mary called me to tell me that her house there in santee california was surrounded by fire.
when i got there some of the freeways had been closed for about twenty minutes and yep, there was a slow moving lazy ass line of fire munching its way like a search party arm in arm along the ugly brown desert of san diego.
you could only respect it for its potential. but out there a good 300 yards out, a slave to the santa anas and a whole freeway away from any real danger, it was more of a spectacle than a threat.
but then i got closer to her house and i saw the fire had a brother.
a much bigger brother.
of the 14 deaths created by the 10 fires across california yesterday, 12 died in san diego, and i saw why first hand. it was because that shit was everywhere. long lines. lots of little fires that became bigger and then little again like some crazy amoeba crawling across the sagebrush and weeds and clumps of green crap in the midst of a huge sandbox.
the locals were on their roofs, on their motorhomes, on their car hoods, even on top of soon-to-be burning ridges so they could see this slow moving living walking licking hell coming over the mountain for their dirty asses.
the smoke was thick miles and miles away from the flames. the sun at 1pm was high and red as a danger button. pictures are shabby lies that shouldnt be trusted. the sun was red as a bloodshot eyeball across a smokey room. the wind blew without mercy, advertising the inevitable with ash and soot and flopping bits of paper.
people were told to pack their shit up but they dallied. people were told to get out of the forest preserve but they were curious. people were told to drive out of town and they said who asked you.
some met up in grocery store parking lots, or schools. the rodeo was packed with animals.
the rural towns of lakeside and santee are rarely talked about in a positive light when compared to some of the more expensive beachside san diego hamlets but present was a sense of resolve and community in these foothills that sadly only tragedies highlight.
everyone was outside even though 5-6 tv stations showed nothing but fire coverage relegating the sunday afternoon football games to a tiny picture-in-picture box in the corner.
and once they were out of their homes, they were talking to neighbors, answering their phones which rang non stop, cell phones, home phones, two way pagers.
people in cars arrived to spread the news. apparently the little brother did jump the highway. the 15 was now closed.
paper nose and mouth masks appeared on people. simple white ones that you’d see on a painter, or a manicurist. some kids wore bandanas. goggles were a good idea.
soon people found that their neighborhoods were without power.
the sprinkling of the roofs continued. people were told to fill their tubs with water, and their sinks, in the case of loss of water pressure. some people put lawn sprinklers right there on their roofs. i loved those people the best.
everyone was talking to each other.
some people were crying.
some people would say i know someone who lives over there pointing to where a series of houses were on fire in the distance.
people had places that they could go, but they didnt want to go, still some packed things in boxes. most people either sat in lawn chairs or on their roofs and watched with their neighbors.
it was all very very quiet.