Monday, June 30, 2008

fire, fire everywhere

Lately we have had fire at the forefront of our thoughts, day and night. Living on a ridge at the top of and alongside a series of canyons, we began on June 11 alternating between various news sources to keep abreast of fire updates as a huge fire skipped across the bottom of four canyons and headed uphill. As I wrote on June 15, nearly 30,000 acres burned just outside the town of Paradise, and 67 homes were lost. It took several days for that fire to be contained, and for those of us who were not affected, things started to get back to normal.

But not for long.

A week ago Saturday, in the middle of the afternoon, we started hearing thunder. And then it got louder. There were not many "one one thousands" to say between the flashes of light and the amazing crashing noises that went along with them. We also heard zaps and cracks and pops. It didn't take us very long to get all the cats into the house (not that we needed to coax them) and by that evening, we started to hear about fires that had been started by the lightning. By Sunday night, hundreds of fires were burning throughout Northern California, over two dozen of them here in our county. And it wasn't long until we discovered that we were literally surrounded by fire.

And smoke. Lots of smoke. For three days, we could hardly see through the trees to the house next door.

There are firefighters here from all over the state and even out of state. We have been constantly checking the Internet, television and radio to see which fires are getting bigger, which ones are spreading to where, which ones are merging, and which might be threatening us (none, so far... whew!), and who is being evacuated from where.

On the day when we discovered that a fairly close neighborhood was on evacuation alert, we started getting organized ... just in case. So now we have satchels and canvas sacks full of pictures and important papers all packed up and ready to be carried out the door. The cat carriers (five of them!) are stacked in the garage and we have lists of "last minute things" to grab, like medications and money and underwear. And the external hard drive and the laptop.

The biggest worry for us is that there is only one road out of our community, going down the hill. For over ten years, the citizens here have been asking for another exit road. There's an unpaved forest road to the north (which also happens to be uphill), but it's pretty rugged and only good for trucks and 4-wheel-drive vehicles. Our Congressman, Wally Herger, has been in office over twenty years and has done nothing about this problem. Of course, every time there's a fire, he flies around in a helicopter looking at the damage and then attends town hall meetings where he pats himself on the back for having secured 11 million dollars for the road. Which needs more money than that. Which is still just gravel. Which HE doesn't need because HE lives in an exclusive, gated community. And of course he doesn't mention that he only secured that money because citizens hounded him. But I digress ....

Today the helicopters are flying overhead with regularity, carrying those big buckets of water, and the skies are starting to be blue again. Thank you, firefighters!

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