The Weekend That Was

Saturday morning dawned bright and hot. We had no real plans, and I actually thought we could go to Home Depot and do some much-delayed home improvement projects.

About 9:30, I smelled smoke. I looked out my kitchen window and saw it billowing up, a bit closer than was comforting. Since the wind was blowing pretty hard, I quickly closed the windows and tried to plan out which parts of the house needed fixing the most.

As we began our plotting, the sunlight in our front patio took on that surreal orange-ish glow that means you are the proud recipient of smoke. And lots of it. Sooner rather than later, instead of blue sky, every window of our house displayed a view of a blackish, orange-ish apocalyptic sky. From our bedroom window, we could see the plume of smoke curling up into the sky from the fires in Brea.

I tried not to panic. I told my husband that although I knew from the news reports that the fire was in Yorba Linda and Brea, I was fighting thousands of years of evolution that had hard-wired my brain to scream at me to run away as fast as I could. And I was losing. The house was getting smokier by the minute, and I was, to put it mildly, concerned.

We weighed the pros and cons of leaving. My husband had gone outside and watered down the brush in back of us, as we are perched at the top of a ravine. He wanted to stay. He tried to assure me that the fires were on the other side of the freeway and that we would be fine. Then my sister called and said that the news had just reported that the fire had jumped the freeway into Anaheim Hills.

You didn’t have to tell me twice to get out of Dodge.

I threw together some clothes and things for an overnight stay at my sister’s, if that needed to happen. We weren’t formally evacuated, but we are about a mile down from the area that was. Close enough for me. Especially since the damn ravine, full of nice juicy fire-food, is right below us.

By that point they had shut the 91 West down at Weir Canyon, and the sight of all these cars using what are normally on-ramps as off-ramps, and seeing traffic going the wrong way on the freeway made for a sight that was bemusing and frightening at the same time.

We spent the bulk of our weekend at my sister’s house by the beach, although my husband stayed to watch our property. Some sort of man-thing, I’m told.

I was only slightly inconvenienced. I had to leave my house in a little bit of a hurry and stay somewhere else for a very short amount of time. The telling of this story is in no way intended to minimize the experience of many, many more who were very close to losing their homes, or worse, those who actually did.

Although upon returning with my son today, it was hard to see our beloved hills so blackened and charred, as well as the ominous plumes of smoke still pouring into the sky signalling that it ain’t over yet by a long shot. Thank goodness the injuries reported so far are minor, and no fatalities, which is a blessing beyond belief.

We who live out here on the edge of the “wilderness” like to think that living here is akin to living in our own little private paradise. The rivers, the trees, the hills, all of the natural beauty makes us feel better. And maybe a little special, to be honest. But in the back of our minds, we know that we are perhaps gambling a bit. How could we not, living as we do in fire-prone Southern California?

Usually, we place our chips on red or black. And we come out winners. But yesterday, the trusty roulette ball landed, ironically, on green. Because unfortunately, for life in SoCal, there is no sure bet.

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