In October, while most of the country enjoys the cooler temperatures of Fall and the leaves begin changing colors, San Diego experiences 'Fire Season'. The air is dry--zapped of moisture--and the Santa Ana winds arrive without much notice or invitation. And with that combination come the fires.
There is fear in the air as well. No one can predict with certainty where the fires will strike and where the winds will take the flames and who will lose their homes, businesses or lives. So we wait. And we pray.
This morning, I turned on the news and learned there were two fires burning. One was out of control. The other one was 25% contained. I stepped outside in the early morning darkness and there was the faint familiar scent of smoke in the air. It was not how I wanted to begin my day.
In 2003, I watched wind fueled fires travel from a small pocket in East County and traverse northwestward across three freeways toward the coast line. And in a very short span of time. Hours. Thousands of homes were burned, lives lost and our city shut down for two days. We were told to stay indoors and only go outside if necessary. The air was thick with smoke and ash. It was a memory that has scarred us, as much, if not more, than the scars that the fire left on our landscape.
From a single distant plume of smoke tall on the horizon, spotted from our driveway early in the morning on October 26th, throughout the day, we watched the smoke consume all of the blue sky until there was nothing but a haze that burned our eyes and throats. We literally could not breathe without coughing. Even inside our home. And we lived miles from the fire. At one point the fire distantly crested a ridge visible from our home and we wondered aloud if we should begin packing our own things in case we too, were told to evacuate. After all, who would have imagined that it could have come as far as it had? But we were spared.
We watched in horror again on October 22, 2007 --just four days shy of the four year "anniversary date" of the 2004 Firestorm--as fires torched the North and South areas of our county wiping out entire neighborhoods again consuming both stuctures and lives. We naively believed --or hoped--that the Firestorm of 2004 was a freakish disaster, one that would not repeat itself in our lifetime. But, those who lived through and fought the Inaja Fire of 1956 knew better. That fire killed 11 firefighters. Now we know better, too.
And today, October 14, 2008, at 11:40 a.m. I just read that one of the fires is contained, the other has forced the closure of a freeway and now, yet another fire has erupted...in Rancho Bernardo, an area that has only begun to rebuild from last year.
It is still early in October...but, sadly, the fire season has arrived. And we can only watch and pray. Please pray for our firefighters. They are our Heroes.