Brush fires are common around here because the air is always dry and the humidity stays low. When the winds off the Mojave Desert pick up and blow towards the ocean, the fire danger increases dramatically. Usually the fires stay in the mountain areas and burn acres of dry brush land and the occasional trailer home and sometimes a big luxury house.
When we got home, we found out there were two particular fires in our area: a small one in Aqua Dulce, a little bit north of where we live, and another one in Castaic, across town, west of where we live. We all laid down to take our Sunday afternoon naps, and when we woke up about an hour later, we received a phone call from some friends who asked us about evacuating Canyon Country. “Hey, we heard Canyon Country was being evacuated so if you need a place to stay for the night, you all can come over here with us.” I was stunned, “Evacuated? The fire is up in Aqua Dulce.” But, when I looked out the window of our bedroom, the flames were on a hill top just a quarter of a mile away. “Welp, I don’t think the fire will come down to us, but if we need to evacuate, we will certainly head your way.”
All through Sunday morning, most of the media attention was centered on the Malibu fires because that is where Tom Hanks and James Cameron live and their homes were threatened by a canyon fire moving toward the Pacific. But, by mid-afternoon, all the attention was focused on the homes in the hills above where I live. What started out as a small fire spread quickly due to winds and was burning in neighborhoods just less than a mile from our house.
All my neighbors were coming out to see the flames on the hills – people I had never seen before and was speaking with for the first time in my life. (Isn’t that weird?) Any ways, a neighbor across the way from us opened up the roof access to the public and 20 folks – women and children and people you would never allow on the roof to begin with – go climbing up the ladder to get a better view of the fire. I went too and took the picture you see above.
I told everyone, “People, you all may want to spread out and not stand in the one spot where you all are standing.” Maybe I am a spoil sport, but I figured we didn’t need to add to the media attention by having a large group of people seriously injured because they crashed through the roof of our condo.
The cool thing to watch was the water dropping helicopters and those giant “Super Scooper” planes. My kids received a major thrill watching them. It was like we were in a fire-fight with the Taliban and then the Apaches come in to rescue you. We would see the fire burning into a neighborhood, and then we would hear the thunderous roar of these planes behind us. We turn around to see three of them swoop over – and I mean almost tree top level – and drop thousands of gallons of water on a fire. After them would follow a line of giant helicopters, maybe 5 or so in a row, and then the white smoke would bellow upwards indicating they just extinguished a good portion of the fire.
Yet, in spite of the efforts of the fire fighters and those awesome planes there were some houses burned to ashes just a mile or so from where we live. I had mixed emotions, because on one hand I was thankful the fire was north of us and blowing westward, so we were out of harms way, but on the other hand I am staggered by the reality of what happened. A family awakens on Sunday morning just like every previous Sunday and by the evening, everything they owned was reduced to coals. My wife and I took our kids in and we prayed for the firemen and the families who no longer have a place to live, and nothing to own except the clothes on their back.
We never had to evacuate. The border for mandatory evacuation was north of us a few blocks. The sheriff’s department set up road blocks on the main road through town and no one was allowed to go into the neighborhood unless they were a resident.
My neighbor who let everyone up on the roof had a fancy digital camera and he told me he would make me a CD with pictures, so if and when I get it, I’ll post some of the better ones. In the meantime, here are a some local media links that give you an idea of what I am talking about: Here, and Here