were just great. So, we were there for – I guess, until we were not officially evacuated anymore, which I think was Thursday afternoon they had finally let us in and we had to go get passes and, you know, come in the neighborhood and show that – that we lived there because then looters come. I mean, that’s just crazy. People come and want to see what they can get, you know, from all over. There’s the looky-loos to see what the damage was, but then you have the people that come in and try to take whatever is available, which is crazy. But, so they – our neighborhood then we had people guarding and making sure that people coming in were supposed to be there.
My wife got very involved with the whole – the charity – the concert that was put on at Spicewood Vineyard. She worked on that for four days and they put together just an incredible benefit that I don’t know how many people came, but I think they raised somewhere in the neighborhood of $50,000. Again, don’t – I’m not sure that’s correct, but many, many musical groups donated their time and many different restaurants donated food and people came and paid money and there were silent auctions and it was – it was great to see the way the community would come together for the victims and for the fire departments that had to, you know, replace equipment. It’s such an incredible neighborhood. You know, Spicewood is awesome. The people have a great sense of community and to put something like that together in a matter of three or four days was – it was almost unbelievable. So, it was pretty interesting.
KUT News: Can you walk me through the days after when you sort of came back. I know you mentioned that you had to sort of show that you lived there, but also in terms of like just going back and seeing your house and it was spared, but what was that like to see it again?
Hall: Well, with our house, it was – because we’d kind of kept track of what was going on, we were really – it was smoky but we were fine. Everything was fine other than all the things we threw in a box and got rid of or took with us that took a while to get back in place, but to drive along, especially Red Brangus and seeing the properties there. You know, we’d drive in and to – we were in golf carts and we would drive into each property to try to find out what was going on, if there was anything else that we could do that might, you know, keep more damaging from happening and those – those structures were – you know, it’s heart wrenching to see someone’s house just – fire just destroys everything. It didn’t look anything like what it did, you know, before the fire. Almost looks like a bomb went off. Things are twisted and just gone. So, it’s really – and just the landscape – the landscape with the trees just black – black skeletons of what they used to be. It really reminded me of, you know, of bombs going off, you know, if it had been bombed. It was pretty ugly. It was really ugly.
KUT News: So, after seeing all that when you came and saw your house, what was that like?
Hall: Well, it was great that our house didn’t burn down. And again, I was trying to convince myself that it was only stuff, but the more you think about all the stuff that you’re going to try to replace and, you know, all of the things that you have that are important to you, it was great to have, you know, not have our house gone. My wife and I just – we just finished redoing our kitchen and I think we placed the order for all the new appliances on that Friday. I thought, great, we just bought all these new appliances and the house is going to burn down. So, they weren’t in the house yet. You know, we’d ordered them, but they – they hadn’t been delivered, but it was just – it was funny to think that we bought all that trying to fix the house up and it’s just going to burn down. But, again, it’s stuff. You know, it’s not – it’s not people, it’s not your family. Our – we did lose our dog in a fire. We – he was pretty old and starting to get – I guess he was nine years old and started to get some health issues, so we took him over to Leigh and Ron’s house in the golf cart in a kennel and he stayed over there and he was fine. Bringing him back in the kennel, somehow, I guess we hit a bump or something and he – his back got – his back got all messed up and we had to put him down probably a week later because he just couldn’t – couldn’t walk. He couldn’t do anything. He was in agony. So, it was – I don’t know how much longer he would have made it anyway because, you know his health was not good, but that was definitely the thing that – that caused the last straw, I guess.
KUT News: So, what was that like having to put him down after?
Hall: Well, it’s horrible with any – you know, any time you have a pet, I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced that, but I’ve done it a few times and it makes you not want another pet, but then you get one. But, yeah, it’s really hard to put down an animal you’ve had for nine, ten, 11 years. So, it was pretty sad.
KUT News: So, what happens next? I mean, first of all, like were you at all, you know, to see so much destruction around you, do you, at all, I wonder feel a sense of guilt when you see your own house still standing there?
