Close up Hands Tea x

Sit a bit and hear some observational stories I’ve been steeping.

Flood, Mud, Fire and Earthquake.

Folks often say that California doesn’t have seasons. While it’s true we don’t experience the seasons typically associated with gorgeous Pinterest pages — and oh, how I love me some images of crisp autumn twilight and mugs of hot beverages – we can consistently expect the arrival of Flood, Mud, Fire and Earthquake.SandFire 2016

As a Native Californian, I grew up reading the history of how earthquakes, floods, muds and fire have destroyed many a town up and down our fine state and it has always amazed me that we continue to rebuild communities in areas routinely devastated by the seasons of destruction. Perhaps it’s the beauty and moderate temperatures that erase bad memories faster.

But, we’re not the only ones. I’m in awe of the residents who rest their foundations in a place nicknamed Tornado Alley, where cyclones travel annually. Every year. Without fail. Mark your calendars. Man. That’s a special kind of twisted fortitude I am just not wired for. But, as a Californian I certainly understand. Our annual ‘seasons’ leave me shaken, stirred, toasted and muddled – but, home is home. I suppose we just have to be prepared.

Speaking of that…

As one of the on-air personalities of Santa Clarita’s only radio station, I’m a little tired today after days and days of coverage of the #SandFire in our area, but I know it has just begun. A few weeks ago the #SageFire kept us busy for a bit and we’re going to be at this until nearly other people’s winter.

Fire season came early this year, due to California’s multi-year drought. This current fire began on a Friday afternoon and grew from a five acre fire, that everyone thought would be knocked down quickly, to over 37,000 acres, so far.

Being in the roll-y chair behind the microphone during fire season is a strange high-wire act for me, because I’m deathly afraid of fire. No other threat scares me the way fire does and when we have wall-to-wall coverage my heart splinters into a thousand pieces each time I have to announce road closures, evacuations and deliver the statistics of devastation. It is one of the only times in my life that I feel the nausea of nerves. My head hurts, my hands shake and my palms sweat, which makes it difficult to take notes and multi-task. But knowing that residents are in a state of high emotion and that they’re dealing with their own real fears quiets my piddly concerns, so I can do my job. Relaying information that is hopefully helpful and comforting is incredibly important to me and I only want to be of service. I have a lot of love in my heart for people and want to help, where I can.

But, I’m not gonna lie to you. I also get really irritated.

In the middle of rifling through pages and pages of statistics, road closures, traffic snarls, evacuation centers, event cancellations, phone calls, interviews and trying to squeeze massive amounts of incoming data from highly agitated individuals into quickly digestible soundbites – irritation happens.

Here’s the short list of people I’d like to poke squarely in the nose right about now:

The Woefully Inconvenienced. Oh, that one individual who publicly expressed disdain for that “red stuff” (Foscheck, the fire retardant dropped by aircraft to combat thousands of acres of flames) that was all over his car which he described as being as difficult to remove as bird droppings. Then, he felt the need to share how disappointed he was to miss his workout because the gym was closed due to the fire. Gosh. Tens of thousands of people displaced overnight, but woe is him.

The Lookyloos. When our sheriffs have to be taken away from their critical positions involving life and property, because they have to remove chuckleheads taking photos of flames for their social media accounts. Boy, their buddies at work, those relatives in Wisconsin and their followers on Snapchat are gonna feel SO sorry for them. #firesucks (but I have to say, so do they).

The Wildly Irresponsible. When I’m told to remind residents to not use their personal hoses to save their houses, because it monkeys with the fire pressure desperately needed by firefighters who are trying to save thousands of homes and I discover that someone who really should have known better did that very thing… I don’t actually become lava-hot under the collar until they tell me, “You would’ve done the same.” No, thank you very much. I would not have. Maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference to the 18 homes lost. Then again, I don’t have the scientific data on that. Maybe it would have.

The Didn’t Happen to Me. Seemingly intelligent people make the decision to stay behind during Mandatory Evacuations and they take photos of their neighbors houses, to assure them that their property is okay and that their block survived. How lucky they are that they lived to tell the tale on Facebook – despite the many homes that burned to the ground and one fatality. The fact that they can crow about it now, only means that we’re not bringing a deli platter to one of their upcoming memorials or contributing to the crowdfunding campaign to pay for the high cost of that memorial or worse yet, medical bills sustained from burn wounds. Which, I have to point out is what would’ve happened if you were NOT so lucky, my friends.

The Couldn’t Happen to Me. All day Saturday residents were warned, with many different phrases, that evacuation was possible and likely imminent. They were told: Be ready. Be vigilant. Be prepared. And that’s just three of the ways to say that. When the phrase Mandatory was finally used – there were some who were angry and frustrated that they were denied access to the streets to return home to clear out. Them? I’m not angry with. Them I just want to hold, hug and help.

There’s not much I can do about the first four on that list, but I can help that last group —

The law authorizes officers to restrict access to ANY area where a “menace to public health or safety exists” and they will use the terms Voluntary and Mandatory to describe evacuation orders. Other terminology such as Precautionary and Immediate Threat is also used and at the radio station, we included phrases like Be ready. Be vigilant, Be Prepared. Every single one of those terms are used to alert you to the significance of the danger.

Long Before a Fire (or Flood, Mud or Earthquake) threatens you must prepare an Evacuation Checklist and get your priorities in order long before that. I talk a lot about having a PRIORITY PYRAMID which includes People, Pets, Prescriptions, Phones, Papers and Photos. Then? You need to be prepared to leave the rest behind, as difficult as that may be. I understand the emotion of leaving possessions and property behind, but please, please, please — YOU and anything you deem precious with a heartbeat need to be at the top of that priority pyramid.

Hopefully, our community will soon be in the recovery mode of this latest catastrophe and we can all move forward and be prepared for the seasons to come, evacuation checklist in hand.

xo – t.

“In seed time learn, in harvest, teach, in winter enjoy.” – Wm Blake
“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.” – Ann Bradstreet

Evacuation Checklist: