AUSTIN (KXAN) - A wildfire is growing more dangerous and is heading straight for your home. You're told you have just five minutes to grab what you can and flee.
Several Oak Hill homeowners faced that nightmare on the afternoon of April 17, when high winds helped spread a grass fire that police say was started by a homeless man who started a fire to cook his lunch.
What lessons can we learn from the homeowners who lost nearly everything?
Doug and Janice Todd admit they were ill prepared for what happened. Embers from the fire ignited their home on Scenic Brook Drive where they had lived for 32 years.
"With the wind blowing this way, we just knew - we are doomed - you know," Janice Todd said.
Within five minutes of seeing the fire coming, Austin police ordered their neighborhood evacuated.
But like most families the Todds hadn't prepared an emergency evacuation checklist.
"With all the pandemonium, they are grabbing us by the arms to ‘get out, get out, you've got to leave. Your life is more important than this house.' You didn't have time to think of anything else. You just run," Janice Todd said.
Their neighbor, Amber Kubik, was stunned as well.
"A police officer said, 'Five minutes! Evacuate!'" Kubik said. "I ran home. I knew my two neighbors were out of town, so I grabbed their pets. Put them is separate cars."
Kubik said she shouted to her mother to grab what she could. "Mom, where's the pictures, where's the passports, where's Grandma's ring that you put away in some weird place?" she said.
Her home was spared. But the Todd's lost nearly everything.
"Paperwork on all our cars and things that you have to have, pictures of our wedding and things like that. Forty-five years ago we started out with just about what we have right now - each other," said Doug Todd.
First responders say everyone should have an emergency evacuation kit that you can grab at a moment's notice. It could include pictures and photo albums, you cash, checks and credit cards, prescription medications, contact lenses and eyeglasses, your computer hard drive and a sleeping bag and pillows.
Lt. Josh Portie of the Austin Fire Department said the lack of preparation by the fire victims in Oak Hill is a wake-up call for everyone.
"It's kind of an all hazards preparation. It's for a fire, tornado or a flood. It's everything.
This plan should be put together long before the event actually happens," he said.
Amber Kubik concurs. "The lesson learned is to have everything together in one place, by the door and ready to go."
"You should have it right there where you can just grab it and run. You know. If you have to go through your house frantically searching for things, you can't. You can not do it," warned Janice Todd.
One of the most important things you can do to prepare is to have fire insurance. Due to unfortunate circumstances the Todd's did not have a policy. Friends, family members and total strangers are vowing to help them rebuild their home.
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