“My friend says ‘Look Loretta is that the fire up there?’ I said, ‘No, ahh yes!’” said Loretta Plaa, a resident of the town of Bisbee in Arizona.
Bisbee sits near the U.S.-Mexico border, about an hour and a half drive south of Tucson.
When Plaa saw flames near her home, she knew she needed to leave.
“We could see it and of course at night, brilliant orange and flames going up, I said this is serious,” Plaa said.
Plaa and her dog Bzoo live in Wood Canyon, one of three areas evacuated at around 11pm on Monday because of the Locklin Fire. Her neighborhood is familiar with the orange glow in the mountains. A few people came over to help her get to safety.
“One neighbor came by and said ‘do you know where you turn off your gas?’ and I didn’t but he said ‘I'll find it for you’ so people were really helping each other,” Plaa said.
Plaa stayed at a friend’s house overnight and spent most of Tuesday waiting in a nearby park. Other evacuees were there as well, including Steve Horkey and Maya Kendrick.
“As soon as I saw it, I basically felt my heart drop,” Horkey said.
The couple moved to Bisbee just two months ago, and are less familiar with the wildfire season.
“We really love Bisbee and we’re settling in here," Horkey said. "Now, we’re almost second guessing. Fire on a weekly basis, it's concerning.”
Despite frustration and fears about the fire, everyone waiting at the park expressed gratitude to the fire crews working to put out the flames.
“Very grateful that here we are this morning and the house hasn’t burned down,” Horkey said.
Thanks to those fire crews, Horkey and Plaa are both back in their homes after almost 16 hours of waiting.
Last year a report from the U.S. Congressional Research Service said an average of 70,600 wildfires have burned an average of 7 million acres in the United States.
This story was originally published by Perla Shaheen of KGUN in Tucson, Arizona.