On March 5, 2012, Mary Christopher spoke with KUT News about her participation in the wildfires.
Mary Christopher: My name’s Mary Christopher. I work at Pedernales Fire Department, and that’s in what we call ESD #8 which is Emergency Service District and Travis County is divided into Austin Fire Department and then it’s surrounded by Emergency Service Districts. And we’re Number 8. We’re the department on the road to Pace Bend Park, which is one of the busiest county parks, so we have a lot of runs to Pace Bend Park. I work in the administrative offices, I’m an EMT, I handle PR, I’m in charge of rehab for the firefighters, which means I’m responsible for getting water and food to the firefighters in the event of any kind of emergency or structure fire, wildfire, night or day, I’m responsible for making sure they have everything they need. And this is really crucial during long – term events. Which, obviously this fire was a long – term event.
KUT News: And you call your fire department the…
Christopher: It’s Pedernales Fire Department. And we are approximately 45 square miles, we cover about 15 miles along the Pedernales river, whether there’s water in it or not. And, we respond to calls, medical calls and fire calls, in Pace Bend Park, we have a rescue boat that covers all of the shoreline around the Pace Bend park and then some shoreline along the rivers as well, so.
KUT News: So, let’s get started with what was the first moment you knew there was a fire out there?
Christopher: Found out about 3, 2:30, three o’clock on Sunday afternoon which would be September the 4th. I’d had company over the weekend, and I was just heading over to look at my pager just to check it, just to see if there was any activity, and my phone rang. And it was Laura King, who’s our emergency volunteer coordinator, and she said: What do you know about the fire? And I said: What fire? And she said: We’ve got a big brush fire going, and she said it started across the river, and I said: I’ll see you there. So I, immediately threw on my clothes, took care of the dogs, tore out the door, went down the Pace Bend Road, came out of Briar Cliff down Pace Bend Road, to the convenience store there at the corner of Pace Bend Road, which is also 2322.
And 71, and they are great, we have a great community out there, so I – they knew there was a fire cause you could see the smoke from across the river, and I said I need water and ice, and they started helping me: Just throw it in the truck. And Laura King was there filling up her truck with gas, and she came in and helped us and we just filled my little truck, with cases of water and ice, and then I headed across Scott on 71. And headed up across the river, and the 71 was already closed by that point, and the fire had already jumped the highway by then.
And so the Travis County Sheriff’s Department had it closed, and I was trying to figure out how to get around the people who were backed up and get up to the – as close as I could to the fire. And sheriff, Travis County Sheriff car came past me, and I waved him down, and he knew who I was and he escorted me up to the front, and the chief was up there in his command vehicle with Mike Parker, our chief is Ken Van Rinz, he’s been with the department for – he started as a volunteer probably 26, 27 years ago. And he’s now our chief officer. So they were there with his vehicle, trying to figure out how they could get to the firefighters who had the engine – engines and the brush trucks in the fire area. And we were standing there trying to decide, you know, take this road, take that road. How can we get there?
Just to get a staging area, and get some water and ice for them. They carry water and ice, but in this sort of circumstance, they would go through it really fast. So we were standing there trying to figure this out, Mike Barker looked back behind us, he said: guys, we gotta get out of here fast. Because the fire was getting ready to jump the highway again, behind us. So we would have been caught between – we were way ahead of the line of traffic, but we would have been caught between two arms of the fire, so we got out of there as fast as we could.
KUT News: And so there, what did you do?
Christopher: Then I went back down 71 and we knew that there was a possibility – the Pedernales was dry, ok, we knew that there was a good possibility that the fire was going to jump, just come across the riverbed, because it was all dried out. It had a lot of dry vegetation in it. So I got back on Pace Bend Road, and went down to the intersection, went two miles down to the intersection of Old Ferry Road and headed down Old Ferry Road because you can go all the way down to the edge of the Pedernales. And I got down there, and I could see that it was burning, there were houses burning across the river, but it hadn’t jumped yet. So I turned around and went straight back to the station because I knew that the – I knew incident command would be there, would be established there, and also that the phone would be ringing off the wall.
