Monday, October 22, 2007

Firestorms; Southern California


Edge of the fire
Originally uploaded by katzeye.
When Santa Anas (the shift in wind patterns that bring hot, desert air from the east, to the west) are predicted, as they are several times per year here in SoCal, I groan. I dislike them for obvious reasons, which I will list:

1. they kick up allergies, and sometimes even send me to the emergency room for a breathing treatment.

2. they make my photographs curl.

3. they make my skin dry and itchy.

4. they give us hot temps, sometimes even into the 90s and 100s in the middle of the winter!

5. the wind is blowing hard and hot, knocking things over and down (trees, branches, power lines, myself)

6. they often last for an entire week, and one recently lasted for two weeks, making us miserable.

7. they bring fire storms.

Presently, we are not in danger of any of them, however, during my lifetime of living in SoCal, I have had experiences of needing to prepare to evacuate more than once, so I know what that is like.

We are, at a safe distance thus far, surrounded by them, and our county and the neighboring counties are declared to be in a state of emergency.

When we have firestorms, I try to be aware of their locations. In particular, I try to be aware of them in relation to the homestead, the house where I grew up. A few years ago, when my elderly mother was living there, a fire was burning in the canyon just below her, and I was up all night keeping my eye on that one, as the winds were sending that fire north and it had jumped a freeway in its path.

Fortunately, they got that one under control before it reached any homes. When we went up to see her shortly after the fire, it gave me a chill to see how much had been burned and how close the fire got to homes.

The homestead is empty now, but it is on the market, so I watch for fire locations now to hope they stay away until we can sell the home.

But who would want to buy a home in a wildfire area? You may be asking that. Or who would want to buy a home where mudslides occur, and earthquakes for that matter?

(okay, and how about flooding and tornadoes and tsunamis?)

Well, first of all, there is no place to live here on this planet where one can be safe from all forces of nature or man (the fire closest to us at the present was started by an arsonist-taking advantage of the help of the Santa Anas, and it is 3500 acres so far and only 5% contained).

But, those crazy Californians. They build homes right on the beach and right on the edges of mountain ridges, and they fill up the canyons and the foothills with their homes, and then watch their homes slide down the hills into the ocean, or crumble in earthquakes or burn in forest fires.

First of all, the people who can afford to build homes in danger zones also afford great insurance policies, right?

Secondly, and I speak for many native Californians, as I have lived here since birth in the late 1940s, so I have seen this land since before it became populated by housing tracts in valleys, and I have seen forest fires, floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, etc. We live here because we love it, and we are used to the personality quirks, as it were, of this area.

I have memories of being home from college in the summer, and with an out-of-state boyfriend present, hearing of a forest fire breaking out up the street from us, and calmly going outside to spot it myself, and getting the hoses going to soak the property, while the boyfriend watched with fascinated puzzlement. I explained later.

I have walked home from school, along foothill blvd. with a fire in sight in the canyon below me and a fire in sight in the hills above me and have stopped to call home before going up the hill, to be sure we hadn't been evacuated before I went to the trouble to trudge up the steep hill with my books.

I am used to not putting anything in a room or on a wall above or in proximity to a bed, lest an earthquake knock it loose and it falls on the person sleeping there. We recently moved, and on my mental to-do list is to get things to wedge bookshelves so that they don't tip over. I am used to thinking of any place where I live being a mobile home, as it were, one that can move at any time, without warning.

I would avoid a lot of that if I were to move to the middle of the flat part of the country, but then, there are those pesky tornadoes and all that energy sapping humidity!

On a cross country trip one time, I had a strange kind of disorienting homesickness after being in Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa for a while. No offense to those who live there, but it is sooooo FLAT there. Perhaps I wouldn't be as nearsighted as I am if I had grown up there! I had the strangest, almost like seasickness there. I began to see endless fields of waving grains as the sea, and the silos as ships. I began to so need to see a hill, let alone a mountain, that it felt like I would truly go insane if I didn't see a rise in the earth somewhere.

When I got back to Cali, and saw the Sierra Nevadas, I felt a surge of relief. I don't know what that was about, maybe it's just what I am used to.

Well, I am going to go take a little walk to see what kinds of waves the Santa Anas are kicking up today. And, this evening, with all those fires, there will be a spectacular sunset.

And then I will say a prayer for those who have been displaced and suffered losses from the recent fires, as they get their courage back to rebuild and start anew, once again, in their beloved canyons, and their beach fronts, and their ridges and foothills.

7 comments:

MH said...

The news makes it appear that the entire half of the state is on fire. So glad to hear that you are not evacuating.

Anonymous said...

So, isn't there something that can be done to avoid the situation in the first place?

kc petersen said...

Oh no! Homes are burning in Green Valley! I know people with homes there and have stayed in one of the homes there (near Big Bear). This makes me sad!

kc petersen said...

mh- Well, while news does tend to exaggerate, it certainly seems and smells that way! Glad I'm not evacuating, too, we just moved in!

kc petersen said...

anon-I was actually thinking of that myself today, too, but then I am not a "normal" person, so what is it with you? I was thinking, with all the technology and ability we have now, isn't there a way to sense when the wind starts to shift, and stop it? I dunno, not necessarily a wall, but, maybe some kind of force to blow it back to the desert where it belongs? Or maybe something at a chemical level to prevent it from happening? Or seed some clouds, that have been manufactured, or something?

Beka said...

You crazy californians are in our thoughts and prayers! It's like armageddon out there! How do you breathe?

kc petersen said...

Beka, thank you, and very shallowly!