Hall: I never thought about that. I mean, no. It’s – it’s nothing I could do as far as – well, except, I suppose if I didn’t help Chris and the rest of the guys put out Randy’s house, maybe my house would have burned down. Should I feel guilty about that? You know, no. I do feel bad for the people that lost their homes. I think that’s horrible and – but, no, I don’t feel a sense of guilt. I’m very happy that the houses that didn’t burn down didn’t burn down and that most of our neighborhood is okay and that most of our neighborhood, the ones that aren’t okay, are rebuilding. So, you know, I think that it was a horrible thing but, you know a sense of community really comes together in bad situations and you really see that people are, you know, they – people are great and our neighborhood is great. So, no, I don’t feel guilty. I just – I feel bad for the people that had to go through all of that.
KUT News: You said that your house suffered some smoke damage?
Hall: Yeah, I mean, there was a lot of smoke and so we had to get the ducts cleaned out and there was – but really not too bad at all considering the – most of the smoke and most of the flames just went around us. So there was a lot of smoke and, I guess, the AC was on, so it did get into the house and a lot of, you know, some black stuff would come out of the – out of the registers over the next few months, but – and the house smelled like smoke for quite a while, but I think we’re pretty much back to normal.
KUT News: And you said that you guys continued to have to put out trees and – so, can you – like, I’m trying to figure out exactly time-wise. You came back to your house, but you continued to put out fires?
Hall: No, we didn’t come tack to the house. We weren’t allowed back to the house until Thursday, I think. I think it was Thursday and the reason being is there were still flames that were – trees were catching on fire all over the place. So, there was still danger of, you know, of imminent danger of fire, but we continued to go back across the river and put trees out and because – for instance, my – my neighbor’s house could have burned down very easily three days in a row. You know, the first day – the second day we put fires out all around our house, on the side and behind – you know, a lot of cedar trees and they would just catch on fire. So, we would put water on them. We’d dig and put dirt on them and continue to kind of spread things out and try to put them out and we – we did that down in the – there’s Canopy Tours area which is along Paleface Ranch Road and the back of the property comes into where our – there’s a little piece of the river that goes back in there. So, we would drive back in there and there were trees in fire in there. So, we put those out. Just – there were trees catching all over and even though the major part of the fire went straight up along Red Brangus, where the major part of the fire hadn’t hit and if a spark went and hit the tree and one lone tree that would burn and there was still plenty of fuel around that, I think over the next few days it was important that – you know, then the whole neighborhood got into it driving around on golf carts and trying to see where there was smoke and then just going and putting it out so that the fire wouldn’t continue to burn.
KUT News: So, were you guys allowed back – were you guys allowed to be there at this point?
Hall: Not really, but Sheriff’s would come in and fire, you know, fire departments would come in – they didn’t say this, but I think they were happy to see that there was some homeowners in there trying to, you know, control what was – what was going on. No one said – no one said to me, “Get out of here.” In fact, there were a few situations where we led the firefighters to the fires and one situation their truck broke down, we put out the fire and Matt fixed their truck.
KUT News: Oh my gosh.
Hall: They drove way back into the – back into the end of the – where the water ends and it was the beginning of the Canopy Tours back there and there was a few fires. So, we had some water and some golf carts and they came back with one of those bush fighters and the bush fighter broke down and so I took my bucket and went and put the fire out and Matt got underneath the – he figured out what was wrong and kind of jerry-rigged it so they could drive it out. But, they didn’t – they didn’t give us any trouble for being there. I think maybe by Wednesday, the Sheriff’s department came and said, “You can’t be here,” which was okay. You know, we just kind of walk away and then come back. We weren’t there to cause trouble, believe me, but again, I understand evacuation is for people’s safety and I don’t, you know, I’m not condoning going against it, but I think they’re – those rules are good and they should be there and the majority of people should leave, but in this situation, a few of us going back around and trying to help keep the fires out or what we could do was – I think it was beneficial.
KUT News: So, you guys sort of helped to put out the fires the first day and then you kept going back.
KUT News: And did it ever occur to you like maybe this is dangerous?
