The Rocket Scientist and I are fine, thanks for asking. We live about ten miles from the fire in Irvine and while I doubt our home is in peril we have a few bags packed in case we have to get out of dodge in a hurry.
Some of our friends are not so lucky as they live in areas that are a little too close to comfort. Should the winds change direction, we’ll head to Russ’ house to pack up as much as we can and get he and his family to safety. On the opposite end of Orange County we have even more friends who are currently in the potential path of destruction.
Meanwhile our friend Drew Warkenten and his wife live near an evacuation zone in San Diego and it’s likely he and his wife will be told to relocate if things don’t calm down. This sounds a little more dire than it probably will turn out but these fires are astonishingly unpredictable.
Sunday night we wandered around the hills in Aliso Viejo in hopes of catching a glimpse of the Santiago Fire (the one closest to us, so far). I thought maybe we would see the ridge-line of a distant hill on fire. Instead the sky all-around and above us was a brilliant deep orange. Within, what seemed to be arms reach, a wall of flame could be seen flickering on the tops of trees while it’s shadow danced in the smoke.
I was expecting an as seen-on-television image but the vista before me was something completely different and I was startled by the new reality. We called everyone we knew to make sure they were aware of where the fire was and how fast it was growing (2-3000 acres in two hours) because thirty-second news wasn’t providing a proper context.
Curiosity got the better of us both and we drove closer to help gain a better understanding of what was happing in our back yard. We stopped at the Irvine train station which is on the other side of the former El Toro military base. The train station has a walking tower that rises two stories above a mostly flat landscape making for the perfect vantage point while not getting in the way of the fight or putting ourselves in danger. Across the dark, vacant runway was an amalgam of blinking lights, trees bending to the wind and the heat and flames shooting hundreds of feet in the air.
The air around us was thick with ash, thick gray smoke, and the smell of burning wood. It was so dry and the wind was blowing so hard that your throat started to burn after only a few minutes. And this was from a half-mile away. We watched the scene for a few minutes and decided to head home, our dose of reality had satisfied our need to know but that didn’t prevent me from stopping a few times on the way home to turn back and watch Irvine go up in smoke.
The winds have died down since then and the threat to us has seemingly been pacified but it’s still very real for so many others. Ad hoc plans are being made to turn our humble abode into potential shelter and storage. Lord willing it won’t come to that.