Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Caughlin Fire

       Thursday night it was windy in Tahoe. It was the kind of wind that woke you up in the middle of the night. The kind that made you think that trees might come crashing down. Luckily, when we get the chance, we are professional sleepers, so we were still able to get a good nights sleep. Early Friday morning however, Jon's radio went off. Reno was calling for additional assistance from departments in our area for the Pinehaven fire. It's not unusual for Jon's radio to go off, but it isn't often that we hear a call for an actual fire. Waiting to hear the stations respond to dispatch,  Jon and I grabbed his phone and looked up Reno news. Immediately we were shocked by images of a fire blazing. The Caughlin Fire (the fire was originally dubbed the Pinehaven fire, named after a street that it originated near, but it was later changed).
The fire supposedly started around 12:30am
in the foothills west of the City of Reno.
By the time we woke up, it was reported that the fire was over 400 acres,
and a few homes had burned.
Jon called his station to say that he was available,
and a few minutes later they called back and told him to get moving.
He was going to help.

I'm familiar with this area of Reno only because I got extremely lost one time
(when trying to find a medical office that specialized
 in ultrasounds while I was pregnant with Nolan), 
which took me on a very round-about and long drive.
As much as I dislike Reno, this area was pretty awesome.
It's quite mountainous, 
as it sits at the base of a range, 
and is made up of lots of winding neighborhoods.

I threw a couple of granola bars and a banana in a bag for Jon,
and he was out of our house in five minutes flat.
Throughout the day I followed the fire online
(and proceeded to bite off all of my nails), 
hearing from him only a couple of times via text.

There were plenty of images of devastation and intense flames.
The crazy wind continued in Tahoe
throughout the morning, and was predicted to continue until about 4:00pm.
When I let Blue out in the morning,
the wind was so loud that it was hard to make myself heard
calling his name over the blowing of the trees.
Knowing what the wind was doing to our neighborhood,
I could only imagine how it was affecting this fire.
The paper published a map of the fires perimeter and
the number of different subdivisions and houses 
that were threatened by its wide breadth, was alarming.
In the end, they reported that 4,900 homes had been at risk.

Only after Jon returned home did I learn that he saw many 
of the houses above, firsthand. 

Jon text me about twelve hours after he left our house,
letting me know that he wouldn't be coming home
and that they would be patrolling during the night. 
In the end, Jon was there for over thirty hours,
sleeping little.
The final total is  that 32 homes were destroyed,
and over 2000 acres were burned.
When he did finally get home he had a lot of stories to tell. 
Other then chapped lips and a head cold, he was in pretty good shape.
Apparently, he was on a strike team with five other engines from our area,
and they were assigned to protect the structures in a designated neighborhood.
He used google maps to show me the different terrain,
and areas that they were working in.
It helped me understand a bit how one home could burn,
while all others around it were spared,
and how some homes on the edge of the hillside were fine,
while others in interior neighborhoods didn't fare as well.

During the it hit me that if we stay in Tahoe,
our home at some point could very easily be threatened by wildfire.
In the past five years,
there was a devastating fire near South Lake Tahoe
as well as a smaller fire on the West Shore.
I guess it brings new meaning to defensible space.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Perfect Doesn't Exist

       Somewhere between Jon's long hours, playing with Nolan, and getting some sleep, we've found a little time to look at a few more houses on the market. I stalk real estate listings on a regular basis but we rarely get out to see them in person. We just. have so much. going on. Chalk it up to being SICK of renting, or watching one too many episodes of House Hunters but we (and largely I) have gotten the itch to buy.
Enter the Somerset house. 
It was in our ideal neighborhood, 
on an acre (a whole acre!) and priced to sell. 
When we think about owning our first home,
land is fairly high on our wishlist
so we had to go see this place
(fyi, our price range doesn't usually allow for much land).
So to Casa de Somerset we went.
It was a little rough around the edges,
but all houses in our price range are, 
so there were no surprises there.
The front porch was secluded and quiet, 
which we loved.
The kitchen had been recently updated, 
unfortunately though, not to my taste, 
and the configuration felt quite cramped
(you may spy our boy crawling down the hallway
to check out the rest of the house).
Cramped was also what came to mind when you looked at the living room.
Although I was dying to jump in and
make those built-ins feel a bit more custom.
The floor plan was similar to a lot that are on the market in our price range:
a great room with lofted ceilings, attached to a hallway leading to bedrooms.
In the end, this house just felt too small for our growing family and
we were already looking at ways to make the small space work for us.
And the backyard was going to require a lot of expensive landscaping.
One of the biggest concerns was this thing:
We did not want to find out what this
driveway would bring in the winter 
when it was icy and covered in snow.

So, we passed and along came Casa de Glenshire.
This was comparable in square footage but at a substancially lower price,
which, of course, we liked.
It came to mind as a possible rental income property for the long term.
We went to see it after getting a little bit of snow,
and the gray clouds and cold temperatures, 
didn't really help this place feel warm and inviting. 
The interior felt a bit more spacious then the previous house,
but it was apparent that there was a lot of work to be done
(the photos make it hard to tell, but the carpet, tile, and 
kitchen flooring all needed to be replaced immediately). 
The kitchen had a nice layout 
(although my picture fails to capture it all)
and offered a more spacious feel.
On a side note, touring short sale homes that are being lived in
and have been staged in no way
certainly make it more challenging to see the potential.
Of course, with an investment property in a lower price range we 
anticipate that there is work to do.
But it was evident that there was damage throughout this house,
and the bathrooms were not only dirty, 
but looked like they might have water damage.
Alas, this house didn't make our little hearts skip a beat,
even for short term living and long term investment possibilities, 
so we trotted along to our next place. 
This house was set way back on a hill, 
with few neighbors close by.
It was certainly clean, but that's kind of where it ended for me.
The kitchen had a nice big floorplan, which was a plus.
And it was adjacent to patio doors heading outside. 
A+ for the patio doors, but unfortunately the yard just outside was 
slighting awkward.
AND the dining room featured an amazing
faux-stone wall, made from wallpaper. 
Where do people come up with this stuff?
The master bedroom was a nice size (and clean),
but again, it wasn't enough to take our breath away.
This one just left me feeling lukewarm, so we're moving on.
We did get some takeaway from seeing these houses
and that is: Perfect doesn't exist.
Whether it's the lot, or the driveway, or the square footage,
or the neighbors, we won't be able to find perfect.
But, we'll try to get as close to it as possible!
Our wishlist is getting a bit more defined,
and I'll share that list with you soon!
With lots of things still up in the air for the near future,
looking at real estate and not buying, 
may be our safest bet for a little while.
Although, if our dream home pops up, 
you very well may hear me singing a different tune.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Playdate with Cousins

Cousins are the best.
Even more so when they have crazy curly hair like you.
And like to play at the park with you.
In September, Nolan's cousins came to Tahoe for a little getaway,
and Nolan landed himself a playdate.
Sweet Colby is four months younger then Nolan
and was just learning to crawl.
We've realized that we love our little local park. 
It's complete with a playground, grass, and a lake front beach. 
It's the trifecta.
During the fall 
there is hardly anyone else there.
This was the first time that Nolan and Riley enjoyed each other.
It makes me think that there are many fun years to come for them.

Nolan's becoming proficient at the slide. 
He now does it every which way that he can, by himself.
(Man, I love those little legs of his.)

It made Jon and I wish very much that his cousins were closer
for more playdates. 
Luckily, he should be getting a good dose of cousin time this holiday season.