Monday, August 31, 2009

Back Home - The Things You Can't Leave Behind

First off, I'm back home - and my heartfelt thanks for all the e-mails I received from you.

As I mentioned, we were hit with a mandatory evacuation order because of the Station Fire in Southern California, since we live a stone's throw from Big Tujunga Canyon and were pretty much just one ridge away from the fire itself..maybe a mile, tops.

The picture you see above is Mt. Gleason,a place i see going and coming every day,just above my home.

So anyway, faced with that kind of decision, what would you take and what would you leave behind?

My first order of business was to get the family out of the way. I'd already decided that I was going to stay for awhile until I saw ( literally) which way the wind was blowing, but I wanted them gone and my car packed to the point that all I'd have to do would be to jump in the car and jam down the hill. Besides that, the cops were announcing the evacuation on their patrol car loudpeakers and I figured I wasn't the only one that heard them. I'm no hero, but the last thing I wanted was to leave my house empty and vulnerable until I had to.

Luckily, shelter wasn't a problem. My mother still lives 40 odd freeway minutes away Southeast in the house I grew up in and there was ample room there.

For them, it was mainly a question of packing toiletries, sleeping bags, a few treasured photos, the admission cards for the kids schools and a change of clothes. Fortunately, no animals to deal with at this particular time. My wife also insisted on taking every library book in the house with her. Once they were ready, I told them I was going to stay for awhile which didn't go over well, but as my friends will tell you, I can be quite stubborn at times.

It's odd I suppose, but once the choice came down to it, it was easy for me to figure out what to do and to figure out what I was taking.

For starters, I was looking ahead to an insurance claim. So my fire insurance policy went, along with a paper bag full of checkbooks, legal papers, deeds, copyrights and next month's bills.

I also went to work with my digital camera and took photos of the computers, the electronics, the few pieces of antique furniture, the insides of the closets virtually anything of value I could think of that I wasn't taking with me.A word to the this in advance and have the memory card easily available, just in case.It saves time.

Next, some artwork I have, including two paintings my father did. Then a change of clothes, some toiletries, and some rare guitars and a few other personal items. it all fit quite nicely into my fairly small car, with room to spare.

Take that as a commentary on how much useless junk we fill our lives with.

Once I was packed, I decided to hunker down and wait. By this time, the smoke was fairly thick and I could see where the fire was clearly.

First order of business was to wet down the roof,structures and plants thoroughly with the hose. It's a wood frame house with a comp roof and if things got hairy it wouldn't help much, but it would stop the odd spark from torching the place.

Then I turned on the radio and sat down to wait, going outside every few minutes or so for a first hand look at the situation.

The Station Fire is an unusual one in that it is fuel driven rather than wind driven. Part of the severity is due to the fact that environmental activists have prevented any culling or brush clearance in some of these areas for years. A Fire department spokesperson I heard in a live press conference was quite open about admitting that they actually wanted the fire to burn away this brush and choke itself out so it could be more easily contained, and their primary goal was to keep it from threatening homes along the borderline.

By late afternoon,around 6PM I could tell that the DC-10's,the supersoakers and a lot of incredibly brave fire fighters had pretty much established a perimeter and I was getting concerned calls from the family, so I decided it was time to leave. I gave the place a final soaking down, got in the car and put it in G-d's hands, where it really belonged all the time anyway.

By this time,it was dark and as I drove towards the freeway, I got a good look at the La Canada/La Crescenta part of the fire. The San Gabriels, which provide a gorgeous view most of the time were literally aflame.It was a frightening sight to see raging fires so near places i knew.

I spent the night on a chaise lounge on my mom's patio, partly for wanting to be out in the open air and partly out of sentiment, since my father and I built it from scratch originally when I was a kid.I helped dig the post holes and pour the concrete, it was always where he and I and his pals from the neighborhood got together to yak about life and the issues of the day. My father and those friends are all deceased now, and I felt the need of a friendly ghost or two.

The next day, I hit the road to go home again. It was like a war zone, except no bullets - a reddish haze, sooty smoke and ash all over. It's better now, but the gusty winds are supposed to kick in tonight so we'll see what happens.

The sheer scope of this fire is amazing. If you were able to drive around the edge of it, it would stretch 150 miles.


louielouie said...

first, i'm glad you/yours are safe. let's stay that way, ok? i can see your position/outlook on what to do about leaving. it must be a very surreal feeling.
the reason i go to southeastern oklahoma so often is to be around a familiar/friendly ghost as well.

with that said, allow me to be a stick in the mud.
i've never understood these fires.
every year, in different areas, we in flyover country hear about these fires.
the utilites can string electricity, water, sewer, and natural gas through these areas. why not tap the water system for a network of hydrants that are accessible in areas that are prone to fires. nothing like a 100 foot grid, but maybe a 2 mile grid.
i've made this comment to others from southern kahleefornia and they say i don't understand the layout of this territory. that's correct, i don't, but i do know that thousands of dollars in damage are done year in and year out by these fires and it sounds as though no one is interested in doing any type of prevention.

and what would you leave behind?

monkey boy.

Freedom Fighter said...

Hi louie,
Thanks for the good wishes.Let's hope my run of luck holds.
Here's the problem with your suggestion.

First, we are talking about a very large expanse of territory and rough terrain,( mostly non-residential) and no, water, electricity, gas etc. isn't run through all these areas. A lot of them don't even have roads.These fires generally start in remote, non-populated wilderness.

It's also VERY VERY DRY, especially when you have a few years of successive drought like we have.And there are far too many people in CA for the existing infrastructure.

A lot of these fires happen much closer to the ocean, in places like the Malibu hills and the Santa Monica Mountains,and the last big ones were in Laguna and Santa Barbara, and in Ventura County so access to water isn't a problem. This time,it is.

Another factor is the state's wack job environmentalists, who sue and lobby to keep brush clearance in mountain areas at a minimum. So of the areas burning now haven't been burnt in forty, fifty years.

RE: Monkey, I'm sure he would have made room for us up in his Hollywood Hills place,but with him, Gruppstein and Baby Monkey it would have been way overcrowded.

Some things are better left imagined.

What Antique Furniture said...

i'm happy that you are good now