I don’t know about you other Vals, but it was super creepy driving home last night. Unlike the night before, there was hardly anyone on the roads for my commute home, and by the time I got off at Burbank to head home, the smoke in the air was so thick, it was like a scene from a post-apocalyptic war movie. The sun, hanging low in the sky, was an unhappy shade of reddish-pink. When I got out of my car, ash was flying everywhere like snow and the smell was chokingly acrid.
Okay, here’s my thing. And forgive me if you’re sick of hearing about this issue in the media, but it is a question on my mind that keeps nagging me. We, as Southern Californians, and particularly San Fernando Valley peeps, anticipate the Santa Ana Winds and their ensuing fires every year, along with the accompanying floods that later result from the rains tearing a destructive path through the burned out brush plains. With this particular fire, as with others in the past, our firefighters and emergency workers have it down to a system. Evacuees have a place to go, evacuated neighborhoods are cordoned off and you must provide ID to re-enter them, presumably to prevent any looting or vandalism, and to protect the safety of the citizens. At press time, over 16,000 acres have burned, but only one house and five structures have actually burnt down, no lives have been lost, and the fire is 35% contained. When the floods happen later this year or the beginning of next year when we get our first major storms, people will have sandbagged known problem areas, evacuees will again have a pre-ordained place in which to gather to wait out the disaster. Here’s my thing: We don’t get a three-day warning when a fire is started – we just have to put the usual response into play of what we know is coming. Okay. They get hurricanes down south all the time, right? They usually have a warning ahead of time that they’re coming, right? Like at least three days or so? They knew they were going to get an especially colossally damaging hurricane in the near future, right? So what the eff happened there? Why was it still such a huge, unprepared for disaster? Of course I realize fires and hurricanes are completely different in their scope of damage and that this is a different ecosystem we are talking about. But you can’t help but note the similarities. Or at least I can’t. And this bothers me. It bothers me a lot.