October 17, 2018

An Unnatural Hue

I didn’t think much of it when I noticed a strange orange color casting taking photos of the kids outside.

I didn’t think much of it when I saw the wild turkeys, and, rather than appear indifferent to my presence like they always do, they scrambled to get away.

I didn’t think much of it when I smelled the smell of barbecue. Or maybe that was a fire in a fireplace I was smelling?

It wasn’t until Domingo pointed the sky line that I realized a wild fire was burning nearby.


It’s subtle, but the dried grass is a little more orange and a little less yellow in the above photograph than on a typical day.

I’ve lived in California now for nearly a decade and a half. Domingo longer. We plan for earthquakes. I never thought when I moved here I’d have to have an emergency wild fire plan as well. Four of the last three years there’s been a wild fire burning close enough to us to severely hamper the air quality. I’ve lost count of the actual fires.

It’s time to rethink our emergency plans.

Air purifiers – Last year I was pregnant during a time the air quality was unhealthy. I’d feel winded simply driving from our home to daycare. We joked that I was the family’s canary in the coal mine: I’d wake up in the middle of the night with a terrible headache. Domingo would whip out the phone and – yup – AQI just spiked to 150+.

Being pregnant during a wildfire is something I’ll never have to experience again, but it made me acutely aware of how miserable reduce long capacity and poor air quality can be. I also worry about the long term effects on the little lungs in our family.

Our plan is a small room air purifier for each bedroom. If nothing else, may the smoke not interrupt the kids’ sleep!

Escape plan – I’m the kind of person who wants to have an idea of what to grab in case the evacuation order comes. The sad reality is that the fires in recent years were moving too fast to allow for that. We could find ourselves in a situation where I’m crouched in the back row of the minivan trying to buckle the kids in their seats while Domingo drives us away from the flames.

Time permitting, I’ll grab the local copy of my photos and other data backup since that’s just unplugging a single USB cable and grabbing a single hard drive. Possessions can be purchased again. Even birth certificates can be reordered.

As terrifying as a forced evacuation can be for adults, it’s scarier for kids. The second item on my grab list is the kids’ lovey.

As much as I’d love to save keepsakes, I don’t think that’s a practical expectation. The kids’ footprints, travel souvenirs, wedding mementoes. It’s all too scattered around the house. I tried to scan anything flat into the computer, and photograph anything not so I at least have a digital back up of sorts.

The overall theme – Whether it’s sheltering in place during earthquakes, or running from wild fires, our plans have us co-locating the kids so one parent can keep them from panicking while the other assess the situation.

May we never have to test our plans.

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