Hall: Well, by the second day it didn’t – didn’t feel – I felt that the first night – I felt that there was some danger even though, again, not – I didn’t think – I didn’t go back there until I saw a way out. You know, I wasn’t going to walk into something where I was just going to burn up. That’d be crazy, but when I saw there was a way out, then I said, you know, “I can go over there and try to help Chris with what he’s doing and then if it’s crazy, I’ll leave.” But – and so the first night the fire was – was pretty much on us and so that was scary and there was some danger there and probably more so in smoke inhalation than anything else, but, you know, things could explode, things could break, trees could fall on us. Trees were falling. I mean, all around us it was pretty – that’s when Chris just said, “Wow, this is really something.” You know, when a tree falls down and you hear it crash. But the next few days, no, I felt like they were more isolated fires where one tree would just – just catch on fire and if you don’t put it out, then more will catch on fire and you could have – have it all over again. So, that’s why I felt it was important that we were there and people were all over the neighborhood and whenever they would see smoke, they would be on the cell phones, “Hey, there’s a fire here. Let’s go put it out.” So, that was Tuesday, Wednesday was all about that and then Wednesday, Thursday, Friday was all about trying to keep people out of the neighborhood who wanted to come and maybe, you not be there, that shouldn’t be there. That and the, you know, the benefit, so that’s kind of the order of what happened. The first night was crazy. After that it was just kind of preventative putting out fires and then it was trying to protect our neighborhood. So –
KUT News: So, you, I mean, you just described to me, at the very least, the first night, sort of being something to stop and notice because it does seem like it was kind of dangerous, but we’ve talked about it do you feel like you were brave?
KUT News: Why not?
Hall: No, I actually feel like I was somewhat of – I mean, I was calculated. I wasn’t going back. I mean, even knowing Chris was over there, I wasn’t going back until I saw a way out. So, and I struggled with this for a while because I, you know, I thought Lori would be just like, “No, way, you can’t go over there,” but as I looked at it and I said, “I can get out. I’m going,” and she was like, “Okay.” So, no, I don’t feel I was brave. I don’t feel like I, you know, ran back in there immediately and tried to, you know, put out the fires with whatever I could. It took me, like I said, probably three hours to even build up the courage to go back over there, I think. So, no, I don’t feel I was brave. I feel I was pretty much a weenie at first, you know, thinking, “Hey, we were evacuated. We’ve got to get out of here. You’re evacuated for a reason.” And if Chris didn’t stay, I probably would have never gone back. I probably would have just done what I was supposed to do, but you know, after a while, after a couple of hours, I just said, “I can’t stay here.” You know, I can’t just stay here and let him be over there by himself. So, no, I think it took me a while to build up the bravery to go. That’s probably the way it was.
KUT News: So, the reason why I think you’re brave is because it may have taken you a while to go back there, but the point is that once you went there, you were there for like eight to 10 hours under like falling trees and no water, shovels, almost falling.
KUT News: I mean, what?
Hall: Yeah, once we got over there, it was kind of cool, though. I mean, even though it was scary and it was, you know, surreal, it was, I don’t know, it was an experience. It really was an experience. Everything was dark, there was no electricity and there – but then there was fires and it was, you know, a few of us trying to do something that we could – whatever we could and it was just – it got to a point where it was kind of a feeling of, “Hey, at least we’re trying to do something.” And, so – and there was a lot of tension, but it’s worse. Really it’s worse to be on the other side of the river just hoping that your house doesn’t burn down, just hoping. That’s all you have. You have hope, right. At least we had a bucket. It’s not a lot, but at least we had a bucket, you know, and so when you are at least empowered to try to do something, it’s a lot better feeling then just watching from afar and not having any idea if or when your property’s going to go away. So, that – that’s when you start to feel better about it, you know, and again, I didn’t feel like we were in imminent danger when we went back there, although, you know, I suppose if you were filming it, you could say, “That tree right there could fall on you,” or “You could fall down there,” or “You could catch on fire.” You know, you’re right next to flame you could just, you know, but we weren’t thinking – we weren’t thinking like that at the time. I suppose later, maybe, you know, you think, “Well, that could have been dangerous,” but – but again, it is very difficult to stay from afar and watch people’s houses burn down, watch your own in potential danger and not be able to do anything about it.
KUT News: What did it sound like when you were there?