So I went back there and just kept everything in the back of the truck, so I could take it wherever we ended up with staging areas. And I sat down, started answering the phone, and then people just started walking through the door, to help. And I was there til about 2 or 3 o clock that night. Just – and I immediately got – we have a Facebook page, and I immediately got on Facebook and started posting. And some – just posting anything I knew about the fire. And asking people to repost on their Facebook pages, so that the word would get out, because it’s much faster than trying to – so I – by the end of the day I was getting help with the phones, just people from our community and auxiliary board members came in to help. And people started bringing food and water.
And I can’t remember – I think I called Debbie, because she’s one of the – the folks that is on our list in case, there’s a fire, and we need food. Cause she’s been in the food business for a number of years. And I think I called Debbie, about figuring out how to get dinner for the guys, because by that time we had several other fire departments responding. I mean, we did right away but by dinnertime we had a lot of other firefighters there from other fire departments. And during the fire we had at least 25 other departments at different times that helped us.
KUT News: Go ahead, I just wanted you to.
Christopher: So, we got… So um, incident command was set up in the – we have a new building out there which is a good thing. And incident command was set up in the training room, which is a room with lots of tables and chairs. We had, wow, we had Travis County Sheriff’s Department there, we had Texas Forest Service, we had PEC. We had folks from LCRA that were in and out. And PEC was there trying to coordinate, because when you have a fire like this, it’s burning lines, electrical lines, phone lines. Texas Forest service people were in coordinating the helicopters.
That were dropping water on the fire. And of course we had all of our command staff was there. We had officers from Austin Fire Department that were there, we had a PIO officer, Public Information Officer, from – that was helping us from (cell phone ring). Ok, we’re off. Uh, that helped us with PR, so I had help with that, which was a great thing. We ended up having two or three press events there. And the fire burned approximately 7,000 acres in a period of about 6 and a half hours. And it was pushed by wind gusts of sometimes between 25 and 30 miles per hour. And it moved through an area where there were a lot of older Cedars that were very dry. And live oaks that were dry and scrub brush, all kinds of vegetation that were completely dry, so it moved very, very fast.
And anytime a fire can jump highway 71, which is 4 lane, and then jump the Pedernales river, across that, it’s moving fast, it’s got a lot of head to it, a lot of sparks, and the wind just pushed it, really hard, it was very difficult for the firefighters to stay ahead of the fire.
KUT News: And did that – How did you communicate that? Firefighters were communicating back to –
Christopher: Right, they communicate back to – and also with – we’re directly connected to the dispatch center in Austin. So the county coordinates really well. We have great mutual aid and response, and what made it difficult for everybody that day is that there was also a fire in Pflugerville, there was a fire at Steiner Ranch, Bastrop fire was going. And in our 7,000 acre fire was going so in terms of deployment of resources and firefighters and equipment, it was a huge job.
And we were very fortunate that the number of other departments, not only in Travis County, but in all the surrounding counties, and that includes Burnett, Hays County. I mean we had fire departments – people from fire departments with equipment from all around central Texas, and that made a huge difference. It kept our firefighters from getting completely and totally exhausted, it gave us backup with equipment, at that time we had 3 brush trucks and they were all old. So the brush trucks are the vehicles that go off road. They carry a little bit of water; I mean they carry enough to get stuff put out. They don’t carry a lot of water so they have to go back and forth between the fire and the tankers, we call them tenders now.
So our brush trucks really took a beating, and sometimes we would only have one brush truck that was running. So we were very fortunate to have the other departments there with their equipment, and that made a tremendous difference.
KUT News: And you were responsible for – so tell me about your personal story, so you went back to the fire department, you got on Facebook, then did you go out to administer water and ice.
