The whole state is on fire. My hometown is on fire.
My nerves are on fire.
Fucking everything is on fire.
A few years ago I described wind thusly:
Wind is one of those things that I'm obnoxiously sensitive to. It's akin to that damn scratchy tag in your shirt that feels like it's stabbing you every two seconds. Except it's all over my skin and constant. Wind gives me a headache, makes me itchy everywhere, and makes my eyes and nose hurt, even if I'm not outside. Something about the atmosphere changes. Barometric pressure something-or-other. It makes me feel crazy. I want to peel all my skin off. Rip my hair out. Beat my head against a wall. Like... crazy crazy.We had a wind event something like that a week ago. I say like that tentatively, because this wind was the most terrifying wind I've ever experienced. It had been going all day, making me cranky, filling my clothing and hair with static, giving me a headache, sucking all the moisture out of my skin, nose, and throat. But in the middle of the night, I was up like normal, doing work on the computer, wondering if I should just turn in for the night because there was no way the power wouldn't go out with the insane speed of the gusts. The whole house was shuddering.
Wind like this makes it impossible to sleep and that makes me feel especially crazy crazy.
And the power did go out. Came on again a few minutes later, but I left my computer off, assuming it'd go again. And it did. There was sound out in the neighborhood, voices, my folks were talking in their room. Left my room to discover the rest of the house was full of smoke. Neighbors were standing out in the middle of the street with flashlights. Once out in the street we looked to the hills set behind our house.
They were on fire. A ridge of flames surging down towards homes. The whole sky to the west was glowing orange, billowing with smoke. The fire was roaring it was so powerful. Explosions. Power transformers, propane tanks, ammunition stores in residential homes, etc, all blowing up like bombs going off in a war zone.
I pulled up local radio (KSRO) on my phone and listened attentively, shaking, and dumbfounded. We packed absolute necessities, not knowing if our neighborhood would burn. At 4AM we evacuated to the fairgrounds area, the first shelter area people were encouraged to gather. Thousands of people swarming and parking in the dark. Two major hospitals had to be evacuated, patients set up in a makeshift triage center. Families. Pets. Everyone in pajamas. The kind of scene you only see on the news or in disaster movies. Very fucking real.
Through the incredible generosity of wonderful friends, we had safe spaces to rest. Through incredible luck, we got power and internet back at our house within the first couple days. A house still standing.
Woken from a dead sleep a couple days ago to sounds that will haunt me forever, a mandatory evacuation taking place in the neighborhoods just across a highway from us. Very close. Close enough to hear the bullhorn calls, the doors and windows being pounded on, the sirens, the series of car doors slamming in rapid succession... all as if it was happening next door. One of the fires had jumped to the east of us, threatening residential areas in our direction.
That sick adrenaline. I could barely gather my packed bags again I was shaking so hard. But we weren't evacuated. Encouraged to stay put, in fact, to allow the mandatory area to use the escape roads as quickly as possible. Days later, that's still the most active fire in the region, so we're still walking on eggshells around here. But any immediate danger has essentially passed. We might even get some rain or drizzle soon.
|Burned/burning areas in my neck of the woods right now.|
And compared to a huge amount of my fellow city residents, insanely lucky and relatively easy.
But it's definitely a wild experience to barely leave your house for five years and then flee it halfway across the city ahead of a firestorm that's destroying everything in its path.
Everyone learns faster on fire.
I've had that old Alkaline Trio song stuck in my head this week.
Once the fires cool and the smoke has cleared and the ash stops falling like snow, I'll be trying to volunteer somehow in whatever limited way I can. I have to try. Until then, we're living out of packed bags. Edgy and anxious. Nothing else to be for now. There is some positive amusement in seeing a literal 747 flying low over my backyard while I eat breakfast, about to drop a metric fuck-ton of retardant on the hills nearby. Surreal. Never been so happy to hear multiple planes and helicopters circling all day long. Heroes up there.
Mostly been numb/terrified emotionally. But seeing pictures of the Luther Burbank Center scorched, where I performed for 9 years, and the Round Barn reduced to soot, an unforgettable icon of a hometown I've lived in for 31 years... made me want to shrivel up and cry forever. What happened in Coffey Park is shocking to the senses.
I've always hated wind.
I need a more violent word than hate for my feelings now.