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Monday, October 27, 2003

San Diego Fire

The day before yesterday, Laura and I were driving around in the hills and canyons that were the major sources of fire in the San Diego county area just one day later. It's a surprise to realize that what we saw and admired one day is what we watched on TV as it burned yesterday. It was pretty weird in La Jolla yesterday morning. Instead of feeling the cool air of the Pacific, we felt the very hot, very dry air of the desert. Added to that was the smell of smoke, and a threatening yellowish cast to the sky. The sunlight was being filtered through a large veil of smoke which came from about 20 miles inland, rose to 15,000 feet, then spread like a thunderstorm over the north side of the San Diego coast. Ashes fell like the tiny flakes of snow which predcede a snow fall. People wiped their eyes, and breathed through sleeves, caps, handkerchiefs, and anything else they could find to filter ash from the air.

Those who had been carrying a few things to their cars were gasping from even that small exertion. The smoke bit at their throats and lungs. It made their eyes water, but they were waving and laughing as they passed each other on the sidewalk, knowing that they were probably going to be safe, but nervously aware of the magnitude of the potential danger they faced. Their nervous small talk made them feel less afraid; less intimidated. When a person is being chased from their home by a 75 mile long wall of 100 foot high flames, they need to hang on to any shred of confidence they can find.

Laura and I went out to help her daughter evacuate her apartment which was in the path of the advancing maelstrom. All of the major roads leading there were closed by the police, so we went through the parking lots of large stores and emerged at our destination, feeling like lawbreakers, but happy to be there to help hoping that we hadn't just placed ourselves in mortal danger. We struggled with a few heavy items and quickly got out of there.

Thick smoke rolled down the canyons. Almost everyone had their headlights on. Traffic, which usually whizzes through San Diego at 95mph was was moving at half of that speed. For now, there was very little traffic on the freeway we were on, and we were happy the be making steady progress towards La Jolla, and the coast. Suddenly, huge orange columns of fire erupted on the left side of the freeway. It was a fire in the middle of a field, placed there by a flying ember. We underestood how fires spread so rapidly.More later!

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