Christopher: No, from there I just kept coordinating. I would put – I would find out what we needed, cause incident command was there, or firefighters would be coming walking through and I would say: Ok, what do you need? What do you need? And Debbie Smith was doing the same thing when they would go to staging areas, but that first few hours we didn’t, we didn’t have official staging areas. One area had been set up down at the Security State Bank at the corner of 71 and Pace Bend Road, which worked great cause it was Sunday, but that’s a bank, right, so we couldn’t keep using it.
So later that night I did get in my truck and go to that staging area and checked to make sure that they had everything that they needed. And I took water and ice and whatever I – whatever supplies I had in the supply room. And there were people that had gotten sunburnt, it just, I can’t think – remember all the things that – the little things that people needed. But it was things like chapstick, eyedrops, clean socks, just because socks get so wet, either from the water going onto the fire, or just because the guys get so hot in their bunker gear. And then we had another staging area that we had set up down at the Pedernales River Fellowship Church, which is on 71. So I went down there to check with the guys there to see what they needed, to make sure that they were – so I had a list of everything that we were going to need. And I came back and started posting that.
KUT News: And you posted it on Facebook to get the community to bring everything to –
Christopher: Well, people were calling us on the phone saying: What do you need? What do you need? What can I bring? What can I do? Right, and so the fastest way to get the – I just said, get on Facebook and I’ll post. There was no way we could call people back. There just wasn’t that kind of time, there were too many calls coming in, and so we just started posting it all on Facebook, what people needed, and people would just – we told them where to take it and people would just drive by the station and unload and drive off.
KUT News: What did we ever do before all this technology?
Christopher: Right. Well, we relied on the grapevine by phone. Good old – fashioned phone tree.
KUT News: But what if the phones had been burned?
Christopher: Well, then you’re really are up the creek. Right?
KUT News: Up that dried creek. Up that burned creek. God. What was the – you said the amount of time 7000 acres.
Christopher: In about 6 and a half hours.
KUT News: When did it jump 71, how long before it jumped 71?
Christopher: It was later in the afternoon; I think it was some time between 4 and 6. The fire actually got started, I believe it was either 2:15 or 2:30, when we got the first – call hit dispatch. And then it, I think some time between 4 and 6 it jumped the Pedernales further down than that area where Old Ferry comes in.
And it caught 3 houses on fire immediately, and they burned completely, it was total – total loss. And then we got crews down there and were able to contain it. And it took about; I believe it was about 3 days before the fire was totally and completely contained. We got it like 90 percent contained within I think, within 24 hours. But it was such a huge area and it was so dry that, like tree stumps, you could spray them, you know, hit them with water and foam, and come back a few hours later and they’d be in flames again. And part of that was because everything was so dry when the fire hit and the second part was that the fire itself was so hot.
I think it was Tuesday or Wednesday that I went to the staging area that had been set up not too far from Paleface Ranch Road and I got out, someone was driving me and I got out to take some pictures because there was some – were some firefighters refilling their tanks by the side of the road so I got out to take some pictures and I had walked past a tree that was obviously charred on the outside and I was in a hurry when I walked past it, but I was going a little bit slower on my way back, but I realized, I was maybe 12 feet from the tree, I realized the tree was giving off heat.
And I walked over to it and the tree was still smoldering, and this was like 3 days, 2 or 3 days after the fire, and this was not uncommon. But everything was so dry, and the fire was so hot, that – and that was a huge part of the cleanup work was to find where tree – stumps, trees, even roots were burning, that could possibly flare up again and start the fire. And the direction a fire like that moves has to do with the wind. And we were still having high winds.
KUT News: So you really never knew when you were really through with this fire.
Christopher: Right, yeah, it – we worked, I mean, the incident command was there, I think it was 10 days.
KUT News: How about your house? How did you fair?
