As someone who grew up in New York, I am not accustomed to wildfires. On the other hand, as someone who’s lived in Southern California for over 20 years, I don’t ever want to get so used to wildfires that I become complacent about them. Face it, wildfires are scary stuff. Mix it with intensely hot temperatures and ferocious wind gusts and you’ve got yourself a recipe for disaster, my friend.
Wildfires jump back and forth willy-nilly, over fences and roads, burning down one house and leaving the next one intact. They move as fast as jack rabbits and they have only one mission: to burn down everything in its path and suck all the life out of anything, large or small. Be afraid, be very afraid.
When I lived in New York, I once saw a house in my neighborhood burn to the ground, and that was such a rare occurrence that the entire neighborhood came out that day to watch. It was on a Sunday morning, and most of us were still in pajamas and bathrobes, watching the two-story house go down in flames. When it was done, all that was left standing was the frame of a baby grand piano, and for some reason that I can’t recall the firefighters just couldn’t rescue that place from the fire’s grip. One thing the firefighters were able to do, though, was keep that fire from spreading.
Not so in California. Our climate is ideal for fire–extreme, bone dry heat with gusty winds blowing from the dessert in the east. Under these conditions, just about anything can start a fire, even something as innocent as playing a round of golf.
Which is why I’m proposing that California Governor Jerry Brown issue an edict, that when fire season is upon us, nobody move an inch. Nobody turn on the lights, start a car, rob a bank and fire a gun to get the teller’s attention. No lighting the fireplace or cooking S’mores over a campfire. No barbecuing anything! No jumping for joy because of some job promotion. Heck, no working at all!
Nothing! Nada. Capiche?
And don’t even think about lighting a cigarette or a candle. We should just go into hibernation until fire season is over or until the first rain, whichever comes first. Consider this excerpt from the National Geographic Daily News and you’ll understand why I want people to stay motionless during fire season:
“Unlike remote parts of the world where natural events like lightning strikes are prime sources of wildfires, in southern California, such fires are almost always started by people. Ninety-five percent have a human cause, according to Cal Fire, the state’s firefighting agency.”
During fire season, which keeps getting longer and longer, we need to conserve water, too. Because you know, no matter what, someone is going to do something stupid that will lead to a fire. Like the hiker responsible for the 2003 San Diego Cedar Fire. He was lost in the woods, so what did he do? He started a small bush fire in the hopes that someone would find him. Well, it worked because that little burning bush turned into a 273,000 acre fire, with over 2,000 homes lost. So the police did find him alright, and promptly arrested him, too.
This year, the fires came super early–last week–and that’s crazy. In the past, wildfires season was at its worst in the fall, after a long dry, hot spell, which we here refer to as “summer.” But this year our winter was negligible, with barely a trace of rain. Ergo, the lack of rain fooled Mother Nature into thinking the time for fire season was upon us, which can only mean we’re in for a long fire season. Yowza.
At one point, we had nine different fires going in San Diego, most of them in San Diego’s North County, including the Cocos fire, the Tomahawk Fire and the Poinsettia Fire, which changed its name in midstream, hereafter known as the San Diego Complex Fire. Thousands of acres burned, homes destroyed and wild animals either died or were misplaced from their homes. One person was found dead. A homeless man living in the hillside. The search is on for how these fires were started, and arson is at the top of the list. Make no mistake: the culprit or culprits will be found.
A special, heartfelt thank you and undying gratitude to all the firefighters, including those who came here from all over the state to work steadfastly to put out the fires. They are our heroes. While some of the fires are still burning, most have been contained, thanks to their dedication.