Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Ready. Aim. Fire.

SoCal has been dealing with an onslaught of fires the past few days, made worse by drought conditions and Santa Ana winds. (For those of you unfamiliar with Santa Anas, they are warm, often high-speed winds that affect California every fall. They can gust up to 100 miles per hour, and they are the bane of firefighters and allergy sufferers.) I've read that over 700 buildings, mostly homes, have burned, and that a half million people have been asked to evacuate. Yesterday someone told me that the Malibu fire was "zero percent contained" -- that's a frightening thing to hear about a fire that has been burning for over 24 hours.

Here in the San Gabriel Valley, we're in no danger and haven't been affected by much other than the huge amount of particulate matter in the air, which wreaks havoc on those with severe allergies and respiratory problems. (I'm one of those people, incidentally, but so far all I have are slightly burning eyes and a dry throat; I count myself lucky.) It's easy to forget that this stuff is raining down on us when we can't really see it -- it all looks like it's off to the west, south, and east of us, a horseshoe-shaped band of dark brown against the blue sky. But while I was walking to work today, I noticed two foam cups of water that someone had left at the base of a lamppost, and the surface of the water in both was covered with black ash. Yesterday I was in Long Beach, and when I and a co-worker stepped off an elevator to enter a parking structure, we could see dust and ashes swirling in the air ahead of us. As nasty as the air in Pasadena might be, it's way worse in other places. My friend Lucy has a great post about the idiotic way the media covers natural disasters, like these fires, that you should check out.

The only bright side to the fires is that Southern California has had the most spectacular sunrises and sunsets for the past couple of days.

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