Hall: The – you could hear the fire. You could hear the – especially when we were putting out that deck because the woods were on fire all around us. So, you know what a campfire sounds like. Well, it was like a lot of crackling, a lot of breaking, a lot of, you know, falling. The wind was strong. So, that’s what I remember. I just remember the sounds of the – of the fire. You know, you could hear it. You could just hear the sounds of things burning, you know, like crackling and burning all around you and you could smell it. You could smell the heat. You could smell, you know, kind of the – the very – the smoke when it comes in how it feels sometimes. You turn your head and try to find some fresh air. So, there was all of that. You know, there was – it was fire. So, you heard it and you felt it and you smelled it.
KUT News: Did you ever feel like – I mean, I guess it was just heat on your skin?
Hall: I don’t so much remember it being very hot on, you know, more than a few occasions when we were very close. We get very close to a tree to put it out, then you’d have to back off because it was – it was too hot. It was like trying to hold your hand right close to the stove. You can’t get that close for that long. That happened, you know, when we were trying to put out the trees, we’d get right close to the trees and you’d put the water on it and then the hot steam would come up, you’d have to get away from it. So – but the only time you felt the intense heat was when you were right there because it wasn’t – it wasn’t like being in a house fire, right, where everything’s on fire in a close proximity. This was more like, there’s a tree, you, know, 30 feet that way on fire. There’s a tree down there. There’s a tree over there and then you could see trees all around, but it wasn’t like you were right, you know, a tree all around you on fire unless you went right up to the tree to put it out, which you had do to, but it – then it was hot, but you’d have to get away from it. So, but, yeah that was that heat feeling, but we weren’t trapped. We could – we could get away.
KUT News: I’m trying to go through this then. So, you went back to your house for a couple of days. You couldn’t go back in but you couldn’t go back in, but you would go back to put out some of the fires.
KUT News: When were you allowed officially back in?
Hall: I believe it was Thursday. I believe that we had to go back to the – the Methodist Church over on Bee Caves Road, show them identification, show them where we lived and they would give us a, you know, kind of a plaque to put on our car so that we could go in. I do believe that was Thursday. So, we would go back to the house. You know, I was at our house on Sunday. I have a few of these tarps on the – on the back deck, which I took down because I thought that they would catch on fire very easily. So, I think Matt and Chris and I did that about midnight on Sunday night and I went in the house to just check things out, but there was no electricity and no water, so no heat, no air conditioning. You’re not going to go back and live there, although I think Chris lived in his house the whole time.
KUT News: Goodness.
Hall: I don’t think he went.
KUT News: I have been like – I talked to Chris’ wife, I talked to his friends. Like, I just am like dying to talk to Chris but apparently he’s not very – he doesn’t really want to talk about it, I guess.
Hall: Probably not. He’s – yeah, I mean, he probably, you know, just doesn’t want to talk about it. You know, Chris – Chris doesn’t talk a lot. He just, you know, he does what he needs to do and so, yeah, it doesn’t surprise me he wouldn’t – he wouldn’t talk. I think he’s not a man of a whole lot of words. So, I don’t really know his reason why. You know, he doesn’t want to talk about it, but…
KUT News: Yeah, no, no, no. Yeah, that’s fine. I just – it would be so great to get his point of view because so many people have talked about him.
Hall: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, he still probably wouldn’t get it even if you had him sitting here, you probably wouldn’t get his point of view. He’d answer your questions and be like, yes, no, but that would be about it.
KUT News: Got it.
Hall: You know, he’s – he wouldn’t say – he wouldn’t gone on or on like I do or like, you know, maybe Debbie does or like maybe Matt would, I don’t know. We’ll talk, embellish and I don’t think Chris would. Chris will just – he kind of would say yes or no or short answers.
KUT News: So you said you went back to the house and you grabbed a few things or…
Hall: Oh, you mean before we were evacuated officially?
KUT News: No, no, no. Afterwards when they – when they let you back in. You said you went back, but there was no – you had no electricity, no water, so…
Hall: Well, that was – they let us back in on Thursday and by that time there was water and electricity. So, that’s when we officially went back. I went back in the house a few times to grab a few things when we were staying over at Ron and Leigh’s, you know, changes of clothes and whatever we needed. We could get back in the house and get what we needed. So, it wasn’t like – some people were evacuated and never came back until they could get back if their house was there and that would be tough because you leave without anything, but we didn’t – we never really had that problem. Staying where we were staying, being able to see our house, being able to go back to our house and get the stuff we needed and then go back and then have a nice shower and a nice bed and so, you know, and I think by Wednesday night we just had a crazy party over at our house because we knew it was over basically, the danger was gone and we’d spent quite a bit of time just, you know, all of the anxiety and the tension of – of going through that and we had a bunch of people back over to her house and just had a – had a great party.
