Smoke has stained the air like tea does a tablecloth, but gratitude flowers in the aftermath. Because the fire started at the other end of the Wildlife Corridor, there was time to lay down a line of Phoschek between leaping flames and Diamond Bar. This is what you need to know about living in the vicinity of bureaucratize is "an event". Getting anywhere is horrendous. One mile from home might take half an hour. Across city limits to Brea took a local hairdresser three and half hours. You might not be able to get where you want. You might not want to turn around. And even if you did, you might not be able to get back in.
Some families did double evacuations- fleeing their homes in Yorba Linda, only to be evacuated again in Diamond Bar.
On our knees or otherwise, we all prayed.
Some families were split up involuntarily as roadblocks went up. Some, like John and Trisha Bowler's did so voluntarily. John and son Daryl stayed behind to defend their home, sending Trisha to the safety of her BFFF, Councilwoman Carol and her husband, Art Herrera. Their son, Eric, tried to join his family: he couldn't.
Fire is chaotic. Kudos to the news agencies who did their best to transpose, in real time, what was happening on the ground into some sort of logical flow . That they renamed people, mismatched pictures to location names is not so important as capturing and relaying the storyline.
Sunday was to be the annual Diamond Bar Foundation Gala. Chairwoman Jody Roberto and her dedicated crew spent the entire last year planning and preparing for what is our town's most important social event. What does a committee do with 300 paid-for filet mignon and chicken dinners? The Foundation donated them to the Red Cross Evacuation Center at Diamond Bar High School. Andrew Wong, Ling-Ling Chang, Bridget del Rio Cortes and others work their phone numbers in an effort to get out the official cancellation notice. Staffing the Red Cross Shelter with volunteers was easy duty.
Refugees never ate so well as they did that night in Diamond Bar.
Yesterday morning, as I was finally able to leave the house on errands, I saw the most beautiful site. Firemen having coffee at Starbucks. They were packing up to go home. I craved to take their photograph: but I did not want to delay them getting rest for so long as a nano-second.
The emergency ebbing, Edda Gahm and I kidnapped our refugee friend, Trisha Bowler,
for lunch at a favorite hang-out, the Mandarin Taste Restaurant.
Afterwards, we dropped-in across the parking lot to the office of Assemblyman (and now California State Senator-Elect) Bob Huff's office. Jody is a field rep there. A legislative briefing by the Office of Emergency Services was about to start.
While Edda and Trisha "caught up" outside, Jody let me listen in on the linguistic ballet of government. The data download. Questions ladeled without corruptive nuance. Phrases not used in normal conversation normalized the fluid chaos into something solid which could be handled. Phrases like interested parties, pre-position of assets, migration of resources. These words, out in public are too droll and emotionless. But in this setting they an aria filled with wisdom, hope and promise.
" To whom much is given, much is expected". Luke 12:48
Thanksgivingafter a fire will have special signifcance. So close disaster. Diamond Bar and her people were spared only because we were given time. That gift which is either spent well or squandered. There is no in-between.
As we count our blessings this year, because we were spared, we have a special responsibility . We have a duty to assess our challenges and craft from them something of greater value.
Next time, the fire might start closer to us. How can government prepare with the facts of this region to continue our good fortune?
There is a map. The map of the Wildlife Corridor Conservation Authority. If you look where the Triangle Complex Fire traveled- you see where it started and where it was headed. If the wind had not slowed down, if the fire had not been stopped where it was- the fire was headed straight to Rowland Heights, Hacienda Heights and Whittier. The potential for loss of property which would dwarf what happened in Sylmar and Montecito is real. How to avert future tragedy?
The duty of government is to do collectively us what we cannot do as individuals. When it comes to change, I don't want it to be spare. I hope it is comprehensive and forward thinking. It is time to build a reservoir. This would give us some water-independence from the MWD- who has announced- as I recall- a 40% rise in rates over two years. It would give us an additional water-source to fight fires or to be otherwise accessible in the event our imported water is cut off by an earthquake.
Planned well, there is the real potential in pairing this local lake with a bypass roadway in the Tonner region. Not just mitigate everyday traffic problems. With the anticipated increase in traffic from the proposed NFL Stadium, it would be a relief valve for any increase in traffic on the 57/60 Freeway Interchange. It would provide a real defensible line against wildfire or an escape route for other disasters.
Hills for Everyone has a great map of where the fire path, actual and potential could be followed on page 33 at http://www.hillsforeveryone.org/about-the-corridor/pdfs/Schlotterbeck-report.pdf
Top photo is by by Sr. Master Sgt Dennis W. Goff, courtesy of US Air Force. Believe in Sylmar area.
The cross is the front cross at my home church, Mt. Calvary Lutheran in Diamond Bar. Traditional, contemporary and Chinese language services. 23300 Golden Springs DrDiamond Bar, CA 91765 (909) 861-2740BFFF is best female friend forever.
The Mandarin Taste Restaurant is located across the street from Mt. Calvary at 23391 Golden Springs Dr., Diamond Bar, CA 91765 (909) 861-1819
MWD is Metropolitan Water District