Watching the Sand Fire
The last few days have been very interesting. On Friday afternoon one of my friends at work suggested that I turn around. “Take a look at that.” He said. I turned, mostly in a daze from the 100+ degree weather that I had twice prior walked in that day. The sky was a deep brown, the edges glazed with amber. For a moment I reflected on the scale of the ashen cloud, and only after that moment did I consider the direction from which it birthed. It was in that moment that a small tinge of panic boiled in my gut. I turned to my computer and googled “canyon country fire”. Sure enough, familiar road names and locations sprung up. At that time the fire was already large, by comparison now however, it was a modest blaze.
I don’t do well with locations. I lived in Washington for nearly all my life before moving to this dry and desolate land they call LA. I can’t say I’ve ever really enjoyed California. It is as if this state pumps out hallucinogens into the air. Only such a truth could explain to me the desire anyone has to live here. It is, for me, an incredibly confusing thing. I’m digressing, but my point is that I didn’t know where anything was in Washington by name, and I still don’t know where anything is here. It would be Liz that would tell me that the fire was burning near the grocery store that we have in the past visited just down the road.
She asked if we could leave early. The miles long (and respectably tall) plume of smoke outside was an acceptable reason to leave. As we drove down I5 the scale of the blaze started to come into focus.
The area around where we live is difficult to traverse in the best of conditions. It’s a dry area that marketers once named “Golden Valley”. The reason it is “golden” is because everything is dead. The brush is dried from a relentless sun and it rains so rarely that natives of the area swirve on the roads at the first sign of moisture. It literally gets so hot and dry here that ants will break into your house for no other reason than to steal water.
So once the blaze had begun it was never lacking in resources or freedom. By the time we had heard about the fire it was at around 20 acres. In a matter of hours it would grow by a factor of 10. And a few hours later it would again raise by a factor of 10. Thousands of acres ablaze. I thought little of it for a while. It grew outside of sight and mind. But then Liz noticed some pictures of the fire. They looked to be taken from the Target up the road from us. I thought to myself “That wouldn’t be great, if true.” We got ready and drove up to Target.
The parking lot was incredibly busy. Many people gathered to gaze at the inferno on the hillside. At first it was merely an orange glow all along the tips of the hills. An infernal halo that we would have otherwise not seen in the daylight. But slowly the fire crept over the side like a hungry beast. It’s fiery grasp consuming all in its path.
As time progressed it crept closer. We watched it for at least a half hour. I couldn’t imagine having the job of fighting the fire. It would grow from 2,000 acres to 5,000. And with time it would go from 5,000 to 10,000. As of this posting it has reached 20,000 acres. Sleep came slowly and after many hours. We awoke just before noon this morning to notice that the light coming in through all our windows was orange.
It looked like an instagram filter, or more relevant to my interests, Doom 2016. Fresh black smoke on the horizon suggested that all was not well with the direction of the fire. Finally the skies would deliver upon us some rain. Unfortunately that rain was ash. This wonderful gift was apparently delivered to a few other friends. I received snapchat of the same salt and pepper seasoning on cars very far from where we live.
Within the next few hours we’d start seeing more and more evacuations of areas very close to us. The fire too was visibly burning towards our direction on the hillside. We gathered up belongings and pondered whether or not we’d be next to evacuate. More accurately, Liz gathered up belongings. But at the very least I scooped an avocado for our dinner. A few hours still and we’d walk outside to go gather the mail. The air was uninviting to say the least. I wasn’t the least bit surprised that there had been warnings to stay indoors. I don’t believe I could have walked a very far distance without being very unhappy by the end.
The wind has since changed direction. We’ve had the luxury of hiding indoors while something entirely alien to me transpires outside. When I lived in Washington the biggest concern you ever had was that “maybe” it might snow a “little too much” this year. At worst it would keep you at home for a couple days. Then it would melt. Sure, some folks would drive their cars into ditches. Those people mostly drove into things on their own regardless.
So I add this experience; One I have most likely told partly out of order, to the long list of reasons I do not enjoy living in this state. We (may) have eluded this fire. But who knows what will be at our doorstep next. Naturally being a miserably hot and dirty place, the price to live here races skyward every year. Truly confounding, and further support for my hallucinogenic gas hypothesis.