Sunday, November 16, 2008

Anaheim Hills fires

Golden Orb. Ringed by fire. Evacuations. Grim scenes as fire marches forward.

There are some phrases you never expect to hear. Some are poetic. Some are simply devastating. The above phrases have appeared in newspapers and online to describe a wildfire is destroying my Anaheim Hills neighbourhood. More than 200 homes have been destroyed and some 22,000 people evacuated. Many of my friends can't go home as the freeways are closed. They're sitting in hotels or in friends' homes from Rancho Santa Marguerita to San Clemente to Santa Monica hoping that when they get back that the smoke damage will be minimal. That the wicked embers that are raining down on the hills won't ignite their house. That the hills and lushly landscaped gardens surrounding their community are watered enough by the community association and won't explode into flames. It's dry - less than 5% humidity.

For people living on the East Coast it's hard to imagine 5% humidity. The only way I can explain it is this - imagine your throat feels like sandpaper all the time. It wakes you up at night doing the umm hmms, clearing your throat. Drinking several gallons of water a day doesn't help. You have to moisturize your skin like crazy or it cracks at your fingernails and on your legs. Your hair is stick straight even if you're born with curly hair like me. And when the hot Santa Ana winds hit it's game over. Then the fires start. And the smoke insists on creeping its way through screens and into your home and settling into everything you own. Long after the fire is put out the smell of smoke terrorizes you.

I'm in Toronto and the rain turned to snow last night so watching CNN is terrifying. I've already survived one house fire. I most certainly don't want to experience another. Even from my perch across the continent.

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