Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Sky Was Falling

Yesterday, the sky fell. A car caught fire, sparking the dry brush off the 57 freeway near the mouth of Tonner Canyon. One minute I am walking into Albertson's with a short list. The sky was brilliant blue. The air was filled with the familiar summer scents of sage, coyote bush and eucalyptus. Walking out a few minutes later, the sky is ashen, falling like burnt snowflakes, leaving a pallid gray coating on everything outside. The unmistakable smell of smoke-spewing fire choked the lungs.

The quickness of fire is why brush clearance is a serious ritual in Southern California. It is why in suburban outskirts we “clear the brush” ahead of summer.

Brea firefighters were first on the scene. The winds were gentle- but headed towards Diamond Bar . There were no chances taken. Los Angeles County firefighters soon joined in. Not just local personnel, but companies from across the county. The Los Angeles County Sheriff took posts to prevent people from wandering in too close to the fire. CHP escorted traffic on the freeway safely through the pass. Except for the fire and smoke, it almost appeared to be an exercise, because it was just so orderly.

In a neighborhood just a half mile from the fire, Diamond Bar City Councilman Steve Tye watched trucks move in ground crews and helicopters do water-drops with residents. His presence was appreciated. He wasn't a politician campaigning. He was there to observe and to lend a hand should it become necessary.

From our vantage point, the flames could not be seen. It reminded me of real battlefield conditions. Yes, there is fire. But the enemy is as much the smoke.
For all the lack of coordination between agencies reported on the news, it was reassuring to watch agencies from the state of California, Diamond Bar, both Los Angeles and Orange Counties working together seamlessly. The fire, which started at the edge of thousands of acres of open space was miraculously contained to around 20 mostly parched grass-covered acres. True, the fire burned through the meadow where we drive by to watch cattle graze. However, if the understory beneath the oak forest on the hillsides had caught fire and the breeze had grown to wind- the damage could have exponentially escalated, decimating thousands of acres of valuable riparian woodland.

But most importantly, not one home or one human life was lost to fire because of the quick action on the part of our wonderful public safety workers. Thank you, guys!


Anonymous said...

That was lovely! Thank you for posting that. We, too, saw the four fire trucks at the Shell Station. This morning there were articles about this in several newspapers. I posted in "Comments" in each. This is what I wrote:
Our house is near the end of the cul de sac just before getting to the hills that were on fire yesterday! We watched and prayed! A firetruck came up our street and entered into the wilderness onto the fire road at the end of our street.
As we stood on our observation deck and watched the smoke and flames we were silently sending thanks to those hard working, wonderful firefighters, police, helicopter pilots and the convicts who were fighting it!
This morning they are still there fighting the hot spot flare ups.
We want to now publically thank the wonderful people who were there to fight it and save all our homes!

The Bowler Family

Lydia said...

Good to hear you are safe and your home is sound.

Anonymous said...

Good job on your 'Sky is Falling' blog! Great job with the pictures too. You are so right about the breeze not turning to wind. What a frightening thought, knowing what so many in your state are going through and what happened in southern Orange County, the San Diego area last year, and up in the Santa Clarita area. My tree covered property backs to the BLM and this time of year when we have those lovely thunder storms, I worry like mad about lightening strikes. I'm happy for all of you everything turned out ok, no property damage and no lives lost! Hurray for our Public Safety heroes!

xo Sue

Anonymous said...

Lydia, As one who has lived in this area for well over 30 years the locations of photos were very familiar to me. Were these pictures you took? Great shots! as well as descriptions of this area. Our papers ran a small blurb, but you reported what you saw and again gave credit to the personnel who serve us during fire season. Heroes all. Edda

Lydia said...

The photographs were taken from one of the neighborhoods closest to the fire. You can see both how dry the meadow is and how it was mowed short in the photograph where the fire truck is crossing the field. That kind of maintenace is crucial to preventing property damage and loss of life.