Wednesday, September 02, 2009

La Cañada-Flintridge Fires Aftermath

Last Thursday, August 27, I stood at this very spot with people from the neighborhood behind me, watching the fires burn on the distant hills. At that time the fires were so far away there seemed to be little concern for the safety of homes in the area. Today the view looks like this.

This is a patchwork of ten photos I took, pieced together in photoshop with no retouching. The house on the left had burned hedges in his backyard, visible if you click on the picture to blow it up. The house to the right had scorched grass very close to the structure itself. Big signs were hanging outside each home, thanking the firefighters and rescue workers who saved these homes.

The silence was overwhelming. Somewhere in the distance I heard a bird chirping, and I found it hard to believe that anything had returned to this area so soon.

As the crow flies, the most distant mountain ridge at the top of the picture was about seven miles away and everything between here and there was entirely burned. A week ago this was mostly green, filled with trees and shrubs.

I stood there for about ten minutes, just looking, feeling the loss, the devastation, the good fortune of those who had one of the world's greatest firefighting organizations at their disposal. The smell of burned wood, brush, even a sort of tar smell, probably from the oils in the foliage, was powerful. Long after I returned home I could smell it in my hair, on my shoes and on my clothes. The bottoms of my shoes were covered with spiny burs, undoubtedly little seedlings finding a way to cling to something to be taken away and accidentally planted somewhere else to start all over again.

Last Thursday, at the very beginning of this, I witnessed some of the most amazing helicopter piloting imaginable, helicopters swooshing over power lines and down into golf course fairways, over rooftops and over to a water hazard long enough to dip a big bucket into the water hole and roar away to drop a load on the distant blaze.

So far the blaze has consumed over 140,000 acres, or about 218 square miles of landscape.

This image shows an extremely small percentage of the total.


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