Discursive Post about Weather, Dogs, Fire

The wind is blowing like a MOFO — truly extreme winds, crazy winds. I guess if I have a doppelgänger she will just blow by so fast I won’t even see her. At the moment, it is also snowing. 40 mph winds and snow. I hope my doppelgänger is wearing a coat when she breezes by, hopefully wearing a jacket that’s insulated with down and has a windbreaker shell. There won’t be much moisture from the 30 or so snowflakes, but just the smell is ambrosial.

Wind like this scares me, residue from my California life and being evacuated for 10 days because of a wildfire, which was named the Cedar Fire, in the mountains where I lived, a wildfire that kept coming back to my town. As of 2003 it was the biggest wildfire in California history, a sad statistic that’s now been bested ( 😦 ) a couple of times. The day before the fire started in a rural part of San Diego County near the town of Ramona Ariel (my dog) and I had climbed up Garnet Peak. It was a transcendently clear Sunday and from the top of the mountain I could look all the way out across the Anza Borrego Desert to the Salton Sea. I had moved to my house in the mountains only five weeks earlier.

The air — just before sunset — was rosy and clear. The view was beyond description. The hike — one of my favorites in my life — was wonderful. The air temperature? Ideal. I sat beside my wolf/dog, my arm around her, and said, “Ariel this is what we moved up here for, isn’t it, girl?” She had no argument, but leaned against me. She was an extremely intense and even deadly creature, but we had an incontrovertible bond. (Wolves and dogs should NEVER be bred together. Even though Ariel was a low content wolf dog, she was NOT like the other kids. I got her at the shelter but that’s a story for another day…) She was an awesome hiking pal.

We sat there until the sun was just about to touch the ocean to our left far, far away when suddenly BANG!!! The wind hit the mountain, sounded like an explosion, and that fatal Santa Ana began. It would find a signal fire lit by some idiot in the dry brush of October and would ultimate burn 273,246 acres (1,106 km2) of forest, homes, burning all the way to the ocean while the Santa Ana blew (from the east) then all the way up in the other direction when the wind shifted and came in from the ocean, toward the mountains and a tremendous amount of fuel, and my house, with smoke visible from space.

It took months for the fire finally to be put out. My town was circled in black, charred trees, stumps, brush. A few houses in the more remote parts of my town burned, but firefighters fought hard to save my town and succeeded. The day after we were evacuated, we were allowed to return for two hours to do what we could to protect our property. This amounted to siphoning gas from my neighbor’s old truck to fill my truck (since then I have only let my gas approach empty twice), spraying the roofs of our houses, wetting the ground all around them, and being sure there was NOTHING flammable near our houses. Our houses were stone and the walls would have stood, but the roofs wouldn’t. My neighbor’s nephew was a firefighter who came by our houses a couple times a day and soaked our roofs the nearly two weeks we were evacuated. There was a fire hydrant in front of my house, too, which didn’t hurt.

My house in the San Diego mountains

At the time, I think many people believed it was a freak (snow has stopped) event, but it did end up revolutionizing wild-fire fighting, at least in California. And, of course, by now we all know it was a harbinger, not a freak event.

It seems that everyone has an answer to the wildfire question, from thinning dead wood to raking the underbrush. In my view, the real problem is our climate has changed and I have no idea how to fix that, but, in the prevention of fires? Someone should talk to insurance companies about this issue because they seem to have an inside track. When I bought my house, I had a hell of a time getting insurance because of the fire danger. AFTER the fire it was no problem. And why? The Cedar Fire burned the fuel and insuring my house was less a risk for an insurance company. We all kept “defensible” space around our houses. Though we all burned wood stoves, no one stacked their wood and no one stored wood near the house. When I came back to Colorado and saw what people did with their firewood, I wanted to yell at them, but… Plants that fought fire were planted around our houses — rosemary, a kind of myrtle and less flammable trees. Drought brought the bark beetle who killed the indigenous oak which we later burned in our wood stoves, diminishing the fuel further.

Anyway, I don’t know the answer to this problem. I just know that when the wind gusts above 50 mph/43 knots/82 kmh, my Cedar Fire PTSD kicks in.

Featured photo: Ariel (white dog) and Mathilda (chow Aussie mix) hiking with me up in the Laguna Mountains.

24 thoughts on “Discursive Post about Weather, Dogs, Fire

  1. yikes. so terrifying, and such a prolonged fire. I well understand the reaction to wind. Having grown up in south Boulder, it was “normal” to have 100mph winds once or twice a year, but back then, wildfires were considerably less common. Now the climate is different and we are having to adjust, like it or no. One breath at a time, hope the wind stops soon.

    • I remember those Boulder winds from even back in the 70s. Crazy. I hope the wind stops soon, too. Right now there’s a wind war going on — some wind from the east, most wind from the west and it’s a stalemate about five miles west of me. It would be entertaining if it were, you know, entertaining.

  2. I have always been fearful of high winds — I’m not sure what caused that, but wind is very destructive, whether or not there is fire as well. We’ve had more wind this year than for many years in the recent past, and my instinct is to look for smoke on the horizon whenever I leave home (so far we’ve been relatively lucky that there have beenno bad fires). It’s been a rather unsettling spring!

    • I know. I used to leave for school in the morning and the first thing I did was look to the east to see if there was any smoke up there. sometimes there was which made it difficult to concentrate on my classes knowing I might be shut off from home and dogs, unable to do anything. Very unsettling spring, here, too. 😦

  3. We watch the wind during hurricane season–blowing the wrong way and we are really in for it. How powerful is the wind that each of us has different triggers from it?

    • Absolutely. Crazy. I don’t feel any danger when I’m out in the big empty in the wind, but otherwise? So many triggers for us humans. I heard two things bang and crash last night but haven’t looked yet…

  4. The climate is changing and there’s nothing to be done for that. Every west coast biome will replace what is there with more heat and drought tolerant species. That means the existing foliage will get heat stressed, maybe die, and be extremely vulnerable to fire during the process but eventually it will balance out. Nature always tends towards balance until it gets jiggered by something and then heads back to a new balance. Other areas will get warmer and wetter. Ch-ch-ch-changes!

  5. I was living in San Francisco for the 1991 Oakland hills fire. Bits of newspaper and books rained down on us after blowing across the bay. Some friends restored a house in Paradise, CA after taking it apart and moving it. It was the home of the town’s founder and the city wanted the land but hoped not to destroy the house. My friends cut it in half and moved it, putting it back together in a new spot. The Camp Fire of 2018 destroyed it and the rest of the town. No firestorms or earthquakes in this part of the world. (Flyover country to the folks on the coasts.)

    • Flyover country here, too, but we have fires. What happened in the Paradise fire is incredibly sad. I look at houses online in CA and all of them I could afford to move to (I miss CA, don’t tell anyone) are in the mountains and forests. I can’t do that so here I remain. Lucky for me I love it here. ❤

  6. One of the things I like about Indiana – we don’t have wildfires, earthquakes, hurricanes, mudslides – in fact the only real threats are tornados and the occasional flood. Even the floods can be avoided by not living on a river!!

  7. Succulents. Plants that hold a lot of water. Unfortunately you can’t stop the embers raining down. I think the argument that some countries will be better off with a rise in temperatures is baloney. You might be able to get ships through that northwest passage but what are they going to carry? Grain from countries that can’t even feed their own populations. There is research underway on the affect of heating on cloud cover. Cloud cover will be lost. This has happened before but the planet had more trees then.
    There is a reason the title of Frank Prem’s book on the previous Australian bushfires is “Devil in the Wind”.

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