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October 27, 2007: Last Fire Note...Really

Random thoughts.

tanker

This is one of those sights that makes you have multiple emotional reactions:

"Hooray, the air support is here!"

"Yipes, why is the air support HERE?!"

I took this shot from the front of our house yesterday; days after the fire had moved east from us. We have certainly seen helicopters with water/retardant dropping capabilities for most of the week. Nonetheless, it was somewhat startling to see this plane. It actually took me a couple of moments to get the camera -- when I first saw it, it was low overhead of our neighborhood. The hill/mountain in the background is where the line of flames moved a few nights ago. The haze is smoke and ash.

We are fine in Chula Vista. We did not suffer any building damage and -- other than a brief time of evacuation, a bit of anxiety, and a pile of ashes -- everything is getting back to normal. We are thankful for the planning that went into the development of these communities. Granted, we did not have the winds like Rancho Bernardo but the fire breaks worked as designed and protected the homes here.

Thank you for all the prayers, concern, and kind notes. It has been uplifting to be able to share those with my family.

 

Clark Cowden is doing a nice job giving the presbytery-wide assessment.

 

The randomness of destruction is startling. Some of our friends live in the Lake Hodges area of Escondido. Thirteen of twenty homes on their street burned to the ground. Several others had damage. Theirs was untouched.

Yesterday, we went to my in-laws who also live near Lake Hodges in south Escondido. They are at the top of a hill that overlooks I-15 at Via Rancho Parkway. Police, firefighters and National Guard troops were patrolling the neighborhood to keep out looters. Going up their hill, we saw a number of homes that were fine, then suddenly two homes on our left and one on our right were just gone. The lots were surrounded with trees, but the lots themselves were just grey ash rubble. My in-laws home was untouched other than the grime, ash and tree-limbs in their pool. They were thankful to be dealing with that problem.

 

Fire-fatigue is setting in. The news has turned from "where are the fires burning" and "thank you to the fire-fighters for their amazing work" to "why did this happen" and "who messed up that it got so bad?"

My two-cents: This was a bad fire because we had a combination of bad factors that led to a bad fire. Specifically, this area is in a drought, it has rough hilly terrain, and we had a powerful Santa Ana wind condition. Those three make fires extremely dangerous. What begins small can rapidly develop into a flash-flood kind of situation -- except the flood is flame, not water. It moves extremely fast and there is little that can be done to stop it.

That said, the authorities here did an amazing job alerting people, evacuating people, and getting as much help as was available. There were glitches, but the overall sense was that this was a systematic, well-planned response to an overwhelming natural disaster. The cooperation of the local, state, and national officials was impressive and encouraging.

The fire-fatigue is hitting faster than four years ago largely because there was a four years ago. We have been down this road before. We know it is a long haul. The landslide in La Jolla just a few weeks ago seems like it was a lifetime ago.

 

The challenge to the church is to take the long walk alongside those who have suffered losses. In a week or two, most people will have returned to their normal patterns of life. The acute needs of those who have suffered loss have been met. The tendency is for people to get to a place where they want others to "just get over it and move on." That's the place for the church to step in and be the compassionate hands and feet of Jesus.

What does that look like? Well, here it is good to be Presbyterian. We are connected to each other and have existing relationships with those whom we are called to walk alongside. No Book of Order "shall" is going to create those relationships because polity follows practice. (Yes, you can tell that I am getting closer to getting back into the Form of Government stuff.) When some suffered, all suffered. As those who were directly impacted recover, we will walk that road together. Our walking together will be a witness to the community. In fact, our walking together will probably create an opportunity to be a blessing to the community, reaching out to those who are searching for help and answers.

Again, thank you for all the prayers, kind notes, and encouraging words. They are appreciated more than I can express.

UPDATE:

OK, I know, I know; but this is too good to pass up.

rainbow

Again, from our front porch, looking out at the hills that burned. Yes, that's a rainbow.