Oct 23, 2007

World On Fire

Larry and I are safe here in Eagle Rock. On a clear day wecan see he Glendale foothills to north, Mt. Baldy far to the east. Last week we were driving a stretch of the 134 freeway along the foothills. We could see far west far into the San Fernando Valley; the Pacific Ocean was shimmering in the south. Made you understand why people moved here. Long ago. Before the other people got here.

But today the world is on fire.

When the sun came up this morning, it rose through a thick band of smoke, the smoke magnifying the sun into a bloated red balloon; the sun igniting the brown band into fire orange; like the flames that generated it. it's smoke from Lake Arrowhead, a mountain resort has lost over a hundred homes to the inferno. So far.

To the west, the sky is thick with dirty beige. To the south it's brown brown brown. Smoke from San Diego. The LA Times reports that fires have consumed about 270,000 acres, more than 420 square miles, across seven counties. Hundreds of thousands of people are being evacuated. I thought I heard the radio newscaster say "half a million." He was at Qualcomm stadium in San Diego, where the evacuees are trying to sleep on the hard, cold concrete. One family got out just in time, but they couldn't find their pets. They heard later their entire apartment complex burned to the ground.

And the fires are raging north of us as well. Simi Valley, Valencia, Castaic, Agua Dulce. We used to drive that way every Christmas to visit my uncle in Lancaster. It was an eternity's drive through wasteland. Today, that sixty-mile stretch is pock-marked with houses. Tract homes and shopping centers. Most of them work in LA, but can't afford LA home prices. So they live here in the wasteland and drive to work.

We drove out to Colorado last Thanksgiving, and took that highway north in the predawn hours. All we could see was a ribbon of white headlights, slinking south at 20 miles an hour. The masses of commuters living lives of desperation.

Stevenson Ranch is on fire. I shot a TV show out in Stevenson Ranch in 1991. It was a ranch then. This past April I went to a cabin in Tehachapi to write. I stopped in Stevenson Ranch to get groceries and gas up. It was one housing development after another, pimpled with Designer Shoe Warehouse and Ross and Linens 'N' Things and Toys R Us and Marshalls. A city-approved sign boasted, "The Shops at Stevenson Ranch." It looked like every shopping development I'd seen in Nashville and Denver and New Jersey. I got out quick. Driving the desert wasteland was a relief after that.

And now it is all on fire. And I can only feel empathy for these poor people, who pitched their overpriced tents in the middle of nowhere, put up some grass and some shopping malls and schools and called it home. I hope they have homes to come home to.

PS. I wrote this at 10am on Tuesday. As of 7pm, nine hours later, nearly 1 million people in California have been evacuated. One in three households in San Diego County. And the fire has spread. See new imagery from NASA...


Lisa Milton said...

I'm thinking of you and all our neighbors down south - how scary! Take care.

Stephanie said...

We are praying for everyone in your neck of the currently flaming woods.

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