Thursday, October 25, 2007

SOCAL FIRES 2007! - Day 4

From Space. That part there that is heaviest white, that's where I live. The smoke's been pretty bad.

The Intermittentnet has been down -which is unfortunate because I noticed my readership more than doubled yesterday. (Thanks for checking in!) So, sorry about the delays, but we've been on fire down here...

Well, we haven't actually been on fire, thank goodness. But, it seems things are going better. The president arrived today and everyone's talking about rebuilding, which is just swell. Senator and novelist Barbara Boxer got the jump on spreading the good feelings, as she was out yesterday promising we would rebuild. They cut away from live footage of firefighters to go to her. I kinda wish she had just gone out and stood behind those sweaty, dirty firemen who haven't slept in 48 hours and just stood there with her fist in the air chanting, "WE WILL REBUILD!" Uh, yes, we will. Excuse me politicians, can we put out the fires first? The Rice Fire (the one closest to my house) still threatens 1500 homes and is only 10 percent contained. As well, the Witch fire is only 10 percent contained and threatens another 5000 residences. Among others.

Jeebus. Over 750 square miles have burned in SoCal so far. Death toll is at seven, with seven more people dying after they were evacuated, mostly elderly. About one thousand, five hundred homes have been destroyed. Take a moment and count the homes on your street and you'll get an idea of how many that is. One third of the state's avocado crop has been decimated, so expect guacamole prices to go through the roof. And some of the fires are thought to have been arson, which makes me want to bring back Burning-At-The-Stake as a viable form of capital punishment. Let them light their own, too.

There is a general feeling of "It's over" on the news, as the newscasters end their non-stop 3 day streak and begin showing commercials, soap operas, and reality shows (which, now that I think of it, isn't that what we were watching?) But it's clearly not over. It's not over for the people who still can't get back into their neighborhoods and it's not over for the 1700 firefighters busting their humps out there in the dirt, smoke, and heat -God be with them. For some of these fires it's been estimated that the heroes will have them contained and put out by November 4th, over a week from now. So, no, it's not over and no, you can't really rebuild yet.

Yesterday my little family got sick of being cooped up and went out to see what we could see. Seemed most of Oceanside was back to normal, except for all the ash falling from the sky and that burnt red sun up there. We couldn't see any fires in the distance, due to all the smoke, but we came up one local boulevard and found the police turning every car away. We turned, and then took a quick right into a neighborhood just a few miles from our house, and suddenly found ourselves in the midst of some of the things we'd seen on TV...

Everyone was outside standing in the street looking off to the horizon. The helicopters were especially close, with very large bags of water dangling from them, and moving to and fro. A man was hosing down his roof, and a few elderly were being helped into minivans. We saw people loading stuff into trucks...

In the near distance was a fire that wasn't on any map. It seemed an event of spontaneous combustion, and yet one people were prepared for. It was immediately being discussed on the radio, and it looked to me like a lot of firefighters just dropped what they were doing to go over and put out this small one, which was so near a heavily populated area. Helicopters just appeared, disappeared, and reappeared as they dumped water on the blaze. I'd heard that they were dunking their bags into local swimming pools to collect water, and I thought that ought to be quite a sight. Eventually the local blaze was put out, and I guess all the officials went back to fighting the main fires, but it still isn't listed on any maps. It didn't have a name and it came out of nowhere, but it made us all jump a bit. I mean, this was a nicely manicured neighborhood with lots of new homes close together -we even had an appointment with someone over there next week. Anyway, it was a place you'd never expect a catastrophe, and well, here it was a few blocks away.

The weather has been a lot better for fighting fires. The Santa Anas have died down, and the cool air over the ocean is returning inland. I'm still sick with this nasty sore throat, and the smoke doesn't help it in the least. It's an odd thing to be sick through a citywide crisis. There's a fog that surrounds you when you're sick -you lose touch with necessary parts of the routine, you can't sleep, it's hard to be in a good mood... Add that to a major week long historic news event and it feels like you're running in reverse on a carousel, lights blinking, calliope music thumping, and you're looking for a horse.

I woke up this morning to sirens in the distance, which is the first time it's actually happened all week. It scared me for a moment, but everything was fine. I'm not sure what it was, but I looked out the window and noticed that the wind had died down and the sky had turned from the charred brown of burning fires to the morose gray of smoldering ones and my heart was a little less heavy. We can't really imagine what it would be like to lose everything in a fire, but one San Diegan on TV was standing on the concrete slab of his burned out house, and looking around he noted, "You just move forward, clutter-free."

Imagine the worst thing that ever happened to you. Now re-imagine it as a Liberation.