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Wildfire in Santiago Canyon

Posted on February 6, 2006 in Disasters

UPDATED Last at 10:55 PM

square008Eight hundred acres so far. Winds blowing west, but they could turn back on us. Overhead the constant buzz of planes carrying fire retardants and water to the scene. A deathly silence over the neighborhood. Has everyone else been evacuated? Did I miss the knock on the door?

I cancelled my session with my student. I want to stay home, ready to pull the cats out of harm’s way should the police want us to leave. There’s one row of condos between me and the chaparral. Sprinklers on the slopes. I hope they turn them on, wet us down if the flames approach.

My aunt could be in the path of the flames. We’re calling her home to see if she’s all right.

Cirrus clouds pass directly overhead. The forecast does not call for rain.

What will Pat Robertson claim if the flames overwhelm reactionary-bastion Anaheim Hills?

The Disgruntled Chemist shares his news.

UPDATE 2 PM: I looked out over the mountains, from the east to the west. The winds had pushed the smoke, clouds, fog, and smog off the curve of the Saddleback to the west. The clarity was unbelieveable — you could imagine yourself picking individual shrubs and trees off the side of the mountain with a pair of tweezers. Smoke from the fire rose in the west. I had trouble telling what was cloud and what was smoke. Outside a leaf blower masks the noise from the planes.

UPDATE 3:30 PM: My aunt is safe for the time being. She fell asleep while watching Pat Robertson. Perhaps that saved her.

UPDATE 5:45 PM: A faint breeze blows but from where? I see the tips of the bare purple plum trees moving like fingers lightly drumming the air. Mount Santiago has disappeared behind a haze which wasn’t even hinting at its coming two hours ago. I sniff the air. The faintest smell of smoke just squats there, a mix of scrub oak and dust. (Where’s my inhaler?) I keeping watch for the high signs of danger: a shift in the wind and glowing flakes of ash falling like a February snow. I’ve located the cat carriers, the cats, and our documents. Where are the wedding photos? We need a past, after all. You always need a happy past.

UPDATE 6:45 PM: Night is here. I went out to smell the air and scan the skyline for The Glow. No Glow. The fire is far away. I still make a mental catalogue of things to grab if….

UPDATE 10:55 PM: An automatic garage door closes beneath me. I check the time and realize that it has been more than four hours since my last report. I go outside. The Weather Service has a severe storm warning — high winds — up for my area. The air barely moves. The indigo shape of the Saddleback stands just behind the condominiums like my fourth grade math teacher, a broad-shouldered woman who always made me think that she was about to hit me with a precisely engineered rolling pin. I sniff the air and it bears the odor of the dry chaparral — clean and lacking wiriness and vigor. Overhead banner clouds unfurl, all white as the stars except to the northwest, over the fire, where they are a dull orange.

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