I’ve lived in the greater San Diego area for ten years so I am no stranger to wildfire season. In 2007 San Diego County and North County experienced some of the worst wildfires in decades and that was my first taste of this extraordinary phenomenon. During the fires of 2007 I was pet-sitting in a location that was cut off from safety by all sides except the west; should the fires have become too out of control my only recourse was to take the dogs and stand in the Pacific ocean. Suffice it to say that did not please me very much. I stayed up for days, monitoring the TV coverage, sleeping a few hours here and there on the couch, freaking out. In a word: sucked. I was cleaning up the raining ash on an hourly basis at one point; at another I was certain my own place was going to burn down when I heard my neighborhood had been evacuated. When I returned home after the fires had been mostly contained I found a lot of ash and some smoke damage but that was all. One of my neighbors, an old drunken coot, had stayed when everyone else fled. He said it got mighty hot at one point but other than that everything was fine.
So, with Firestorm 2014, I was again thrown into a spiral of uncertainty when I saw the smoke and the flames eating through the vegetation, and then a very nice neighborhood-all on its way to my neighborhood. I watched in frozen terror as the fire swept up the hillside, devouring everything in its path. To say it was surrealistic is an understatement; seeing helicopters continuously swoop in and dump flame retardant on the twenty to thirty foot high ‘fire tornadoes’ was indeed a heady experience. I fretted, I worried, I paced and, in the end (when the wind died down and then began blowing in the other direction, enabling the fire fighters to get a better handle on it) I drank until I could stand no more. Yet before I passed out I made sure I left my front door unlocked in the event that someone should come in the middle of the night and tell me evacuation was necessary. No one did, fortunately, and the next day the fire burning near my place was about twenty percent contained; due to the shifting winds, the worst was now being battled inland, and not near the coast.
Wildfire season is a dreaded reality in the high desert when the area is in a 100% drought, which the San Diego area has been for the last six months, and I have to commend the firefighters for their preparedness and their undaunted ability to get in there and do their damndest in the face of such odds. In all, nine fires raged out of control in North County (in order from the south: San Diego County, North, Riverside, Orange, L.A. to give you a perspective) and over the course of a week the firemen were put to the test. All I can say is thanks guys. Job well done! I’ll remember you at Christmas, that’s for damn sure!