Thursday, October 25, 2007

Red Sun, Orange Moon

So much has happened since my last post. I have Girl Scout stories and stories of my ever-maturing children, great recipes and Halloween fun. But all of that seems a bit irrelevant right now with the current tragedy occurring in Southern California.

Those of you who live in other parts of the county know only what you see in a 5 minute news brief on CNN - here is the real story. First of all let me say that my family is lucky. We are not currently in the path of the fires here in San Diego - we are safe! Yet the fear, the smoke, the flying ash remain part of our everyday life. Even though we are (thankfully) not on the front lines we are still part of the unfolding story. I don't think anyone living in this area stays untouched:

The fire is still out of control and burning but has moved away from our area. At one point there were eight different fires burning in areas surrounding us. It was very eerie. When I picked my daughter up from school Monday we needed to come over a large hill that faces east. From the top of that hill you could see smoke blowing from the inland areas to the ocean North of us and South of us. But above me were sunshine and blue skies-very odd and frankly that made me really nervous. Technically we were surrounded. The Santa Ana winds made matters worse. Sometimes we got gusts of up to 50 miles an hour. The humidity was 3%! DRY!

We did get an indicator from local officials that we should be prepared to evacuate in case of changing conditions. It's very hard to look through your entire house and figure out what you can pack in the trunk of your car. For the record -beyond the necessities such as the cat, the fish, clothing and bedding- important papers, photos and home videos made the cut. It was a long day!

Overnight the winds shifted and died down - a huge blessing because now they're using effective helicopter and plane water drops to try to get the fire contained. We are now out of immediate fire danger. Because of the wind shift the smoke yesterday and today was terrible! The air quality - horrid- like standing too close to a campfire. It "snowed" ash. Everything outside is covered with a fine coating of black and white. The ash in the air also diffuses the sunlight which gives a weird orange glow to everything- almost like sunset or sunrise all day. Typically I can't look directly at the sunset outside my window until the sun is almost down. Today I watched a pinkish-red sun crest over the house and slowly make it's way to the horizon. It was beautiful but strange. At the same time the moon rose ORANGE! like some child's Halloween drawing. I fully expected to see a witch fly by.

Poor hubby has been driving up and down the freeway to get to work at the TV station. He's been working from 2pm-4am and will continue to do so. Luckily he is assigned to a position at the station and has not been sent to work with reporters on the fire lines. However, he does have to drive through fire impacted areas to get to work-no flames, but bad smoke. He said coming home last night he could see the flames crawling up one of the distant mountains. I've sent him to work each day prepared to have him just stay at the station but he always wants to come home and be with us (the sweetie!)

They canceled school for the rest of the week and are actually using the local high school as an evacuation area. We planned to take supplies to help those who are displaced- some who have lost their homes. In the true generous nature of San Diego they have been overwhelmed with donations and currently need nothing but money. We know as of now that at least 1,000 homes have been destroyed throughout San Diego and there will probably be many more. Over 170,000 acres have burned.

Because of the very strict and far-reaching evacuations only one life has been lost although there have been 18 injured including 4 firefighters. They are using the reverse 911 system where they actually call you and tell you to leave. Luckily people are listening and leaving. These fires move very quickly and are random. The embers will blow over an entire sub-division and hit a house in the middle. In some areas 6 houses on a block will burn and one will be left completely unscathed. Most of the areas hardest hit are surrounded by scrub brush and open land. This has been the driest year in San Diego in 130 years. All of that brush is tinder-dry. (We live in a fairly developed area so the danger is less for us.)

Right now please keep your thoughts and prayers with those who are fighting so hard for our safety - the fire and police department. Also for those who have lost their homes. Some of hubby's co-workers live in the burn area and have been evacuated. They are working 12 to 14 hour days and do not know if they have a home to go to once all is said and done.

God bless, we are safe. My story comes from a position of grace. However, many of our friends and co-workers will not be so lucky. When you get the call to evacuate you MUST leave in 5 minutes. That's not much time to gather a lifetime of memories. Sadly, many of those people will loose everything. But as one survivor put it, "They're only things. I have my memories safely stored in my heart and in my head. My family is together and alive. Everything else is replaceable."

Feel helpless? So do I. But we don't have too. These families are taken care of at the moment but the real work begins after the last flame is extinguished. Re-building. Want to help? Please make a cash donation to the American Red Cross and make sure you tell them it is for the San Diego Fire Victims.

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