They start small then grow and grow until thousand of acres are consumed, homes and businesses threatened or destroyed, animals displaced, ash and smoke drift for miles coating everything in sight. The names change, #sand fire, #sage fire, and the latest in southern California, #blue cut fire, but the results are all the same.
Five years of severe drought, tinder like underbrush lie in wait for that unwanted spark that start the cycle all over again. Dry lightning, car accident, campfire not properly extinguished, and sadly, even arsonist can be the cause that send weary firefighters back into action, planes and helicopters, flying continuous overhead dropping water and fire retardants, trying to keep the blaze from consuming forest, property and even lives.
To most of my readers, the fires in the west are a mere blip on their radar, as most of the country deals with other problems like record rainfall and flooding. But here, when three of these wildfires fires happen within a month and come that close, the threat becomes oh, so real.
Living in Los Angeles County for the last eight years, the smart thing to do would be to prepare for wildfires or earthquakes or mudslides or other natural disasters that happen much more often than we would like. But we, like others I suspect, rationalize that it could never happen to us, so we let it go.
But this series of fires got my attention when I could see the flames in the hills behind our house, I could see the smoke so thick it turned day into night, and watch the ash from all those destroyed trees fall like dirty snowflakes on our roof. You keep the TV on 24 hours a day, watching the reports on how many more acres had burned, what percentage of the fire has been contained, what neighborhoods are being evacuated, how many MPH is the wind blowing and in what direction and wondering if the forecasted high temperature for the day will once again go over 100 degrees, making the forest even drier and conditions for the firefighters worst than Dante’s Inferno.
As the fire burns close by and the wind is blowing your direction, you suddenly realize that your family might be the next one requested to evacuate your home, having to abandon everything you can’t pack into your car (or two cars if you are lucky), with the very real possibility it might not be there when they let you come back. Prioritizing family and pets is easy, but 60 plus years of collecting things gets harder after that…what stuff can’t be replaced?
What about all those travel photos or shots of your mom and dad who are no longer around…paintings on the wall…important papers, like marriage license, birth certificate, adoption papers, passports….computers/phones…your favorite guitar…enough clothes & toiletries to last for 2, 3, 4, or 5 days…your DVD/Blu Ray collection…baby clothes you have saved…theater/movie programs…your original Star Wars collectibles…books…the list grows and you have already mentally filled both cars and three U-haul trucks.
Here’s the kicker, you may only get a few hours notice to gather all that stuff you want to try and save…likely even less if the flames leap the fire breaks. Some folks only had enough time to get out with family & pets and the clothes on their back.
Fortunately, the closest fire to us blew the other way. Others have not been so lucky. What’s the lesson? Keep a bag of clothes & small items packed & ready to go during fire season if you are in a frequent red zone area. Buy a fire proof safe for important papers. Watch the news for the next #fire…and pray for rain in southern California.
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Richard Allan Jones is an author, actor, musician living the dream in Los Angeles. His novels, Drafted and Identity Check, are available at amazon.com. His 60s classic rock band, Revolution Road.LA, and his acting career can be followed on Facebook.