The gravity of the situation first hit home when my ex-husband texted from where he was camping with my two daughters, “The sky is turning black. We may have to evacuate.”

I hadn’t paid close attention to the fires until that moment. I immediately began clicking on maps (Weather Underground was the best). The fires weren’t super close, but the wind was blowing their direction.

Map of Central Texas fires“Thank God for phones with Internet,” came the next text. He knew where the fires were, which direction they were going, and what roads were already closed so they could make their way out. The wind changed direction while they were packing and blew the smoke away.

The next text message came at 1 a.m. when a friend told us, “There is a fire in your neighborhood.”

The map showed a fire only a few blocks away. (This map shows us at the yellow star, the girls’ campground as the pink star.) We stepped outside, but the fire must have already been put out. Most likely something in someone’s back yard. We looked online and saw we were now in a barbeque ban —- no outdoor cooking for Labor Day. The whole city was kindling after months of drought conditions. Even a cigarette butt was dangerous.

Our plans today included a drive around town looking for locations for my annual Christmas shoots for my photography clients. As we drove down Loop 360 on the west side of Austin, we saw this scene and stopped so I could take the shot of the Bastrop fires behind the skyline:

Central Texas Fire over Austin Skyline

I picked up my daughters, safely home and animated about the drive back from the campground, a ride through varying intensities of smoke.  As we drove away from this image of downtown and toward the south, we saw the smoke from the Steiner Ranch fires. Elizabeth, who is nine, said, “It needs to rain or all the world will be on fire.”

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Use of this photo for causes related to fundraising for the wildfire victims is fine (flyers, newsletters, blogs, web sites). News media should email me for a higher res file.

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