KUT News: Celebrating.
Hall: Still being there, I guess, yeah. And the closeness that the neighborhood built in that couple of days, you know, of coming together, the people that, you know, you don’t really know and then all of a sudden you feel like you’ve known them for our whole life.
KUT News: Because there were a lot of people staying at the house?
Hall: Well, no, I think at first, like – like I didn’t really know Matt at all and then we’re over there for eight or 10 hours working together and it was more like I’d known him my whole life. Then, the next few days where we’re working together, putting out fires and doing whatever we were doing over the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, you build up a real strong camaraderie with the people who are in the neighborhood going through the same kind of thing. So when we went back over to Leigh and Ron’s on Wednesday and had everybody come over and just had – I think it was a spontaneous sing-a-long really and we just had a great time. So, it was, you know, the being able to relax and let down a little bit after being tense and thinking you’re going to lose your house and, you know, so but yeah you go through a lot of different emotions when – when you’re in a situation like that and when you do it – do it together, then you feel like you have a strong bond with the people you went through it with. So…
KUT News: That makes sense. Can you talk to me a little bit about, I guess, recovery?
Hall: Yeah, it’s difficult for some of the – some of the people to – they’re still rebuilding. You know, they’re not – I don’t think any of the people that were on Red Brangus are back in their homes yet. I know that some of the houses still just have a – you know, their foundation poured now. So, some are farther along than others, but it’s a long rebuilding process for those people who lost their homes. That’s going to be, you know, very difficult, very costly, you know, and they’re living in one place and trying to build in another – really, really difficult. I know, Randy’s trying to figure out what he’s going to do. He’s now living in a trailer on his property and he’s trying to, you know, organize a rebuilding on his property. Larry’s rebuilding his house. He’s living in a trailer and he’s really coming along fast rebuilding his house and pretty much doing it by himself and with volunteer help. So, there is a lot of rebuilding going on, a lot of clean up in all the areas where, you know, it got just burned up and scorched so that they’re going in and getting out the burned trees and the brush and trying to clean it up. Of course now with the, kind of the spring come, everything turned green like you’ve never seen before. I think flowers are popping up that, you know, people haven’t seen before. You know, “What kind of flower is that?” It’s just having seen these kinds of things, everything is extremely green now. I guess a fire does that, you know. But, yeah…
KUT News: It’s sort of like a new beginning.
Hall: Yeah, I think so. I think you know, the neighborhood cleaned itself out and is rebuilding. So, the people had to go through – I mean, Lori and I got back into normal life right away. What are you going to do? You have to. It’s – it was quite a while that we were kind of taken out of mainstream because of the fire, almost a week, I would say, that we didn’t do anything else. I didn’t work. I couldn’t work basically because I couldn’t really work very well from where I was and, of course, your mind’s not on it, but we did – we didn’t – we didn’t suffer much from what happened. You know, our house really didn’t get affected. Our property didn’t get affected. It could have been a whole lot worse. I did have people come in and clean out my property, you know, within a couple of weeks because I thought if the fire came along the riverside, which we call the grotto. It’s a little – you know, there’s kind of a cliff and then below my house a lot of – a lot of just trees. I’d cut trees down and had then down there that we were going to burn after the fire ban was gone. We have a fire pit down there and I thought, “If the fire gets there, it’s just going to be an inferno.” Luckily it didn’t and so I had people come in and clean all that up because that’s – that’s scary. I think a lot of people started to realize, you know, “Let’s make sure that we mitigate the potential for fire.” Our neighborhood bought a fire truck.
KUT News: I saw it.
Hall: Did you?
KUT News: Yes.
