NAPA, Calif. — As the wildfires devoured acreage in Northern California and were greedily heading for the Omlin home in Napa, the family came through unharmed in what they consider to be miraculous fashion.
Escaping with their lives with only minutes to spare, Drs. Kenny and Ninveh Omlin, their two children and Kenny’s parents and brother all survived. And they credit the Blessed Mother, the Rosary and St. Joseph for their safety.
Ninveh gave the Register a vivid timeline of harrowing events. About 10pm Oct. 8, as 2-week-old Jonah and 20-month-old Noah were sleeping peacefully and everyone else in the household was settling in for the night, the phone rang.
“No one calls around 10-ish unless something is wrong,” Ninveh said. Her nanny phoned to alert them that as she was driving back to her home, also in Napa, she saw a fire not far from the Omlins’ house. Looking outside, the couple could see no evidence of Atlas, as this wildfire was called, so they didn’t think much of it.
Then came a second call. Still, all the Omlins could see from their bedroom window was an orange glow in the sky.
Fleeing the Flames
Hours later, Ninveh recalled, “Looking out the window, Kenny turns to me and says, ‘We’ve got to go.’”
Immediately, Ninveh added, “He got his wedding ring, and I got mine.” She concentrated on getting the children in her car while Kenny ran to the in-law unit, where his parents, Karl and Kathy, and his brother, also named Karl, live. He aided his elderly parents and his brother, who has Down syndrome, out of the residence. It was 3am.
With the children safely in their car seats, Ninveh ran back into the house.
“I grabbed my pink rosary, which I had for years since medical school,” she said, “and some water and diapers for the kids.” She also scooped up their cat.
“I did not know about the situation with the Rosary and his mom,” Ninveh said, referring to how, during their evacuation to Kenny’s car and in the car, Kathy was praying.
Once everyone was in the cars, they drove to the property’s gates — and beheld the inferno. “It really was scary to see a fire rage that way,” Ninveh said. “It was out of this world — shocking.”
As Kathy continued praying the Rosary, Ninveh called her mother, Shimeran: “Mom, please pray.” Shimeran started praying, and people began messaging that they, too, were praying. “What a support system it was to have that,” Ninveh said.
But the electronic gate wouldn’t open — the electricity had gone out.
Providentially, a month before, a repairman showed Kenny how to manually unlock and crank the gates open.
“Everybody was praying the Rosary,” Kenny said, as he opened the gates.
The next stop was to get to the house of the family’s nanny, who had first alerted them. It was 4am. “Kenny’s mom was sitting there and still had the rosary beads in her hands,” Ninveh said. “Her lips were moving, praying.” Kathy never stopped praying.
Prayer has always been a must-have for Kathy, especially the Rosary.
“Any time there is anything I’m not able to grasp or figure out or I get stressed about, I start praying the Rosary,” Kathy explained. “The Rosary has always been my comfort, working through any challenge that came up.”
Amazing Events Continue
Cal Fire (California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection) reported that more than 51,000 acres in the area burned, as scores of homes were destroyed. Days later, when the Omlins returned home to assess the damage, they found their home virtually untouched. The in-law unit was untouched, too.
In one large area, the fire raced up to their wire deer fencing, and then, for no explicable reason, the flames just stopped. Ninveh attributed the outcome to “Kenny’s mom praying and my mom praying.”
Kenny believes their house was saved by the Rosary, too.
Enter St. Joseph. Ninveh recalled that, before leaving the property, “I prayed to St. Joseph, imagining him stopping the fire and drawing a line in the sand that said: ‘Do not cross.’”
“On one side of the fence, everything was black,” Ninveh said with amazement. “And on the other side, nothing.”
She recounted her family’s devotion to St. Joseph as well as “always being close to the Blessed Virgin Mary.” The devotion had close connections to her own birth and those of her two siblings.
Her mother sought intensely the intercession of St. Joseph and Our Lady to be able to have children.
Ninveh recounted that in her mother’s “dreams she saw the Virgin Mary speaking to her but couldn’t understand her. Shortly after that, she conceived me.”
Ninveh and Kenny grew up in faith-filled homes and have made theirs faith-filled, too — the Omlins express their faith on their property by having a large statue of the Blessed Mother on the grounds near their house.
“The statue stands at the fire line,” Kenny said. “She is charred. All the structures are unscathed.”
“Our Virgin Mary statue looked like the Black Madonna,” Ninveh added. “In front of her, it’s still green. There was a tree next to her that was on fire and fell on the roof of the in-law unit, but nothing burned. To see the statue of the Virgin Mary standing there with the ash on her like the Black Madonna gives me goosebumps. It’s the power of prayer.”
Joseph Pronechen is a Register staff writer.