When I stumbled out of bed in the early morning darkness, I could smell wood smoke through the screen door on the balcony. I thought it was too early and too warm for Megan or Mark to be having a fire in their houses, but I remembered how warm they both like their houses and thought no more about it until I went out to the car.
Wednesday was covered in ash and soot. The moon was a bright, eerie orange. I began to feel nervous. It took a while to get enough ash off the windshield to see enough to drive, and I saw soot and ash dancing in the headlights. This was not good.
Arriving at work, I put on the radio as I always do, and learned that fires had broken out overnight in Santa Rosa and inland Mendocino County, as close as Willits, which is only 32 miles from Fort Bragg, where I work. My friend Alison had to evacuate her house inland with just her dog, her husband, and a couple of his favorite guitars (he is an award-winning guitarist) in the middle of the night. It appears that these blazes were caused by power lines blown over in the high winds, causing sparks, which caught in the tinder dry grass and brush, and was then spread by the same high winds that caused them.
My boss was slated to fly to LA for a conference that day. Highways were closed and flights, including hers, were cancelled. All the phone circuits were busy, so I had to somehow change her hotel reservation and rebook her flight for later in the week. I got her the last seat on the Wednesday flight and we are hoping for the best*.
Even inside the clinic, my mouth was gritty and my eyes were sore from the smoke. Megan arrived to tell me that the hospital’s ambulances had been out all night helping to evacuate hospitals in the affected areas, and saying that she brought two days’ worth of clothes in case she is needed to work longer shifts. Every single fire fighter in our County is out there fighting the fires, whether in our own county or in our neighbors’, and I am proud of every single one of them.
Heading home, the sun cast a rosy pink glow over the ocean hours before it was due to set. It should have been beautiful, but it was horrifying. It reminded me of the sun in Oakhampton during the wildfires my brother fought so bravely, and I have to admit to being thankful that he had left the fire department a couple of years ago and was out of harm’s way for this one.
I left the cats in that day, and greeted them even more affectionately than usual. Living in a wood house in the middle of the woods gives a girl a healthy respect for, and fear of, fires. I looked around and thought, what would I save if I had 5 minutes, besides the kitties?
I feel nervous, scared, sad, and guilty all at once. My thoughts are with all of those affected by and fighting the fires.
*Update: It was cancelled. Maybe Thursday? Maybe the whole trip should be cancelled.
[Later:] The whole trip was cancelled.
A YEAR AGO: A walk in the cemetery with some notable ghosts.
FIVE YEARS AGO: Power outages, dragging furniture around, and no water. You know, the usual.