Monday, October 22, 2007

So Cal Fires- A broader perspective

Yesterday we left our niece's birthday party, on a miserably windy day, not the least bit surprised to see huge plumes of smoke on the horizon. We played the game where we guess exactly where it is burning (Piru, Fillip won, hands down) and commented matter of factly how this is so typical for the season. As I drove down the hill I could see a new fire starting off to the east. There were wisps of white smoke and no emergency vehicles yet. I still don't know if this is the origin of the Agua Dulce fire that has destroyed so much, or one of many more minor fires in the area that did get extinguished. Either way, by the time we turned on the news a couple hours later, Southern California was being subjected to over a dozen major blazes and the smoke all around made me think of all those apocalyptic movies I've seen through the years. Watching the news coverage, we could see the mass destruction from the arial views provided. It gave a perspective of the vast acreage being consumed all around familiar landmarks. We tried to help the kids understand by pointing out the beach we go to where the fire was only yards away. We showed them the water helicopters flying over our house and explained their purpose. The kids seemed unimpressed with the relavance of this information.

The news coverage was going between several fires and we even saw coverage of a house that didn't yet have fire personnel nearby with hoses, being protected by a bulldozer. Maybe 15 minutes later, that house had been consumed on live television, and I could only wonder if the residents of that house were watching in heartbreak, or wondering somewhere in fear that their home was no more. The media constantly gives updates with phrases such as "fortunately, only 9 homes have been lost." Not exactly fortunate for those 9 families. Obviously, overnight those numbers have greatly increased. At what point would that reporter consider this unfortunate? Whenever I see a fire on the horizon, especially when there are so many at once, I feel a constant nervousness. I compulsively check news reports and watch the smoke. I'm not sure if this is a residual of my own personal experience of running out of our burning home when I was 14 (not a a brush fire) or some instinctive reaction to fire. However, I can't help this constant knot of dread in my heart for the devastation these fires bring. The media sensationalizes the loss of structures (as if it isn't already sensational enough), yet there is no mention of the thousands of animals that perish. There is no mention of the absolute panic all these animals must feel as a wall of fire approaches, then takes over. Although there is due appreciation for those fire fighters who put their lives on the line, it pains me to think of wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, children and friends watching the drama unfold, hoping that these brave people come home safe. Although the scope of a particular fire will be finite, confined to a calculated number of acres and structures, the lives affected are countless.

Maybe it is no wonder I sit here like a skittish cat on a windy day.

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