Tuesday, September 1, 2009

If you live long enough, eventually you see your old high school turned into an evacuation center for some local disaster or another, as I have this past weekend. I mention the Southland wildfires every year, and was gearing up for it again come October, but the annual conflagrations have lit up the night sky a bit early this season, and without the wind.

No wind! Which is the greatest blessing of all this crisis. One can only imagine the destruction if the Santa Ana's had whipped up. All the same, I was monitoring the wildfire all weekend and it is a grand and sweeping demoralization to see the words "0 percent contained" in print.

La Canada is my old hometown and I've befriended all my old high school classmates on Facebook since leaving the place 20 years ago, so when I clicked on my Facebook newsfeed I just saw a list of people praying and evacuating, and mobile uploads of the burning menace in old friends' backyards. The fire was at one point less than a mile from the house I grew up in, and it made me think I barely made it out of there alive, having grown up all those years just this side of a massive tinder box. Though I do remember a few fires and some controlled burns from my youth, there was never anything like this.

I called one friend last week. He answered his cel and I asked immediately, "Is your house okay?" And he replied "No!" without having to think about it, which was shocking -he was loading stuff into his car as we talked. His place is still okay, as far as I know, but the evacuating is easy compared to the waiting, I imagine. Is everything going to be all right? We'll wait and see, wait and see...

One of my old classmates is Larry, who is a helicopter pilot/sky reporter for the local news agencies. Our senior class president, he still lives just up the street from where I grew up. Larry's been good about posting info and pics on his Facebook wall for all to see. He's a helluva guy; good-humored, not easily excitable, and everybody loves him. Here he is in his backyard the other day, chatting on the phone, catching some pics, calling in air support:

The caption on that last photo reads: My pool guy is gonna be pissed!

Other pics show him smiling with firefighters and being interviewed for the news -all with a margarita in hand. That's Larry. Helluva guy.

The fire is still burning, this way and that. Homes have been lost, lives have been lost, and it's all terrible to watch. Most of my high school classmates have moved out of La Canada, but none of their parents have, of course, so there is great and extensive concern. (Including for my own mom, by the way, but she is totally fine.) Generally speaking it all seems to be keeping at bay, staying just up the hill from the neighborhoods. I keep checking this map, for some perspective, but it doesn't seem to help. You just can't imagine the sheer size of it. And to think of what could have been with a Santa Ana condition, the horror of which would be beyond scale.