Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Lottery of Life

So far, we still have a roof. Today will be the crux though.

It was a little hectic yesterday, in part because, as is usual in these kinds of things, it was hard to know what was really happening. While the authorities do seem vastly better organized with this fire than they were during the huge fire four years ago, in these kinds of fires, things change so quickly that even with the media right on site with cameras, it was hard to keep on top of where the fire was going, what areas were at risk, who was supposed to evacuate and most importantly, what roads were closed or open.

I ended up going to practice yesterday morning. I had dropped my youngest off at her 5:00 swim practice. It was still dark, so I had no idea that there was a significant firestorm heading our way. After practice, i realized i would need to go back home before heading to work because i had forgotten to bring my shoes and socks. When i stopped by the house, my wife was packing the car and getting the kids ready to go. there had been an evacuation order given for our area. She headed out to palm springs with the kids to ride this out in cleaner air.

I hung around to pack up a few more things and see how it developed. While our house faces east, the direction that the fire was coming from, you couldn't see much except smoke. It was thick enough to be able to look directly at the sun at mid-day and see a faint orange disk. At ground level, it looked like a foggy day. It wasn't as bad indoors though. There was a fair amount of ash in the air. We have a miniature pool out back and it was looking like the black lagoon, with probably a half an inch of soot, leaves and other debris covering the bed of the pool.

The day before, the winds had blown a patio umbrella out of its table, shattering the glass table top in the process, and deposited the umbrella upside down in the pool.

With all of the confusion about how close the fires may be, the last report claiming they were about 6 miles out, and with my wife calling me every 20 minutes out of concern, i decided in mid afternoon to pull out and join them in palm springs. As i exited our area, there were a covey of police cars preventing others from entering our neighborhood. I figured that was a sign i was going in the right direction. I hit the freeway along the coast and it totally stalled out. everybody was also trying to head north. Since the other main North/South freeway was closed by the fire, it was a very slow slog. After about a half an hour trip that gained me four or five miles, i pulled off and tried to get a hotel room. Turns out, there were no remaining rooms in the entire north county. As i got back into the car, one of the reporters in a helicopter advised that there were in fact no fires at all near the area that was earlier cited as an imminent risk to our area. So, rather than sit in traffic to drive north 30 or 40 miles to find a hotel room where i could stress out in ignorance, i decide to head back home and see how it went.

I had to semi-sneak in thru a back road. Once home, it was getting into evening and the winds died down significantly. The advantage of the dark is that i could see if there were any flames nearby. I kept climbing up the hill near our home to get a better vantage. According to the TV reports, the fire front had forked around the area of our neighborhood, following the river valleys west, giving us a free pass for the night.

I called a few of the local yogis, most of whom also had to evacuate. Almost one half of this county was given some sort of evacuation order or request. For reference, this county is three times larger in area than Rhode Island. One of them in a safe area kindly offered to put me up if needed. So far, it remains a generous but unneeded offer.

Today, unfortunately, the winds have picked back up to the very strong level. Even though the tracks of the fires were around and away from us, with higher winds, anything can happen.

I'll try to figure out some way to put up some pictures, but i don't have any really dramatic ones. just shots of a disgustingly dirty pool and smoke filled horizons.

Monday, October 22, 2007

ARMAGEDDON, part deux