Hall: My grandson thought that was the coolest thing ever, but, you know, yeah and that might be – that might be overboard because we may not see this again ever and I hope we don’t, but you do feel a little helpless when all you have is water in a hot tub and so there’s some things that we need to do. I think we need to have generation so that we can pull water out of our wells when there’s no electricity and these are things you might think about, but then when you see a fire like that come through, you realize they’re more important that just maybe we should do this. So, I think there’s a lot of thought like that that’s going around and you really see the damage, the destruction that can happen in no time at all. Really, you’re helpless to – you just stand there and watch it.
KUT News: What I was going to ask is how do you think that this has changed the community?
Hall: Well, it – besides the structural damage of the community, I don’t think it’s changed it much at all. I would say that it’s probably shown its true colors a little more. You know, it’s not like people are saying, “Oh, this is a scary bad place because we didn’t have the fire department and –” it’s more like, “Okay, let’s – let’s fix what we can fix and everybody just got together and worked together and it’s – I would say it’s a stronger place that it was before. You know that the – I guess you know your neighbors are pretty, you know, they’re great people, they love it there and they’re going to stay there. You know, it’s an awesome neighborhood. It really is a great community – small, you know, not – it’s kind of out in the boonies, but we live on the river and it’s a great place. The people are great.
KUT News: So you, at the beginning of this conversation, I asked you if you still think about that weekend every so often and I don’t know, do you think about it or –
Hall: Well, of course, I think about it because we drive in and out and you see the fire and people come to visit and they’ll still say, “Wow, I didn’t have any idea that it looked like this.” And so, you – we do think about it and I don’t think about it everyday anymore – maybe I do when I drive in and out just briefly, but, you know, when things like that happen, you need to move on. You learn your lessons and you move on. So, I don’t dwell on it, but it’s there.
KUT News: So that’s exactly what I was going to ask you. Is – do you think you’ve learned anything about yourself from this experience?
Hall: I – I do think that it – even if my house burned down I would have been like okay with it where before that, I thought, “Oh, man, if I lost my house, that’d be horrible.” But I – I was – I kind of faced the situation right then. I think my house was going to burn down and I think Lori and I were just like, it’s stuff. You know, it’s stuff. You just replace it. I’ve had a lot of stuff in my life. I’m sure I’ll have a lot more since my kids all – all left, I’m getting rid of more and more stuff. I like having less stuff. You know, I’m like, “Yeah, it’s a great house and it’s the property in this community. We can rebuild it. We can get what we need.” So, I think what I learned about myself from that standpoint is that it’s, you know, it’s the people that matter, it’s not the stuff. There’s certain things that you don’t want to lose like the pictures and the, you know, like I said, out of all the stuff in my house, I grabbed my guitars and left.
KUT News: Why your guitars?
Hall: I don’t know. It’s – you know, just – I don’t know. hose are some things that I don’t want to replace, but the – and with the computers, you pretty much have the pictures and you have all the, you know, and we did throw some things like, you know, some of my wife’s jewelry that she got from her mother and grandmother and aunt and that kind of thing and – but otherwise, you look around – I took a picture. When I first got back to my house and Lori wasn’t there yet, I just took a picture of every room so that I could, you know, make sure that I’d be able to know what we had because that’s something we did learn. We need to make sure we’re better prepared in case it just all goes away that we would be able to know what we – know what we lost. So, that was – that was really the first thing I did, took a picture of every single room so I could kind of go through it and know what we lost and then we took both our cars, the dog, a couple computers and some of the real important paperwork, little bit of jewelry, I guess, my guitars and left. So, I think it took us 15 minutes to get out of the house and Cheryl, who is a real good friend of ours – Lori would like say, “Empty that into a box. Take a couple boxes, throw them in the truck, in the car and out you go.” So, and then when you’re leaving, you’re like I may never see any of that stuff again. It might all be gone and we were pretty sure it would be at that point and so, again, learning about myself, like that stuff’s not that important.
KUT News: Do you ever worry about it happening again?
Hall: No. I mean, it certainly could, but I don’t – I don’t really worry about it. I don’t think about it. I don’t think, you know, that the wildfires are coming back and we’ve got to – in fact, after we had the truck for a while, you know, the community had the truck and it’s sitting in my neighbor’s property, I’m thinking, “You know, that could be sitting there for the next 30 years and you’ll never use it except to maybe drive in a parade.” So, and I hope that’s the case because I don’t – these are the kinds of things that happen every once in a while. In California they happen a lot more often. I think people are more used to it there than we are, but they happen once in a while and they happen in different neighborhoods, but no, I don’t worry about it and I don’t really think it’s going to happen again. I hope the rain comes back, the river comes back and our neighborhood goes right back to normal and I think that’s what will happen.
