Fire In The Woods
Fire In California
I have been watching the news lately about devastating mid November fires in California. One of the areas burned is in the Santa Monica mountains . Another one is in the Thousand Oaks area of the San Fernando Valley near Los Angeles.
Since I lived both in Santa Monica and near Thousand Oaks, I felt motivated to write this article. I know for a fact that California is way more heavily populated now than when it was when I was there in the late 1990’s. However, I had no idea that such nearby populated areas were subject to so much devastation.
I witnessed earthquakes there like the great Sylmar Quake that destroyed Homes and interstate infrastructures. I had my vehicles torn up by sand-blown windstorms in the desert. I have driven by brush fires on the sides of highways. Santa Ana winds there were like hurricane force gales. But nothing like this.
The Country House Achilles Heel
My first country or rural style house had little or no trees around it other than a wind break row of Eucalyptus trees off in the distance. The second semi rural house had only orange trees which I planted and were no threat if they caught fire. My current house has trees nearby, but not a big threat from fire, or so I think.
Trees seem to be near or even surround many a rural home. Even in wide open prairies , the middle of farm fields, or a barren desert there are trees on the homestead. Sometimes there are so many that they hide the house from view.
Trees seem to be the big culprit in the California fires. Sage brush and dry ground cover are just as bad, but the big thing this time seems to be all the homes nestled in forest-like shrouded properties.
I wonder how the person who let a campfire get out of control feels about destroying thousands of homes and killing people. Or the careless smoker who flips a cigarette out a car window into brush bordering the roadside. I wish I was one person who is innocent of such carelessness. But I am not. Nor are my kids.
Curiosity Gone Bad
As I talked about in one of my previous blogs, I had an intense desire about things like fire and how the results would turn out if I did this or that. Such inquisitiveness almost cost my neighborhood dearly.
I could not help but wonder at a very young stage in my life about the effects of fire on tumbleweeds. A large pile of the ghastly things to be sure. Being alone with no one to tattle on me, I tossed the match and Woof! Up they went like an inferno. Since they were piled close together, all were completely burned. Scrambling for help, I used a furious infusion of water from my backyard hose to save the neighborhood fences, homes, and outbuildings.
Later on in life, I had to witness my kids also becoming curious about fire. They had built a small “ugly” fort out of wood scraps near the backyard fence. Somehow it was full of newspapers. Trying to warm the thing up, a fire was started inside. The fortification went up like a blaze and took the fence with it. Fortunately, the Rural Fire Department arrived quickly to put the explosive situation to rest.
Still, another time the kids were near some trees that were close to the house we had in an outer suburban area of Orange County, California. Santa Ana winds were extremely violent that day and obliterated an electric transformer attached to a power pole on a street next door. It was somehow connected to the one covered by branches on the tree alongside our house. The destruction caused ours to ignite and cause the trees to catch on fire. I am glad I was there when it happened and able to extinguish the blaze before it reached the back porch. Scary!
My Thoughts Of Possible Fire Starters
It is not hard to imagine all the ways fires can start. And many times it is in shocking situations.
I watched an incredible shot taken by 2 workers in a camp in Canada. They just happened to be running the video camera on their cell phones when a massive lightning bolt destroyed a very large tree in front of them. It peeled off the bark, demolished the top half of the tree, and the flash exploded like a bomb. There was no fire, but there could have been.
Obviously, you don’t even need human carelessness to get everything ablaze. A gas-fired water heater once blew through a roof when the pressure relief valve failed, causing a fire in the house that reduced it to ashes.
A kitchen mishap, a short-circuit in defective wire inside a wall, a car in the garage leaking fuel onto a hot engine manifold. Those events will also do nicely. How about an unattended fireplace that spews sparks onto a nearby rug just past the hearth. It just seems like the possibilities are endless.
I lived in one house that had a huge oak tree about 10 feet away heavily scarred by a not-to-distant bolt from the blue. The house I live in now has a dead tree that is black (and eerie looking) from some type of disaster. Another flash from above?
I Don’t Know The Answer
I guess I consider myself fortunate that my (our) mishaps were quickly contained. I can’t imagine the hell people go through when everything they own goes up in smoke.
That being said, I think the only things that I could advise are the following:
- Keep all types of tree limbs away from your house
- Cut down trees that are a serious threat
- Burn all trash in a specially made barrel with a protective screen
- Make sure you have a spark-arrester on your chimney
- Don’t allow dry shrubbery up against any structures
- Repair any faulty electric wire installations before it is too late
- Don’t flick your cigarettes into the forested undergrowth
- Better yet, don’t smoke
There, I have said my piece for what it’s worth. I am no saint when it comes to fire protective measures. But I am well aware of the danger, and hope I never have to go through what is happening in California. I think the only thing worse would be hell itself. Amen?
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