Living near the fire zone

One of my close friends from Chicago lived in Southern California for several years. She describes Southern California as having two seasons: Brown and On Fire.

Here in Northern California, I actually saw quite a bit of green over last winter, but the On Fire part has been very true this year. To this Midwestern gal, the idea of a “fire season” or “fire weather” is odd. Chicago summers are usually hot, humid and sticky. Here in California, summer means lots of dry, sunny weather, which is what I really wanted and expected. However, the extended drought has made the summers more dry, and the annual wildfire season has been more intense than usual, too. I’ve been within 50 miles of several wildfires this summer: the Rocky Fire, the Wragg Fire, and now the Valley Fire.

This Valley Fire is an amazing beast that spun up quickly and is doing a lot more damage to property than the other fires in the area. While I can’t see it directly, the communities it has affected are ones that I’ve visited, so I connect with the damage done to them more than the other fires.

The photos I saw of what happened to Harbin Hot Springs are horrible. My friend R and I spent Christmas Day there last year and in the photos I recognize the outlines of the paths we walked and the pools where we enjoyed ourselves. It was such a quiet, blissful place to visit, and it seemed so quintessentially Californian to me to go to a hot springs and sit outdoors on what is typically a cold and blustery day back in Chicago.

While the drought continued this year in California and across the southwest, my news feeds on Chicago weather kept showing rain, rain, rain throughout much of the summer. There was flooding in the Chicago area, and the summer was overall cooler and wetter than a typical year.

This is the face of climate change.

My social media feeds on Facebook, Twitter, and Nextdoor are full of posts about supplies needed for evacuees, volunteer opportunities, and lost and found animals. There are also some scary videos and photos taken by people evacuating from the Valley Fire or from news crews and fire fighters working in the area. Many evacuees (people and animals, such as dogs, goats, horses, cats, and chickens) are being housed in Napa County at the fair grounds, and in privately owned facilities, too. In addition to the Red Cross, there are a few local credit unions collecting funds to be used for disaster relief for the many displaced individuals.

I’ve reached out to a coordinator about volunteering to help prep and serve food to the evacuees and will be visiting a local credit union to make a cash donation, too. It’s the least I can do to help others in this community that has been so welcoming to me.

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