Taken from my kitchen window, looking west towards Camp Pendelton or the Tomahawk Fire. 

      As a girl basically born, raised and lived her entire life in southern cali, I am very well acquainted with mother nature's burning wrath. Literally a 'burning' wrath. 'Wildfires' or brush fires are a force of nature that have become part of our every day vocab here in the west. Living in these parts you hear over and over phrases like 'brush fire', 'red flag warning' and 'containment' as in 100% contained or 0% contained..... very important numbers & terms for us San Diegans. 
     For my short stint in Ohio for college I used to think it comical all the attention that was paid to California in the news. National news made it seem like everyday was a giant national disaster. Lions and tigers and bears oh my! Or really it should be fires and earthquakes and tsunamis OH MY GOD... really though...it's not that bad. In fact, it's really great! But like anywhere else, we deal with our own sets of pros and cons. My friends, teammates and professors would say to me 'OH NO! There is a wild fire in Riverside County!', or 'Did you hear about the earthquake in Fresno!', or (my favorite) 'I heard there was a mudslide in Eureka... are your parents ok?'...... ummmm.... that's like a 800 miles away, I think they're cool. There are a ton of misconceptions about California, about what it's like to live here or about the people whom call it home. Way too many to get into right now but I thought I'd bring my experiences living with wildfires to life, the good, the bad and the ka-razy scary. 
    This past week was one of the scariest we've had here in southern cali. It was like the wrath of someone was raining down, and breathing fire upon us. Whether it be mother nature or a higher power, something certainly was not happy with us and decided to let it be known. The fires were everywhere. They kept popping up here and there and everywhere in between. And they were in places no one ever expected there to be a brush fire. Like the poinsettia fire. That was located in an upper middle class town bordering a private golf course and through out a beautiful planned community. There were lots and lots of people. I can only imagine the chaos that ensued when people looked up, saw the billowing smoke cloud,  thought WTF? and then looked down at their cell phones as they received the reverse 911 phone call to evacuate. Gut wrenching scary. It's one thing to evacuate a few homes that border on a canyon, but to evacuate thousands of people and get them the hell outta there safely? End of days kind of commotion. My SIL texted me a couple of pics of people doing anything they could to get out of there. Two people or more on bikes. Two lane roads suddenly become four lanes. Her work was located in the evacuation zone. She said she went into a morning meeting, did her thing and when they were finishing up and coming out it was like a war zone. That's how it goes with fires. They sneak up on you and then BOOM! Everything is being torched. My SIL and brother (who ALSO works in the evacuation zone) were able to make it home safe and sound (hallelujah) and turn on the local news to see buildings and house they pass on a daily basis go up in smoke. 

    Then there was another fire....

    The town I live in borders Camp Pendelton. A gigantic military base. Hundreds of thousands of open acres. And on Camp Pendelton, military exercises are preformed there all though out the year so it's very common to hear the boom and BOOM BOOM BOOM of far off (but not that far off) explosions. What kind of explosions are they? No idea. I just tell myself they are practicing a beautiful display of fireworks for the next fourth. A much prettier thought than what the noise really signifies. With out fail, about once or twice a year, whether started via military exercises, mother nature or some douche dropping a cigarette out the window, there is a brush fire on Camp Pendelton. The tell tale gray smoke cloud rises up over the hill to my west. I tune into the local radio/news and listen a little to the updates about containment. Most of the time they are able to reach 90% containment with in the day and that smoke cloud disappears. But not this past week. 

      It got bigger and bigger. The sky got darker and darker. Then the ashes started to swirl. And to top it off, the temps were in the high 90's low 100's and the santa ana (a hot breeze) was starting to pick up the pace. Perfect weather conditions to create an unstoppable fire storm. Fires are tricky tricky creatures. One moment it looks in control and the next moment, the wind shifts, feeds the fire and flames seem to come out of nowhere and grow and spread faster than any helicopter or water plane can keep up with. 
    So while I was wringing my dish towel watching the Camp Pendelton fire, I glanced through my dutch door to see this frightful beauty billowing in the very (much to much) close distance....

   There was now another fire located just a few (like three) miles away. Holy SHIT!
    Now this is the time your mind really starts to race. Do I pack up? Do I stay? What do I pack up? How do I get out of here? Where do we go? Yeah we.... I have three littles to think of and a pop up emergency shelter does not sound appealing. Normally I would just head to my parents place in a neighboring town in SD but they had this to deal with.....

    The San Marcos/Escondido Cocos fire. This picture was taken by my husband from the top of the Carlsbad power plant, about 15 miles away. This fire got a ton of press coverage, which I feel was a little misleading. There were three other fires going off at the exact same time. I walked out on my back porch and I could see all four fires. It felt like a war zone. So yes, I do feel that our mayor declaring San Diego in a state of emergency was the right choice. 
   Firefighters were flown and bused in from all neighboring counties. Helicopters and water planes were dropping every three minutes or so. We even had a DC-10 come in to help aid with the Cocos fire. There are only two DC-10's in the entire world and it takes a very skilled pilot to fly and use the DC to the best of its abilities. We were very lucky that one of them was near enough to use.
  San Diego was so very lucky. Those firefighters are absolute miracle workers. They kept the property damage to a minimum and the death toll to one. So far last I read, there was one death of a homeless man in the coco's fire. I can't comment on the circumstances of his death other than he was succumbed by the fire.  
   When I think about these fires I am split into two. Part of me feels so grateful for my fellow man and how a community can rally together to overcome even the worst odds. But then the other part is so resentful of my fellow man because, I bet you a million dollars, that at least one of those fires was caused by arson. They have two teenage boys in custody in regards to the coco's fire. So sad. So awful. How can someone be so careless about other people? I get so angry thinking that someone could take joy or think it's fine to set a fire. This puts my home, my family and my community in danger's way. How dare they. With an act of nature, senseless as it may seem, I can still make sense of it and cope with the loss that comes from it. Perhaps because there is no one in particular to blame. But with someone intentionally setting a fire? A complete loss of humanity. 

   This was the scene from my window as the sun set. The Pendelton fire was less that 20% contained and was slowly encroaching upon the borders of my town. It was a night full checking the emergency evacuation maps and answering phone calls letting friends and family know that we were ok at the time and no we hadn't gotten the call yet.
   In the end we were safe the whole time and it never reached that critical point where we had to leave our home. Which I would do in less than a heartbeat because my family is the end all be all. While I love our home and cherish all the possessions we have collected over the years, I am perfectly clear on the fact that they are just things. Replaceable. 
  I do morn the loss of my fellow San Diegans' homes. As I walk though my halls and rooms and run my fingers across our picture frames and children's art pieces I feel a dull ache in my heart. This past week really ingrained into my heart that we are not untouchable and that tradegies are real. Every positive moment is a treasure and I should relish these times with my happy and healthy family. I felt guilt for griping the previous week about a fussy baby and unruly children. Because in reality I am beyond lucky. I have won the proverbial jackpot and need to be more grateful for what we have. 

   So hug your babies/mothers/friends a little tighter this week for me, will ya? Thank you. Spread the love.

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