Last week the Woolsey fire started in Simi Valley, where I live. For days we watched the flames march through the hills that surround the valley from the relative safety of strong Santa Anna winds. For most of the week those winds blew at a pretty consistent 40 mph and while they protected the North side of the Valley, they drove the flames South thru Westlake, Thousand Oaks, and onward into Malibu.
It’s not like this doesn’t happen every now and then. Santa Anna winds happen every year. Some years are worse than others. Last year was a pretty tough one and you probably remember the fires that ripped through California driven, once again, by the strong winds. We don’t have much in the way of trees out here. Mostly it’s grass and shrubs. But when the wind is blowing from 40 to 60 mph it can create a fire storm where the actual wind becomes irrelevant and spiraling tendrils of fire are whipped up into the air. These tendrils contain burning embers which can be transported for miles before they once again drop down into the dry grass and ignite another area of burning.
So every few years, something like ten or so, a fire starts that has Malibu firmly in it’s sights. In as much as the mountains that raise sharply out of the sea are incredibly steep, nothing can get at the burning brush that clings to the walls of the canyons, so they burn. And the wind blows. And the houses burn too. Lot’s of them. I hope that this map works for you. It shows the amazing number of houses that burned in this fire.
It’s not that there aren’t always going to be fires. We all know that. Some SoCal plant species can only propagate through fire opening seed pods. It’s not that houses aren’t going to burn to the ground in those fires. We all know that too. It’s actually that people you know are in the line of fire and some of them are going to lose everything. But you can’t contact them. The cell towers have burned down. The telephone poles have burned down. There is no power, no phone, and nobody is allowed into the area because the poles and lines have to be replaced first so nobody gets electrocuted.
Only three people died in this fire. In the one up North ten times as many people died. You can replace the house. You can replace the things that you didn’t manage to pack into your car as you ran for your life. But you can’t replace your life. I have friends who lost their house. I have a friend on Point Dume who’s house appears to be ok, but I can’t reach him and he is my contact with all of my other friends who live near by.
It’s ten days later and still there is smoke raising from the small fires in the canyons around Malibu. Some people are finally being allowed into the burn area to see if they still have a house. Some do, some don’t. The Rock Store, one of my weekly haunts, didn’t burn. I know that for sure. But less than a quarter of a mile away is a trailer park that was completely destroyed. The better part of 1000 very expensive houses were destroyed. Close to 100,000 acres burned. But only three people died. Why only three people? Communications. Almost everyone in SoCal is plugged in. They get the warning on their phones. They get the warning on the TV. They get the warning and get out with what they can carry and they get out with their lives. Up North, fewer people bother with a phone. Fewer people watch TV. They don’t get the warning. They don’t get out because they don’t know what is coming.
So I guess the point of this post is; you really need your tribe. They are the ones who are going to come knocking on your door in the night yelling fire. They are the ones who will kick the door down to get you out. They are the ones who will work with you to either fight the fire or drag you sorry old ass out of your house and into something to take you to safety. If you don’t have your tribe you are still very much exposed to peril.
Who is your tribe?