Tuesday, October 23, 2007

FIRE WATCH 2007! - Day 2

View from our neighborhood last night:

And this morning:

The phone rang at around 5AM this morning. I bolted upright from the couch, where I'd slept with the TV on all night. I immediately smelled smoke. The phone rang again. This is it, I thought.

It was my wife's family. They were outta here. No Cautionary Evacuation Notice or anything for them, they just couldn't take the smoke anymore. My mother-in-law was actually in an Evac area, but it wasn't particularly threatened. Same for my aunt-in-law. Oceanside's still safe. We called off our appointments for the day (I'm sick anyway) and decided to get some things in order around the house, clean up a bit.

"I knew you wouldn't leave," my sister-in-law said.

"But we haven't been asked to leave yet!"

"And you're just not the type to panic like we are." Well, yes, this is true. But I went outside this morning to scope the horizon and there was nothing particularly encouraging about the sight: smoke as far as you could see in every direction, and the sun a distant red eye that you could look at directly without having to squint.

The neighborhood was covered with ash, which is disheartening when you consider what it once was: Fallbrook.

Fallbrook is the town of 30,000 to the northeast of us and it has been evacuated entirely. Hundreds of homes are gone. Some people failed to heed the Cautionary Evac notice and were stuck there, spending the night at the fire station. This is the "Rice Fire" and is the one that would threaten Oceanside if the winds whip up today and really get it going. So far, it looks like it's pretty calm out there. We'll wait and see.

We've got all of the windows closed and the air purifier on and the fan blowing the house air through the hypo-allergenic filter, so it's not too bad in here -as long as we don't open the front door. I'm not scared yet, and I think everything is going to be fine. The National Guard is out there and air support for the firefighters is being brought in today, so if the weather cooperates all will be under control. Last I heard, they were making the Rice Fire in Fallbrook a priority, so that's good for us, bad for everyone else.

Some news agencies are reporting that over a half a million people have fled burning areas in Southern California, though I think that is slightly exaggerated. They make it sound as if hoardes of humankind are on foot, running for the border with their belongings on their backs, their babies in slings, and the fire licking at their heels, but my friends the Keeners, who live in the immediate path of the oddly named "Witch Fire", just went to some friends' who lived in Hillcrest, on the other side of town. The Lindens, by the way, offered their house to us if we needed to evacuate, but they are now in the path of the "Harris Fire" -so we all have our own fire (how nice!) We couldn't get down there, anyway, as the freeways are closed.

Thankfully, with all this madness being reported, there's been only one death and less than fifty injuries (most of those the firefighters, God bless 'em.) This is no Katrina, ladies and gentlemen. San Diego knows how to handle it, they've seen fires before and already there are reports that everything is going smoother than previous emergencies. And I have to hand it to the city officials who I watched on some of the press conferences (which they are doing every few hours). These guys are being straight up and honest about everything, with quotes like, "There is no good news just yet" which I find curiously refreshing. I don't want fake blather about "time to grieve" and so forth, I want facts. And we seem to be getting them. Somehow, I don't think the president will be blamed for this one. Also, San Diego is the republican stronghold of California, so go figure.

But we're here, we're safe, and we're keeping an eye on things. It happens every year down here, folks. Why, I even predicted it in this blog last month! (see: here.) Unfortunately, some years are worse than others.