KUT News: Do you think that you’ve changed in any way after this experience?
Hall: No, not really. No, I mean, I think that – I think I’m closer with my neighbors. So, from that standpoint, you know, a little and you know, kind of a small group. I don’t really know all of the other people that were affected, but with those of us who were involved with, you know, those first few days and getting together those – those neighbors, you know, I’m closer with them and that shared experience really binds us closer, I think, but, you know, not – I don’t think that, you know, that I’ve changed any due to that or, you know, it’s – other than the fact that we are closer with the neighbors, I think.
KUT News: So, those three or four of you that were out there at that time, you mentioned it has created a bond between.
Hall: Well, yeah, I didn’t really know Matt very well at all before that. In fact, I may not have known hit at all before that. Maybe I just met him a couple times in passing. Chris and Debbie, they’re like family to us and were before that. So, it wasn’t like, you know, anything different there, but – and Ron and Leigh, I didn’t know them at all. I really didn’t know them at all. I might – may have missed – said hello, so – and they’ve become very good friends. The rest of the people, Dave and Penny, in the neighborhood, you know, we’ve been friends with them – friendly with them. That brought us closer with them because we were with them on a more regular basis for those few days but, yeah, as far as Matt’s concerned, I didn’t know him very well and Lori introduced him to my – I’m trying to remember which – maybe my youngest son as – as her son. Brett was like, “What” and then explaining the whole situation how we went through all this stuff and the guy’s a great musician and we like, you know, we like to do sing-a-long out in the – so, he’s just a good guy and I didn’t really know him before that. So, yeah, it’s – Matt was somebody who I got to meet through the fire – through a bad experience.
KUT News: Is there anything that I didn’t ask you about that kind of sticks out about that weekend or even about recovering from the fire?
Hall: No, I don’t think so. I think you’ve covered everything as far as, you know, the – the things that any community can do in order to try to be better prepared. We do need to think about that because when those come and even if – even if we had water or fire hydrants with such an – such an outburst of fire in so many places, there still isn’t people to use them, you know, and really that’s – I think that’s why the – the neighbors went and bought a fire truck because even if you have water, you don’t have enough people to come and – with equipment to use it. So, I think that that is an issue when you get a wildfire, you know, multiple wildfires and I hop that is an odd situation because if you have just a wildfire in one place, then you can take care of it. You know, but when it’s all over and just so widespread that you – there’s nowhere near enough resources to take are of the issue, then it’s like each neighborhood is on their own to do it. So, that – and I don’t know if there’s anything you can get from that anyway. A little rural neighborhood like ours, it’s pretty difficult to be prepared for that, but we can – we can try, I guess.
KUT News: You certainly did.
Hall: Well, like I said, we weren’t prepared. We were out there doing whatever we could do, but whatever little we could which, with a five gallon bucket of water, is pretty little. You know, there’s not a whole lot – not a whole lot you can do. If the fire was coming right at us, if the wind was coming right at us, we couldn’t do anything about it. You know, again, we were just trying to be on the periphery and try to keep it from spreading and so that’s all you can do with a five-gallon bucket of water. It doesn’t do a whole lot. A shovel and a bucket of water doesn’t do a whole lot. So, it’s – you do need some pretty heavy-duty firefighting equipment to put – to put a house out once something gets going like that. You’re not going to put it out unless you have some equipment to put it out with. So, hopefully – hopefully it won’t happen again where we don’t have the resources to have firefighting equipment putting out – putting out the fire, but in that situation, there was – there wasn’t much you could do and if it happened again, you know, we’ve got a fire truck in our neighborhood. People aren’t going to go out and buy fire trucks. If you look at this in the broad scope of things, a fire truck can be a pretty handy thing if that happened again. Generally neighborhoods aren’t going to be able to go out – a neighborhood like ours is probably not going to go out and buy a firetruck, but it could help.