Posted by: mutantpoodle | October 22, 2007

Watching the fires

Image via Earth Observatory

Image via Earth Observatory

This is not the first time I have looked out at the horizon to see it darkened by smoke; I expect that, eventually, I will smell the fires that burn less than 20 miles from my house and see their ashes accumulate, well, everywhere.

I could do without the histrionics – the CNN graphic that reads “EARTH IN PERIL”, as if the fires will hop a ride on a cruise ship and spread all over the world. No, they won’t – we live in a coastal desert, and it’s been bone-dry around here, and things catch fire. Have done since before man figured out how to rub two sticks together, and will for eons after he is gone. And what is it, exactly, that makes a plume of smoke “angry”? A reporter on KNBC used that term, and besides anthropomorphizing fire, it seems wrong: fire is, if anything, barren of emotion. It goes where the wind takes it and where it can live on, and doesn’t go anywhere else.

When I was biking long distances regularly, I used to ride through what are now burning sections of the Santa Monica mountains. I have done so not long after previous fires, and my immediate reaction was sadness at the barren blackness left behind. Coming back a year later, the newly fertile earth had sprouted a range of flora, and in a few years you wouldn’t know a fire had come through at all.

That knowledge is cold comfort to those who have lost their homes, or the parishioners of Malibu Presbyterian Church, who have lost their house of worship, or those who have been evacuated and live in the limbo of ignorance. And as I think of them, waiting for mercy from wind, fuel, and chance, I hope they stay safe and strong, and the Santa Ana winds (so apparent in the satellite photo above, taken yesterday, from earth observatory) fade and give Southern California some relief.

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