Christopher: Oh, we were fine. We were in Briar Cliff. So the fire didn’t move that way, several years ago we had a brush fire that started off Thurman Bend Road, and the winds were gusting and shifting directions quickly and the fire moved in one direction and then it started moving towards the river and then it started – the wind shifted and moved it up the back side of Briar Cliff, like just right straight up a hill.
And it was, you know, it could have gotten at least a dozen houses. And there was someone across the river from that part of Briar Cliff, and they were taking pictures with their cell phone. So that’s how we got a record of the fire coming up the back side of Briar Cliff and creeping up (laughs). But it’s just amazing if you have enough wind, how fast it can move.
KUT News: Did you get any sleep during those first days? What was your schedule?
Christopher: Let’s see I think I got home about 3 o’clock. Started on Sunday, I got home about 3 o clock Monday morning, and I had neighbors who were helping me with my two dogs, making sure they were getting walks and fed. We just have such a great community that there are people I can call and say: can you help me? And they’ll say: whatever. So people were taking care of the dogs, I got home about 3; I was back at the station at about 8, cause I was trying to get back in time for briefing. There was a briefing every morning between eight and nine.
So I try to be there for the briefing and incident command so I would know what we were going to be dealing with that day. And by Monday, we had breakfast taken care of for the guys. And then when I got to the station, we started in on lunch and dinner and then, we just went, Debbie Smith, Gale Sahara, and Amy Claybough, Claybough just jumped in, and I don’t know if Debbie told you, but we served more than 2,500 meals to firefighters, and other personnel obviously.
KUT News: In the course of –
Christopher: In – over a period of about 2 weeks. And most of that food was donated.
KUT News: And, how did you know who to call to get the food?
Christopher: Well, we have these old networks, old in the sense that they’re pre – Facebook. But we had these networks of people who either have volunteered at auxiliary events and my main resource with that is the auxiliary board. And we have a great board, so some of my first calls after the food call were to the auxiliary board. And they just jumped in, they got on the phone. It’s a situation where all I have to do is call a few people, and then it just goes from there. And the other fortunate part is like you were saying, what if the phone lines are down? Well, people had cell phones. So that is what made a tremendous difference as well. Cause people with smart phones could get on Facebook, they could post, and then we could also reach people if they weren’t at home. They’d have their cell phone with them.
KUT News: So tell me about Debbie. You said Debbie is in the food business?
Christopher: Her family has had a restaurant, they no longer have it but they had a restaurant maybe 10, 12, 15 years and Debbie just has the capacity to organize and get out a lot of food and so does Gale Sahara. She cooks, Gale is a registered nurse, and she’s been a volunteer with the department for a number of years. She’s part of our volunteer response. So when, I think she got back into town Monday evening, and she just showed up and jumped in.
And then Amy is – Amy Claybough is on our auxiliary board, and she was helping with all kinds of deliveries and feedback and pickup and, like that. And then all the other auxiliary board members were working with volunteers, cause we had volunteers in the office helping with the phone, and just everybody just started working. It was amazing.
KUT News: And so the food started coming in, huh?
Christopher: Pouring – it did. It poured in, and some of it was already prepared that first Sunday night we had, and then on Monday as well, we had probably six to eight people in the kitchen, we had a great kitchen. And this is a kitchen that was built specifically for auxiliary events and community events, and it’s separate from the crew kitchen. So we would have anywhere from half a dozen people to a dozen people, and they’re making sandwiches and, putting – wrapping sandwiches, parceling out fruit, and then it would go in the coolers and go in the back of either Debbie’s vehicle, or Gale’s vehicle, or Amy’s vehicle, and they’d take it out to staging areas.
KUT News: So did you see a lot of, I mean, were you first hand with the fire? I know you got – you were about to get trapped, so you had to get out. Right at the very beginning, were you seeing a lot of, I know you were seeing smoldering, you were talking about the trees and did you see a lot of fire when you were.
