Everyone knows Southern California has wildfires. It’s a fact of life here, just like earthquakes and El Niño winters, although the latter hasn’t produced much rain in a very long time, and we’re in a serious drought, so it’s tinder-dry out there. All over the state.

This is the view outside my front door. We live in what is considered a “high-risk fire area.” No lie. Just look how dry those hills are. The nearest hill, there are sprinklers to keep the drought-tolerant plants alive to prevent landslides should we actually get rain someday, but those dun-colored hills beyond? Quietly waiting for a spark. Plus it’s fairly windy up here.


Yesterday I was doing housework and smelled smoke. Sniff sniff, yep that’s smoke. I went outside to see the source and saw smoke in the sky. Just a little, so I went to the back and this is what I saw—smoke, and the wind was blowing this way.


I called 911. They were already on it.

A few minutes later it was bearing down on the neighbors’ houses, and it was coming right at us. You could hear it as it gobbled up the dry grass.


Here comes the OCFA helicopter to drop fire retardant. If there are swimming pools nearby, the copter can suck up water from them, or from the ocean, by way of that spout thing hanging down. We have a pool at the club but it’s not chopper-accessible. The copter circled round and round for hours, going and returning with retardant. This was a small fire, but in a major fire they bring in commercial jets to drop massive amounts of retardant.


The firefighters have arrived and they are chasing the fire up the hill, away from the houses.


The OCFA copter comes in for another drop.


You can see the firefighters on the ridge. This was a very small fire by comparison, but you never know—even devastating fires start small and, if they get hot enough, create their own wind and can consume whole neighborhoods faster than a speeding bullet. You can only watch and hope for the best.


It’s only a matter of time before these hills burn. But a three-truck fire station is less than a half-mile away, and there are fire breaks up there that you can’t see from here. I hiked up the hill this morning and saw them—I hadn’t noticed before. They had this fire out in three hours and it didn’t even make the five o’clock news. But it makes you grateful and thankful for firefighters.


And our house has no exposed beams. It’s completely sealed. And we have a whole-house sprinkler system.


When the devastating Laguna Beach fire happened in 1993, they learned what a good idea that was.



  1. Fire and California seem to be synomous. Can't imagine the anxiety that must cause. They have small fires out here but nothing major altho the eastern/central mountains are currently blazing. And, we're in a green agricultural valley. We do get the smoke from neighboring states. We're also immune to earthquakes, tornados and floods. Occasional monsoonal rains come and we do get small hail storms. Plus, we get very little snow.....we're in some kind of temperate zone in the winter. So, just about a perfect place to hang our hats.... Be safe and keep the fire hoses at the ready.........

  2. Wow! That's quite a fire story. It sure would have you feeling grateful for the firefighters! I gather that the only standing house in the lower pic is the one in Laguna that had a whole house sprinkler system? I'll have to see if my mountain living friends have that. I'm happy to say that our fire is now "80% contained" and everyone is going back to their houses now. "Only" four houses lost.


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