I have rather a lot swirling about in my head as I watch (and smell) the smoke rising above the Sierra.
A recent news article found it odd that we Californians name fires. I couldn’t understand why. People on the East Coast and in the South name hurricanes. Fire is every bit as destructive and, as my state unfortunately has a Fire Season, we need to know which fire is being discussed.
I was driving home a week ago and there were very odd, streaky clouds in the sky. Except this one gigantic thundercloud due north.
I thought, first, “That’s odd,” followed almost immediately by, “Oh.”
That’s not a cloud. It’s the smoke from the Rim Fire.
I don’t know how the firefighters do it. The whole state is just parched and Congress won’t fund brush removal — Why would they? They can only say “No,” and pout (and lie) — so the fires are INTENSE. I stood a street’s and a lawn’s distance from a burning house once (I was calling 9-1-1) and the heat was unbearable.
These brave souls wade right into the Seventh Circle of Hell and fight these things hand-to-hand. Another thing about the news? They keep referring to it as a fire in the foothills. The foothills are gently rolling lead-ups to the Sierra covered in scrub oak trees. The foothills do not have ravines, or granite towers like El Capitan. This is not the High Sierra, where trees are few and far between anyway, but it is definitely the Mountains. Half Dome is close to 9,000 feet above sea level. NOT foothills.
The Rim has burned more square mileage than the City of Chicago. It is threatening Hetch Hetchy, but I am somewhat smug about that. The Hetch Hetchy rivaled Yosemite Valley for spectacular beauty. Then they dammed it so San Francisco could have the finest water In. The. State. Which they complain about. They “don’t know if it’s safe,” or if it’s any good.” They need to be slapped.
We had been lucky with the smoke. A few days ago the wind shifted. The mountains disappeared and the smoke created an inversion layer that shot the temperature up to 105 degrees on Friday.
It was most unpleasant. In fact, it was vile, and I am about 50 miles south of Yosemite. I don’t know how those firefighters do it; but I am DAMN glad they do.