Smoke & Ash

by Ginger on May 19, 2014

in Home is Where the Heart Is

Last week was rough.

If you don’t follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you may not know that we were smack in the middle of the big wildfires in San Diego county last week. Of the 9? 10? fires that broke out over the week, we were sandwiched directly between two of the major ones.

Smoke sandwich

This is from our subdivision, looking east on the left and west on the right. (As I said on twitter “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am, stuck in the middle…”). The fire to the east was about 6 miles away at the closest point, but the evacuation boundary was…basically one street over. The fire to the west was closer–it was only about 2 miles away (this picture is from Wednesday afternoon. The worst *growth* of that fire was on Wednesday morning/early afternoon, which is why the smoke is more dissipated than the column of smoke on the left). The point that is being thought of as the ignition point is directly across from the new park we go to. It appears to have started on one side of the street, and thanks to the stupid crazy Santa Ana winds, blew fast and furious across the street and to the west.


Burnt behind the playground


This is from the street. On the right hand side is the park–you can see the fence around the baseball field, and that building on the left is bathrooms I think. Behind that is the beginning of the big burn area.


This is on the other side of that hill. I didn’t go out looking for these pictures, these are in the path of my day to day driving around my neighborhood. The fires to the east burned bigger and longer (in fact, as of the moment of this writing, that fire is still only 89% contained), but I won’t have pictures of that–I don’t need to go be a tourist to the devastation there. If you want to see some of craziness/heartbreak, you can just google Cocos Fire or Poinsettia Fire.

The day before these fires started, another fire burned further south of where I live, but north of where I work. People were getting evacuation calls at work, and there was a lot of running around trying to figure out if everyone could get to their families/homes. That’s when I posted this on twitter:

It was stupid hot last week–it was 100 in Carlsbad on Wednesday, which was apparently the record high for that date since they started taking measurements–and crazy windy, with gusts as high as 50mph, and, oh yeah, we’re in a really bad drought. I’ve been saying for months that I’m afraid of what fire season around here was going to look like, as I watched the brush around my neighborhood turn brown and the lagoon dry up. I just didn’t know fire season was going to start in May (even if they’re now saying that a lot of the fires, including these two, have suspicious ignition points. ARSON. I just…I just don’t even know how to talk about that without sputtering). We normally don’t see these conditions until at least August. And while Santa Ana’s aren’t unheard of this time of year, the rest of the conditions are sort of extreme. We’re used to May Gray & June Gloom, with thick walls of marine layer (read: moisture) hanging around this time of year, not stifling heat and 3% humidity.

After the last big fires we were a part of, I have a bit of a *thing* about fire. The smell of smoke in certain situations puts me on edge, and seeing a plume of black on the horizon when the conditions are juuuuuust right make me fairly tense. These fires were, in a way, easier than last time–we weren’t evacuated, for starters, and we had a fairly good plan together (along with a variety of places to go should we have needed them), which helped. We even had minimal ash compared to last time, though there were a few days there where the smell of smoke was pretty harsh and the ash was persistent, if light.

But at the same time, it’s never REALLY easy. It’s stressful, and tense, to sit and watch the news and hope the winds don’t shift. It makes me feel guilty too, because I know that by hoping the winds don’t shift, I’m in effect saying “I hope OTHER people have to deal with this instead of me” which seems insanely selfish, but at the same time, I can’t help but be insanely selfish. Fire is some scary shit, and it leaves me tense for days to watch it, and wait, and hope that we aren’t next. (On Friday, when I finally felt safe-ish enough to leave the boys at home to go to work, I felt like I had the hangover to end all hangovers, just from the adrenaline crash & the smoke headache). I know, sadly, that it’s a fact of life in this part of the country, but that doesn’t mean it gets easier.

Things look drastically different this week. We’re back to a normal weather pattern (hello 68 degrees and 61% humidity, you beautiful, beautiful creatures), and the smell of smoke seems limited to the immediate affected areas. All the schools are back in session, and all the evacuations have been lifted. For those of us who were lucky enough that we only lost a few days of work, things are back to normal-ish. There are a lot of people who lost more than that, and my heart goes out to them.

Now I’m just hoping for rain, and praying that this is the worst we see this year.

Nonsequiturchica May 19, 2014 at 2:46 pm

How scary! It’s crazy how the different areas of the country are dealing with different issues. Here in the Midwest due to the crazy amts of anow we got this winter and the rain this spring we are having a lot of issues with flooding. The complete opposite of you guys. If only we could give you some of our rain….

Tragic Sandwich May 20, 2014 at 6:42 am

My East Coast and Midwestern Facebook friends thought that Californian complaints about the warm, dry winter here were mocking them. As I pointed out on Facebook this week, this is what we were talking about.

Hope June 10, 2014 at 5:27 pm

My sister used to work for a company that helped homeowners make their property less susceptible to wildfires. She wasn’t too far from your neck of the woods. Wildfires are some scary shit! I’m glad you guys emerged ok.

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