October 23, 2007

Fire Season

A SHORT TIME AGO I sent my good friend Chris a note about something he had sent me, with the post-script: "Uh, what's up with fire season this year?" I tend not to read the news much on my weekends, so the news I heard Monday night about the massive wildfires in Southern California caught me by surprise. Had I known they were THIS bad, though, I would have been less flippant.

Especially since they're, you know, tearing through my old stomping grounds. Son-of-a-gun! This might well affect me at work tomorrow but I've been up for the last hour or so just reading about the fires. It's actually a little alarming, although I think this is due to the peculiar geographic bearings I have as a former resident of Southern California.

For instance, my good friend Chris and his family are roughly 17 miles away from the Ranch Fire, which has burned at least 29,000 acres around the town of Piru. (The fire was apparently starting to surround Piru and in the immediate area I understand it is an extremely acute situation.) Now, 17 miles is a long way -- it is roughly the distance between Manchester and Nashua, New Hampshire's two largest cities -- but I'm not thinking about the distance. I'm thinking, "Uh, that's only two towns away," and, "Wait a minute. Didn't I drive through Piru when I was back in California the last time? Yeah, I did. Jesus Christ!"

Just as worrisome to me was news of a small fire between Thousand Oaks and Moorpark, a bit to the south. Fortunately, it only burned 35 acres and didn't cause much damage. But I had an ex-girlfriend whose home was in Thousand Oaks and for several minutes I was frantically searching on Yahoo Maps trying to find out where this fire was, and racking my brains trying to remember what street my ex-girlfriend lived on, and where it was in relation to this fire. I may not have talked to her in years but that doesn't mean you're not concerned, you know? The good news, though, was that the fire was again several miles distant.

The number of fires and the devastation they have wrought have amazed me. The worst of it, of course, has been around San Diego but even around Los Angeles I recognize places I've been and roads I've traveled that are being consumed by the blazes.

Given the strength of the Santa Ana winds, and the unpredictable nature of how the fires are starting and spreading, I would urge people near fire-affected areas to take basic steps to prepare for evacuation if need be: get your papers in order, pack a suitcase, that kind of basic stuff that doesn't take a lot of time but could really come in handy if you have to move quickly.

Also, I am stunned at reports coming out that firefighters aren't able to fight fires because they're stuck rescuing people who defied evacuation orders. It is understandable people don't want to leave their homes -- but for the love of God, the fire crews aren't kidding around here. When they tell you to go, for the love of God, GO. GET THE HELL OUT. There's a reason they're telling you to do this: it's because bad things will happen otherwise. Trust me on this one.

That said, I hope all my readers in the Southland are OK and that these fires aren't affecting you. Take care and be careful out there.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at October 23, 2007 01:41 AM | TrackBack
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