Palm trees, the Pacific ocean, mild temperatures, sea breezes…paradise in so many ways. But this week we are reminded that even in beautiful southern California, there are risks and dangers that make us all feel powerless and frightened.
High temperatures, low humidity, Santa Ana winds…and extreme drought conditions… combine to make the scariest of conditions for us this week. This is fire weather.
And yesterday…with temperatures into the 90s on the coast, the worst happened, a fire erupted. In these conditions, the smallest of sparks is fanned into a raging inferno. With a single fire yesterday, all fire resources were focused on battling that fire. My husband watched air drops from his office window. Schools were evacuated, residents were evacuated…no buildings burned and that fire is at 50% containment.
Today it was already more than 80 degrees when I woke up…and was warming quickly. Before the end of our minimum day, as I spent time observing reading groups, I noticed what appeared to be clouds in the sky. As I walked out to take a closer look, and take a photo, I noticed the dark smoke in the distance and headed to the office to find out if there was more information about nearby fires. I had heard earlier that there were fires on Camp Pendleton (a nearby military base), but this new smoke was much closer…a few miles from home.
Shortly after students left, we had an announcement that our staff meeting was canceled and we were free to go to our homes–with many teachers living close to areas threatened by the fire. The thing about fires is that they are unpredictable. They aren’t easily controlled and they turn in an instant. Winds whip them this way and that and they create their own weather systems within the fire itself, fanning the flames and generating tremendous energy that seems to spin the destruction in all directions. 100 degree temperatures didn’t help the firefighters, but water drops and the expertise and courage of these people manage to keep devastation to a minimum.
At one point this afternoon there were at least 7 active fires in the county…most in north county. Some houses have been lost, but human life at this point has not. School has been cancelled for tomorrow and uncertainty prevails. I’m fortunate, my family and home are safe…for now, but we are watchful and vigilant because this is not yet over.
Here are a few photos of the fires…courtesy of some of my friends who shared them on social media.
Like tornados and earthquakes and floods and storms, wildfires are scary. They make you feel helpless and vulnerable…and they reveal all the weaknesses of our urban systems. Traffic jams up, electricity capacity is compromised, and we often realize we do not have the plans in place that will serve us best in an emergency. My bags are packed…just in case…and the cat carriers are ready if things change and we have to leave our home.
In the meantime, thank you firefighters for your amazing service, expertise, and dedication. I hate fire weather, but I love this place. I understand that wildfires are a natural part of our ecosystem, made more difficult because of urban development, but it doesn’t make me like them. It does make me more wary about fire, and more vigilant about paying attention to fire safety advisements and preparation.
So, stay safe San Diego, take care of yourself and each other. It’s supposed to be hot again tomorrow…and then cool off. I hope tomorrow brings good news and containment!