Oct 26 2007


I’m a Californian and I have been for all but about 4 years of my life. I might as well be a native because I hardly remember anything else. However, I am a NORTHERN Californian, which is just SO different than Southern that we should really be different states. So this fire thing? It hasn’t really seemed real. Until this morning.

This morning the sun was orange. Fire pollution orange. I hate that sun.

I grew up with such a huge fear of fires that persists to this day, even though the last fire to threaten my family was back in about 1987 (when I was 8!). But the magnitude of that particular fire, especially when then combined with more distant but still very present and scary fires since, was enough to tattoo fire fear and paranoia in me permanently.

I know what fire smells like, and I can smell it when it’s far away and has even just started. I can even tell most of the time if it’s a woodstove, forest, or house/man-made material fire. When I smell a fire, I am all but paralyzed until I find out where it is.

I still have a fascination with the fire-fighter rations that were introduced to me during that ’87 fire. They were the most horrible, freeze-dried portions of crap I’d ever tasted, but I remember them vividly and think of them whenever there’s a wildfire.

I can also still vividly remember the sight of leaves of ash falling on my house. The leaves had burned so quickly that they still looked like leaves but were entirely ash. They fell apart at the slightest touch.

I am also terribly afraid of fireworks and bonfires. I run around stomping out smoldering ashes that fly out of bonfires whenever I’m around them. I can’t say it’s really all that fun. None at all, actually. I also stomp out burning cigarettes when they’re thrown on the ground, but not just because of the fire risk.

People all over the internet have been talking about packing lists for if a disaster was looming over their home. I haven’t really thought of one, mostly, I think, because it causes too much anxiety about the things that would be left. I’d rather deal with it in a tizzy at the last moment and not have time to think about all that I was leaving. My list does go this far: Cole, John, Yoko. I will, however , share with you my list from when I was 8 and we were put on standby for evacuation. Don’t worry- it’s short.

  1. Every.
  2. Single.
  3. Stuffed.
  4. Animal.
  5. I.
  6. Owned.

No exceptions allowed. As my mother rushed around packing photos and papers and supplies and clothes, I lovingly and with the utmost care wrapped and packed every stuffed toy. When my mother told me that I could only pick 3 to take? She might as well have shot me through the heart. I sobbed and wailed and mourned the untimely passing of my left behind toys. What? I was a very lonely little girl and they were my only friends. How would you feel if your mother told you she was going to let your friends burn to death? Exactly.

Thankfully, our house never burned down. But I’m now remembering how I felt and thinking of all of the families who have lost so much in these fires already. Even if all of their things can be replaced, this will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

1 Comment

  • By ticknart, October 26, 2007 @ 2:25 pm

    I remember that fire. The smoke and ash was so bad they shut down school for a few days and on the days there was school, we weren’t allowed outside at recess. The ashes falling everywhere, like horrible, hot snowflakes.

    One evening, my parents piled me and my brothers in the car and we drove up the highway, toward the fire. When we were near it, we got out and watched it, along with hundreds of other people. I remember a tree (Or was it just brush? In my mind it’s a giant pine tree.) going up with a huge WOOSH! The breeze was almost constantly pulling toward the fire, but occasionally there would be a gust toward the road and it would get almost too hot to stand there. I stood there watching the fire.

    I’m still not sure what my parents were thinking when they took us up there, that night, but I’ve never been really afraid of wild fires since then. Maybe that was the point.

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