Jan Russell Hobbs

It was the morning of Saturday, September 5th, 2020. Our thoughts for the day ahead were full of beach time, sitting on the porch, and enjoying the company of good friends. As I went down the stairs, I could smell smoke. My friend said she watched fire engines go by for hours in the early morning. We walked next door to the Lakeshore Resort to get what information we could. There was a huddle of people there who told us there was a fire in Big Creek. The comment was, “I guess no tourists today, 168 is closed.”

Of course we were concerned, but walked back to the cabin to start breakfast. My thoughts were on the celebration we had just the night before. My daughter, Lee Anne Hobbs, had planned a party for the 100th birthday of the original cabin located on Lot 7, Lower Deer Creek Tract.  My grandparents, Ben and Estella Brophy, started building it in 1918.  Having finished construction in September, 1920, they were able to spend a few nights there before my mom and aunt had to head back to school.

Stepping out on the porch, we could hear a voice on a loud speaker but it was too muffled to understand what he was saying. Suddenly, my cell phone rang. Our guest was on a walk down by the lake and was told we all needed to evacuate. We were stunned. The cabin had stood all these years with only minor mishaps.

There were seven of us and we all knew we couldn’t wait this out. I called my sister, DeeDee Hall, and together we made a list of what we needed to save. We could build a new cabin but never replace the items to which so many memories were attached.

The buck head hanging above the fireplace was the first on the list. Indian relics, family pictures and stories, and of course my grandparents’ tin drinking cups. We filled both cars with our own belongings and years of family memories, closed up the cabin, and headed down the mountain. 

The traffic wasn’t too chaotic yet, but the sky was. Looking in the direction of Big Creek, you could see humongous swells of dark gray smoke. It looked like a bomb was dropped.

Shaver was not yet evacuated and the many lake-goers stood at the edge of the water looking up at the large plumes of smoke. We stopped at the Vista Point at the top of the four-lane so we could take some pictures. We had never seen anything like it. There were huge swelling clouds, some snow white and some almost black against the blue sky. We made our trip home with a great deal of apprehension as we passed one fire vehicle after another headed up the mountain.

By Sunday the fire had spread to the Shaver Lake area. All we could do was watch the news on the television and the internet. We didn’t get much sleep for those few days. The winds shifted and the fire was moving toward Huntington Lake. Cell towers and some local television satellite dishes were damaged in the fire so communication was minimal.

By Monday the fire had burned into the Dowville area, burning five cabins in the Western section. It then shifted down toward the lake burning many cabins in the Huckleberry tract. By Tuesday, September 8th the fire shifted again. The first responders were trying desperately to save the cabins. Back burns and fire lines somewhere around Bear Creek and Deer Creek stopped the further spread toward Lakeshore.

It is now almost Spring and our thoughts are again, “it’s almost cabin time.” We now have five generations who have enjoyed its magic and never again will we take it for granted.

We are so thankful for the dedication and perseverance of the First Responders. Our mountain community will come together and help those who need to rebuild their dreams.