My office is just a few miles from one of the fires raging in Southern California (the Santiago fire); since Monday, our office has had smoke inside that we've been breathing and smelling, eyes red and irritated, coughing. My lungs feel dirty. It's nasty. Co-workers have been evacuated from their homes. I've had a headache since Monday. When I left work yesterday, my car looked like there had been a light snowfall, dusted entirely with ash and soot. A deliveryman just came in with a mask over his face; since he's in and out of his truck all day, that's probably a good thing since he's breathing all this stuff all day. As I left home this morning, flakes of ash as big as my fingernail were falling from the sky. Well, what there is of the sky; the sky is still covered with smoke and ash, a gray/brown haze blanketing the sun.
Some of you may find this map interesting; it shows the current fires and when you click one, it opens and provides more details, such as acres burned, evacuations, etc.
If you click the red balloon right above "Santa Ana", you'll see the info on the fire close to my office in Irvine. (I live in Huntington Beach, though; no fire danger at home.) There are fires blazing near my daughter's new home, not close enough to be in any immediate danger unless the winds start gusting again. You can see the line of fire from her backyard, looking across the lake to the surrounding hills.
Today, they've said that the Santiago fire (the one close to my office) is still only 30% contained and still spreading. They believe the arsonist set that fire in three places and was someone who knew how fire spreads. The firefighters have been working nonstop; the police and other service personnel and volunteers have been going door-to-door asking people to evacuate. These people are all heroes in my mind, giving selflessly to help others, pushing themselves for long hours under the most wretched of conditions.
Some friends have said they hope we get rain soon; we haven't had any significant rain here for over a year. Very heavy rains would cause another disaster: with vegetation burned on the hillsides, we'd experience heavy mudslides as we did a couple of years ago, again following big wildfires.
We don't talk much about "fall" here; newcasters and reporters refer to it as "fire season" and talk about the forecast for the fire season, warnings and preparations for the fire season. Spring, Summer, Fire Season, Winter. It's nature's weather pattern for us: following beautiful, warm summers, the canyons and hills are dried out. Then the Santa Ana winds blow their hot, dry, heavy gusts through all the dried vegetation, a tinderbox just waiting for the right spark to start a conflagration.
The winds are unpredictable still, but for now they're dying down, giving firefighters an opportunity to gain some control over one of the worst fire seasons we've seen. Thank you to all who are thinking of SoCal and praying for everyone's safety.
Photos from the Orange County Register
Today's simple pleasure: knowing that people are starting to be able to go home. (Yet keeping in mind the 1600+ who don't have homes any longer.)