|News story shot|
This morning at the meeting, we were discussing the so-called Valley Fire, currently besetting Lake County, which has destroyed 600 homes and hundreds of other structures and cost three people their lives. So far. It has burnt almost 120 square miles—half of that in a mere 12-hour span—and is currently 48 percent contained.
Living in an urban area, I don't worry about fire too much. But living in California, I'm aware that our topography, not to mention current severe drought conditions, exacerbates the danger that wildfire can bring. I've seen huge plumes of fire, found drifts of ash on my car. I've known people who have lost everything they had.
I've had my own brush with fire as well.
|The 1961 fire|
Seeing my mother under that sky made me feel afraid.
We ended up staying with my parents' best friends in Pacific Palisades that night and the next. My father didn't arrive until later that first evening: he'd hitchhiked up the canyon with some firefighters to retrieve (as my remembered myth goes) his cameras and the dogs. (No, no photo albums.)
The fire was extinguished within a couple of days, but in the meantime such celebrities as actors Burt Lancaster, Joan Fontaine, and Zsa Zsa Gabor, comedian Joe E. Brown, chemist Willard Libby, and composer Lukas Foss lost their homes—along with 478 other families.
Our house was fine: the fire only burnt halfway up our five-mile canyon, and then never encroached beyond backyard fences.
The next week or fortnight—or whenever we were allowed into the area—my parents and I went on a driving tour of the hilly neighborhood we had moved from the year before. I have strong memories of brick-chimney sentinels standing among charred and melted remains. Our old house was just fine. I blew it a kiss as we drove past.
And the next year: we'd moved to the house in Santa Monica that I now co-own with my brother ☚. The house I really grew up in. My mother sold the Mandeville Canyon house while my father was away on a business trip. She did not want to live at the end of a five-mile canyon. Period. (Yeah, my dad knew she would do it. It wasn't a surprise. I think he ended up pretty happy in his Santa Monica abode.)