This morning, I went for a run, something I have not been able to do all week because of the fires near me. It’s strange. I have been blasted by horrible winds all week and watched on the news of the devastation from the Thomas fire and some of the smaller ones in the area. The only inconvenience I have had to deal with is the wind.
Tuesday, it was too damn windy to set foot outside let alone attempt a run. Big deal. My colleague lost her home that day to the fire. Worse, her mother also saw hers burn to the ground. Scores of others left homeless, evacuated, and wondering whether or not they would be lucky enough not to lose their home.
Oddly, where I live, I could step outside and see smoke off in the distance 360 degrees around me and then look up to see the clearest blue sky. No flames, no smoke, no evacuation, just the damn wind.
Inside my house, my five dogs are unable to settle down. The wind thunders through our yard and they shake while huddled together in a bed. They have resorted to peeing on the tile kitchen floor, more from stress than anything else and as I cuss at them for doing so, I remind myself, others have it far worse than me.
Exercise is my drug of choice and I love to rely on it to ward off stress or anxiety. The time I lost running this week I made up for on my elliptical machine and stationary bike. I kept the garage door closed so I would not have to deal with dirt being blown in and I just keep plugging away.
The Thomas fire began at a spot where I once enjoyed one of my all-time favorite bike rides. Leaving from Santa Paula, I took the back road past Thomas Aquinas College into Ojai before turning toward the town’s outskirts and riding up the mountain. The college sets in a beautiful location where the road makes a turn and heads upward while bike riders are in permanent shade by the massive trees on both sides of the road. I’m sure they are all gone now and will serve as a charred reminder of the power and force of mother nature.
Before leaving on my run today, I checked the fire news and learned of the Lilac fire and felt my heart sink further. My two favorite places to ride my bike are South Lake Tahoe and northern San Diego County. I have ridden the Lilac area numerous times, leaving from the Welk Resort and turning up Old Highway 395. It’s a perfect area to ride with steep canyon roads to climb offering marvelous views of avocado orchards. Each climb seems to empty the rider onto either Lilac Road or West Lilac Road.
If you cross the overpass above the freeway, you drop down into horse country where among the many stables is the well-known San Luis Rey Downs. More loss. More devastation. More reminders of what we all face living in California.
I think of the damn train our Governor convinced voters was going to be the greatest thing for the people of this state. $68.4 billion and climbing all for a train he can hang his political hat on. Meanwhile, we have a fleet of less than 40 planes to use to fight the ever growing problem of wildfires.
That’s okay, we can pay another special tax to cover the cost of borrowing equipment from other states and countries. I wonder how large of a fleet we could maintain for 68.4 billion dollars and whether or not the people of this state would have been better served investing in one rather than a train.
Today, it is what I would call breezy outside. I can see smoke to the south of me and I know the Thomas fire has turned northward toward Santa Barbara County. Should I feel happy about that or should I feel guilty?
The reality is, I feel fortunate I was spared this time. I know people who were hit hard by the fires earlier this fall in the northern part of the state. I know people who have been hit hard by the recent fires. I am sure I will know others down the road because there will be more of these in the future. A winter of heavy rains means a bad fire season the next year because of all the new growth. A dry winter means a high fire season because of the dead underbrush. This is the reality of California.
Right now, more than anything, I just want one of those classic winter storms to bail out fire fighters. Unfortunately, there isn’t one in the near forecast so all we can do is wait and cross our fingers the winds die down enough to allow aerial drops to slow these infernos. In time, they will be extinguished, people will rebuild, communities will rally, and we will all hope and pray to be as lucky the next time around as I have been this time.
Top photo is YouTube screenshot
Jim is a life long resident of California and retired school teacher with 30 years in public education. Jim earned his BA in History from CSU Chico in 1981 and his MA in Education from Azusa Pacific University in 1994. He is also the author of Teaching The Teacher: Lessons Learned From Teaching. Jim considers himself an equal opportunity pain in the ass to any political party, group, or individual who looks to profit off of hypocrisy. When he is not pointing out the conflicting words and actions of our leaders, the NFL commissioner, or humans in general, he can be found riding his bike for hours on end while pondering his next article. Jim recently moved to Camarillo, CA after being convinced to join the witness protection program.