Christopher: When I was out on 71 I did. But not after that and then several days later I went down Paleface Ranch Road, and took a lot of pictures so we could get those posted so we could have some idea of what it looked like and, you know pictures worth a thousand words. Tried to get as much posted and then also went to staging areas and we had – we have a station over on Paleface Ranch Road, which is across the river, and the fire went right through where the station is. But there were no trees and we keep the brush out, and we keep it really mowed well, right. So it wasn’t even scorched.
But immediately across the road, there was a stand of trees and they were just completely burned. I mean, they were just – I was over there the other day, cause I was taking water again to a brush fire, and just black trunks, black limbs, you know with a few crispy leaves (laughs).
KUT News: Unbelievable. You know you talk about, are you going to rebuild – well, there’s one thing about rebuilding, there’s a whole ‘nother component about: there’s nothing to build around, no trees to build in to – or brush or whatever you had, it’s not even – I don’t know that I would want to rebuild if you’re just looking at a bunch of stumps, I guess everything gets cleared away. But barren, scorched land that’s having to rebirth.
Christopher: Well, people love it out there. And most people are in the process of rebuilding.
KUT News: Are they? Most are staying.
Christopher: Yes. We lost – there were 137 houses in the burned area, which is pretty amazing with that size area. Cause 7,000 acres is approximately two and a half miles by six miles. And of course, the fire itself was an irregular area. There were 137 houses. We lost 45, and 26 of those were regular single – family structures. There were 18 mobile homes and one duplex. So that was… that was what we lost. And it was very – the odd thing about it was is that you’d have two or three houses left standing, and then two or three houses that burned further down the road. Houses were left standing, and one of the factors in that is the homes that had gutters where there were leaves still in the gutters, because we haven’t had rain for so long, all that was very dry. And often times the leaves and twigs in the gutters will catch fire, and the fire will move up under the eves. And you’ll sort of maybe see a house smoldering a little bit. But what you can’t see is the fire inside. And the house sort of, not exactly but sort of, burns from the inside out.
KUT News: Unbelievable.
Christopher: Yeah. There were some people, when I was out taking pictures. I was at a house and one of the neighbors drove by and wanted to talk to me and she said: we felt so badly, because we – they had managed to save their house, and they had come down the road to put water on their neighbor’s house, and she said: we were here for hours, just keeping that house watered down. And we thought we had taken care of it and the house was safe, and she said: we came back the next morning and it was burned to the ground. And so, I explained to her that you can get fire that moves up under the eves, and you can’t tell. There are no great flames, and no great puffs of smoke coming out.
KUT News: So they were watering the outside…
Christopher: But somehow the fire had already gotten inside. And she was just devastated, cause they felt like they really let their neighbor down. I said, (laughs), you did the best you could with what you had.
KUT News: Unbelievable. Well, Mary, what else would you like to tell us? So it was about a two – week ordeal.
Christopher: The incident command was going full tilt for more than a week, and then it was gradually downscaling. And we called in every volunteer, every part – time firefighter. Some of our guys were working 24 hours, taking 12 hours to sleep, going back 24 hours. Cause there was so much area off – road, where there were stomps and trees and roots and other material that could start the whole thing over again, so we were constantly watching the weather the wind, the humidity, the barometric pressure. We were just constantly watching that and also trying to make sure that our guys didn’t get too tired. And we only had one injury, with our department, I don’t know about the others, but as far as I know. And one of the guys developed some tendonitis from that constant motion of pulling hoses, and that was the (laughs) – I thought that was pretty amazing.
Cause the guys were everywhere, in front of the fire, behind the fire, a couple of – one crew had a brush truck out on – and they were on a road, but it was like an off – road. And they saw the fire coming from one direction, and they turned around and it was coming from the other side as well. And they – it was – it’s called crowning where a fire comes and meets itself overhead. And they could tell that it was going to crown cause it was moving so fast, and they didn’t even stop to roll the hose back up. They jumped into the brush truck and they said they drove at least a mile before they stopped to get the hose back.
