My friend in San Diego sends this update:
I’m sorry to have worried you guys. I was worried too, ’cause it’s been pretty wild around here. We had wildfires a few years ago where they shut down the city (because of smoke) but this year was much worse. The actual flames were blowing west toward us, pushed by high speed desert winds.
Baby and I are fine, and they got the most imminent (for me) fire under control late last night. Staying here was a good move, though I’ll admit, we got lucky. If they hadn’t, we would have had to flee in a hurry. I don’t have a tv so I didn’t know what was going on. But my landlord/neighbor is a dear friend, and he told me he wouldn’t leave us.
Yesterday the air was still fresh where I live, but it is now under smoke and ash. Baby and I are bouncing off the walls of my studio apartment, but at least we have a roof!
Since our air was still smoke free last night, I didn’t really realize how bad things were, and I decided it would be ok to drive down to have dinner with my boyfriend and his teens where they were staying in a hotel to escape the smoke. Not my wisest move, it turned out.
The first clue this wasn’t a wise move was when I was driving south. The freeway going north was packed, a parking lot. Going south was deserted. That was creepy. A few miles in and the sky was dark orange with smoke, and the sun itself looked like a blood orange. You could look right at it and barely see it. It was ominous looking, apocalyptic. Then I hit a stretch of freeway that runs across a large lagoon. It was as if I had driven into hell. The hot orange winds were blowing so hard that my small SUV blew sideways and skidded into the next lane, empty since hardly anyone else was going south. I slowed down, resisting the urge to get across the lagoon as fast as I could, and had to dodge a large chunk of a tree that skidded across the road, followed by some trash and a loose tire. I glanced up at the mirror to see my baby sleeping in the back, wondering if this was going to be one of those Darwin award nominations. We got through the high wind zone and entered the black smoke zone. Visibility not good. Finally we made it out of the thick smoke and into the area where people were staying in hotels to get away from the smoke. It was still smoky but not as bad as what I came through. We had dinner, and I have to confess, danger makes Chinese food taste even better. It was the best Chinese food I’ve ever had in my life.
Then someone at the restaurant announced they had closed the freeway I needed to get home on due to high winds. I dashed out of there (my poor old dog was home alone) and made it home ok. Since the sun went down the winds calmed a bit. The freeway wasn’t closed, but you get a lot of panic and misinformation at times like these.
My landlord/friend is hosting 5 displaced people (there are 7 adults, four dogs, and a baby in a two bedroom house). Today he went with his babymama’s dad to see if they could rescue anything more before the fires got her dad’s house and farm. First, they drove around to see if they could get in safely, and they saw firefighters at work. They would stand in front of houses and spray water at roaring flames that were four stories high, being whipped by the winds. They would follow the flames to the sides of the houses, letting the grass and trees burn but defending a circle around the house. When the fire truck horn blew, they would all scamper out of the last green opening back to the truck and race to the next house in line. So brave!
At the house, my friends turned on the avocado grove irrigation system, thinking it couldn’t hurt to have running just while they were loading up, as an added precaution. As they piled photos, quilts, and such into the van, they heard propane tanks exploding nearby. They looked out at the neighbor’s farm and saw flames coming up the hill. It was so hot the neighbor’s truck tires exploded before their eyes and the truck burst into flames. Time to go, they decided.
Hopefully the fire trucks were able to get to their house in time, but even if so, the land is scorched black and smells awful. I feel so bad for them. They’ve lived there since their children were little.
I feel like the danger has passed for us, and I’m ready for things to get back to ‘normal’ (a.k.a. hectic and chaotic). I remember last time the city shut down it was kind of fun to have refugee parties and watch the news, but as I mentioned, those fires weren’t as close and the winds weren’t as high. Plus, this time my regular schedule is so chaotic, this hasn’t been a welcome break from my routine. I long for routine.
Thanks for thinking of me!
I sat down (offering a bottle of tequila and some lime wedges) with the refugee dad tonight, and learned that it was worse than I thought- the house and farm that burned was the house he grew up in. His parents owned it and when they died he moved his family there, when his daughters were young. He’s 60ish, so it’s been around for quite a long time without being destroyed. Has California been living off of stolen water for 60 years? And if so, is it logical to assume things should revert back to their state in the early 1900’s and no one should be surprised? Just a thought.
Oh, and it gets even worse. My landlord and friend just knocked on my door and asked me if my daughter and I could move out of his guest house in a week so the parents could live here until they figure out their living situation. I am going to be looking for a place to rent tomorrow, with no income, during a time when 300,000 people are looking for a place to live. And I won’t qualify for any aid.
I’m gonna need more tequila.
Oh, sorry, according to the latest internet news it’s actually A MILLION FUCKING PEOPLE. WAITRESS! MORE TEQUILA!!!!
The media seems to be painting a portrait of this California tragedy as a well run and organized “event”
The reality for your friend Mary, a renter will be difficult. The aftermath of the losses will be where the Rubber meets the Road in terms of comparing recovery.
I wish Mary well.