Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Fire On the Mountain

By now, you've probably heard about the raging wildfire in Griffith Park, very close to where we live. The latest estimate is that 200-300 acres are burning, no end in sight...no houses burned yet, but they're started evacuating people a few blocks north of us. Everything points to disaster: beastly hot temperatures (95+ the last 2 days), shifting wind, no rain all winter. Let's pray it's not as bad as it seems.

I feel violated somehow. I've run the trails in Griffith Park nearly every day for the last 3 years. It's the first place I explored when we moved to LA, and the first place I take visitors to show them my city. It's my view from the breakfast table and my refuge when I need solitude. I know fire is part of the natural order of things, that it's even necessary sometimes to regenerate growth. But it still gives me a sick feeling to see the blackening sky, to taste the soot on my tongue, to feel my chest tighten and head get dizzy from the smoke.

The feeling on the street is quite a bit different. It's almost like a perverse block party. People are clustered on street corners, chatting, taking pictures with their cell phones, trying to climb trees for a better view. I walked up to one of the park entrances that was cordoned off. This was at 9:30pm; there was no power, so the streets were dark except for the flash of cop cars and traffic cop flashlights. At the corner gas station, a news crew was interviewing local residents, while others mingled and chatted in small groups. A few even had picnic dinners they spread on the ground right in the middle of the gas pumps.

It's surreal, it's distressing, it's DeLillo's Airborne Toxic Event come to life.

Now a few pictures. Jason has some good ones from this afternoon, I think he'll post them on his blog. I had some amazing views on my way to yoga around 7:45, but I'd forgotten the camera. This is what my puny camera could capture around 9:30. It was much more striking in person.

View from our balcony:

View from the street:

News crews doing their interviews:


Kaahl said...

that sucks.

At least your shoes will look better. If there is one thing I hate, it is shoes that look new.

Mix in some ash and dirt, maybe some meltiness, that will be just great.

Monique said...

You say 'fire is part of the natural order of things,' but I just can't hang with that.

After our 5-yr reunion, Tim and I headed out to Simi where he grew up. It was implied many times that we should regret leaving SoCal by well-meaning friends and family. And yet, as we drove away and saw the side of the road in flames something made of feel extra good about going home. It was also nice to be able to breathe fresh air again.

I'm just sayin'. Smog and smoke shouldn't be the usual.

Brittany said...

People here in Utah complain about the smog. I just take a nice deep breath of it. It seems so clean compared to the So. Cal. air I grew up on.

My last year at Scripps there was ash raining all over campus for a week. Everyone wore face masks. My parents' house was evacuated. It was eerie to see all the burnt brush and trees later and realize how close the fire actually was.

So Liz... give us an update. Were you evacuated?

Liz said...

Ah, Karl: We can do this the easy way or the hard way. The easy way involves running in shoes to make them worn, the hard way involves torching a park and then rubbing new shoes in the ashes.

Monique: I meant that fires are sometimes helpful to the environment. Some native plants periodically need a fire to propagate and thrive. I don't think fires are inherently evil. That being said--this one sucked.

Brittany: I remember that Claremont fire! That was nasty. The fallout from that one was way worse than this one...we didn't have noticeable ash at all. And we weren't evacuated, although some friends of ours were. Everything turned out fine, though.