And then we had a volunteer officer, Lieutenant Steve Redkin, and he was at station 3, because we keep extra equipment there, and he was working on getting the – that extra equipment out so it could be used. And he looked down the road, and he could see the fire coming. So, and of course the power got cut, cause the fire got the lines and so he jumped up and grabbed the door at the bottom, and he’s trying to use his full weight to pull the doors down. And, he turned and looked over his shoulder while he was hanging there, cause this one door wouldn’t budge. He turned and looked over to his shoulder cause the fire was almost at the station. So he just let go and jumped in his vehicle and took off. And literally raced the fire out of there.
KUT News: The fire station?
Christopher: From the fire, yeah, from station 3. But that’s the one that was right in the fire – in the way of the fire but there wasn’t anything around it to burn, so yeah.
KUT News: Unbelievable. Any other wonderful stories like that?
Christopher: Yeah, we have an explorer post that is really good and, Lieutenant Steve Redkin and Penny Polson who’s also a volunteer, she’s an EMT with us, are the post – sponsors. And the explorers get trained in the basic medical care, like emergency first – aid, and AED, and CPR. And they also get fire training. So there were two of them, Jordan Roe and, can’t remember the other, it was – it’s a young woman who has been with the explorers for several years.
Can’t remember her name. But they went out on a brush truck with Lieutenant Redkin – Rebecca, her name is Rebecca, and they worked all day, and they were going off – road looking for stomps and roots that were still burning, digging them up, hacking them away, and putting foam on them. And those – they’re not really kids but they’re very older type kids and responsible. They came in at the end of the day (laughs), they were so exhausted. And they had, they had to learn what to touch and what not to touch, we had gloves, all the firefighters have gloves, but if you grab hold of something that’s hot enough, you’re still going to get burned. And they had – they didn’t get burned, but they had learned very quickly what to grab hold of in terms of branches or roots and what not to grab hold of. Cause something could be, look like it was out and still be very hot.
But they had quite an amazing experience. And after the fire our explorer post doubled. Kids just came, young people, I shouldn’t say kids, young people, men, young ladies and young gentlemen, came out of the woodwork to become explorers.
KUT News: Well, that’s neat. How many do you have at – how many firefighters do you have at your station?
Christopher: We, our total – the total in our department is, right now I believe it’s 21 full time firefighters, 2 chief officers and myself, and we have, we’ve had some promotions and some people going from part time to full time, so I think we’re – right now we’re at about six or seven part-time firefighters. And they’re all certified, they’re all EMT’s. You know, they all have their Texas Firefighter certification and their EMT certification.
KUT News: So you have right now six, seven part-time firefighters but you said the total in the department is 21?
Christopher: Yeah, 21 plus 3, so that’d be about 24 of us. 24, 25 of us.
KUT News: But full time firefighters is 21, you’re saying?
Christopher: No, or back then it was about 21.
KUT News: And is that just because of the fires you’re saying?
KUT News: So, do you – now do you have 21 full time firefighters?
Christopher: No, now we’ve got – yeah, right now we’ve got about six to seven part- time and the total full-time people would be 25.
KUT News: And how many full time firefight – do you have full-time firefighte – you don’t have full-time firefighters unless you have a fire?
Christopher: No, no. Ok. At the time of the fire, we had approximately 21. And that includes officers, that includes the chief, and the assistant chief and me, ok and now we’re up to 25.
KUT News: So your department has grown.
Christopher: Yes. And the other really wonderful thing was, the second day of the fire, which was Monday, which was Labor Day. It was real obvious that our equipment was taking a beating you know, all of our wildfire equipment which includes the brush trucks and all the different kinds of equipment that go on them. So I checked with the chief and Aiken who’s the president of our auxiliary board, and I said let’s set up a wildfire equipment fund, cause people were calling, wanting to donate, and so we set that up and we’re 50 – the auxiliary is a 501C3, and everything’s tax deductible, and we started posting that and getting that information out in all the press releases, and since that time we have – people have donated more than $120,000 to the department and as a result, we’ve been able to buy and completely furnish a brand new brush truck and a brand new command vehicle.
