Wildfire

6/23/22

I saw wildfire today – flames reaching up through black smoke. I saw it from our front porch.

The angry, dark red flames came toward me, from below our house, which didn’t bode well. And as the whop whop sound of helicopters circled, dipped, and dropped retardant we decided to pack. We knew warnings and evacuation orders can happen at a moment’s notice and we didn’t want to find ourselves grabbing precious belongings in a last-minute panic.

We’ve never had to evacuate, even after 25 years of weekends and vacations living in a forest at our vacation cabin. There had been plenty of close calls, even ash fall, but we never saw wildfire.

When the smoke plume thankfully turned gray and faded with the onshore breeze, we decided to stay packed overnight, knowing how embers can remain hot for days if undetected.

How close does a fire have to get before it’s too close? When we considered buying the house, a house that sits atop a hill at the end of a cul-de-sac, I thought we would sell and leave if we ever saw wildfire. Had the time come? Had my fear of having no way out if a fire roared up our street become something more than an abstract thought?

We’re not living in a forest. Our town’s fire department seems to be well equipped and responsive. They show off their gleaming, bright red trucks and smiling crews whenever the town celebrates an event. And we have fire hydrants nearby.

Yet, we read how wildfires have turned into something different from what they once were. With the power to create their own weather, a fire storm, to feed an insatiable, unstoppable force. And how the fire season is changing as the climate changes, becoming dryer, windier and longer every year.

Is our town prepared to meet these new challenges? Will bright red trucks and smiling crews be enough if our street becomes a funnel for advancing flames and black smoke? We remember seeing the houses in the Oakland hills pop off in bursts of flame one after another that October evening in 1991. We watched from our front porch.

Published by James W. White

fiction writer

4 thoughts on “Wildfire

  1. Hi Liz. Thanks for looking me up. Yes, seeing wildfire is scary. Especially when it’s in your neighborhood. The interviews with evacuees we see in the media quickly comes close to home!

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  2. Hi Jim,
    Your piece seems truly personal. It sounds like a nightmare. We see so many disasters on TV, war, earthquakes, floods and wildfires, but here in peaceful west Wales, we have nothing to worry about … until winter! Then come storms, gales and even hurricanes, perhaps, Is anyone truly safe?
    Life is a risk: natural disasters, pandemics, ‘acts of God’ they write in insurance contracts. Then there are man-made catastrophes – mass shootings, road accidents, train and plane crashes, ships sinking, and so on. Is anyone ever truly safe? No one is safe.
    I hope those fires stay far enough away, but … climate change is happening and we see the consequences.
    Richard
    PS I am finishing my latest 44-chapter novel, Pray the Day Be Long. Chapters 25 and 26 are up on CC right now.

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  3. Hi Richard,
    Nice to hear from you and thanks for your comments. Glad to hear you’re still producing. Good luck with Pray the Day. I’m also plugging along with a novel, a novella and an anthology of my short stories. These occasional blogs are a welcome distraction.

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