In the eye, wreathed in flame

This morning around 8, I had my first encounter with the fires around the city. A friend called looking for help figuring out a way to get up north of the city, past the fires. Until then, I didn't realize there was a major fire east of Simi Valley in the Sylmar/Porter Ranch area. The fires are right on the highways leading through the Newhall Pass which leads to Bakersfield. In the end, my friend decided there was no way to make it up there without it taking better than 2.5 hours each way.

Later, around 9, I drove to a store with my nephew and lots of traffic lights were out along the way. Since the same street had lights out a couple weeks ago, I didn't think much of it, but later learned that the fires were near key electrical equipment and the city was ordering rolling blackouts to save electricity. Since then the electricity is flowing normally and the blackouts ended mid-morning.

While shopping the entire sky to the north and west were brown with the smoke. I was fine when we were in the car, but when I had to get out and walk around, I realized that the smoke was getting to me. I was coughing and short of breath--I developed some asthma since moving to L.A.--my guess that if I moved out of L.A., I'd be instantly cured. I had to take a few puffs on the inhaler when we got back.

I still didn't realize the extent of the fires until the afternoon. I thought it was just the Sylmar fire and the Santa Barbara fire. But the smoke had spread to the south--very heavy to the south--and surprisingly to the west. There isn't much to our west that could catch fire (Beverly Hills, Westwood, Santa Monica--none of which have a fire.) Since the smoke was now ringing the whole city, I finally turned on the TV to see what was going on.

There were fires in:

Santa Barbara to the northwest,
Symar/Porter Ranch to the north,
Brea to the north east,
Yorba Linda to the west-southwest,
Anaheim Hills to the southwest, and
Camp Pendleton to the south.

Short of the ocean being on fire, the fires pretty much surround the city.

The air outside has smelled heavily of smoke all afternoon. You can smell the brush burning all over town. Strangely, there is almost no wind where we are, but enough where the fires are to cause problems. The sky was overcast this afternoon, but I'm guessing it was actually a cloudless day. I think it was all smoke.

The worst thing to happen today was the Curse of the Trailer Park. Apparently, mother nature is not content to throw tornadoes at trailer parks, today she decided to send fire at one. A 500-600 home trailer park burned to the ground near Sylmar. Right now, everyone is worried that the fire hit so quickly, that more than a few people might have been caught in the blaze there. The fire department is worried by the number of cars left in driveways.

The other fires tend to be in areas with fewer homes, more spread out. The same size fire just can't devastate so many houses.

Stupidly, my niece had a soccer game at 4pm, and pretty much everyone thought it should have been called because of the smoke. You shouldn't have kids running around for an hour in air like we had today. I remember them canceling games in previous years because of smoke, but this one might have happened so quickly, they had no way to organize the cancellation. This is the thickest smoke I've seen in our neighborhood since moving here--despite all the fires being many, many miles away.

Tonight, I plan to sleep with the inhaler close by. I think I'm gonna need it. Did I mention my eyes burn when I walk outside?