KUT News: That’s fabulous!
Christopher: It is.
KUT News: Well good work!
Christopher: Yeah (laughs). Yep. Well… you know, I was also paying the bills, right, and calling the – either the towing service to come get one of our brush trucks or the tire company to come bring out more tires, right? So I knew what was happening with our equipment. I mean, I knew from every minute. You know, this truck was down, that truck was down, this tire was blown, that tire was blown. The fuel injector went out on this, the – just, it was constant because of the heat and the wear and tear and the – just the constant use, so I woke up Monday morning and I was like: WOA, we’ve got a – because people had been calling saying: what can I do? Where can I donate? What do you need? What do you need? What do you need?
KUT News: Anything else you’d like to add?
Christopher: Yeah, as a result of this, the auxiliary has formed an emergency response committee, and we’ve got Debbie Smith, and Gale Sahara on – in charge of the food and Mercy McLohan in charge of volunteers for the office. And we’re setting up all of our communication links and getting – finding out people who are signing up to be called or be emailed or be texted. We’re going to use Google+, texting, Facebook, just everything we can.
KUT News: And you just – and that’s going to be – that’s on your website and all that so everybody knows.
Christopher: Right, and it’s an emergency response committee, so that when – not – I mean – we wish we could say if, but we know that disasters happen, and sometimes they’re years apart. And we have such a great group of people at work. So it – our chief is Chief Ken van Rens and, like I said, he’s been there, he started as a volunteer, and this, when I started with the department in 2004, there was Chief Van Rens, and then the assistant chief, Don Lamb, and he was in charge of all the maintenance.
And he retired and Mark Warren came on as assistant chief, and now Gary Demming is our assistant chief, he was helping us out during the fire, which is how we got to know Chief Demming. So, it’s just – and then we have just a great group of volunteer firefighters and officers, this is not part – time, these are volunteer people, and some of them have been with us… John Roy is a captain, he’s been with us about as long as Chief Van Rens and that’s been about 25, 26 years. And Steve Redkin, who’s a Lieutenant – a volunteer Lieutenant, has been with us at least 17 years. And these are all people who live in the district.
And then, Todd Grubs is president of the Pedernales Department Board, and he’s a certified EMT firefighter. So we’ve got such a great crew, and people who are great to work with.
KUT News: And very invested in the community.
Christopher: Very. (laughs) Very.
KUT News: Well thank you Mary. Anything else you’d like to add? To tell your story…
Christopher: Well, the interesting, the other interesting thing about it was, I didn’t get much sleep for about a week. And it took me several weeks to gear down again, to the place where I was actually getting a good night’s sleep and not sleeping three inches above the bed, you know, like waiting for my pager to go off or something like that. And then just the impact of being that close to that kind of a fire, I was jumpy. I mean I was – it didn’t interfere with me doing my job, but I was hyper – vigilant, and when I’d hear, like if I’d be at home, I’d hear the sirens or my pager would go off, I’d just jump, ready to go. My adrenaline would kick in, and I was – the reason that I’m mentioning this is that I was surprised at how long it took me to come out of that hyper state, and get to the point where I was actually sleeping on the bed, and not jumping. You know, all my alarm systems weren’t going off when I’d hear a siren.
I went to visit family in Atlanta after the fire, you know after everything had calmed down and everything was contained, and even there when I’d hear a siren and also I had to talk about the fire a lot.
KUT News: In your job or –
Christopher: No, with my family. I said; if you get tired of hearing about this, just let me know.
KUT News: But I gotta talk about it.
Christopher: I gotta talk about it. And they were like, we’re fine, no problem.
KUT News: Well thank you Mary, I appreciate you coming in.