Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Fire Update

To those publishing colleagues who have emailed to express their concern about my wife and me, I'd like to express my thanks. To those of you who don't know why they did that, let me explain.

I live in San Diego, in an area known as Carmel Valley, right near the junction of the 5 and 56 highways. San Diego is currently fighting at least ten separate wildfires. And by wildfires, I don't mean the kind the fire department shows up to fight with one truck. One of these fires encompasses about 200,000 acres at this point. It started east of the city, in the Ramona area, and was driven west by the Santa Ana winds.

Yesterday we started watching the news and found that we were about one and a half miles south of the mandatory evacuation area. Now, I don't know about you, but when I see that I'm that close to a mandatory evacuation area, I get an itchy trigger finger. For those New Yorkers reading this, imagine that there is a wildfire on First Ave. and that they have evacuated up until the east side of Fifth Ave. Imagine you live just east of Sixth Ave. Are you hanging out to see if the fire jumps Fifth? Needless to say, yesterday was not a productive day and was spent monitoring the progression of the fire and packing up suitcases and boxes of files, and backing up the computers.

Watching the news was a bit like sitting at the base of a volcano and waiting for the lava to reach you. It wouldn't take much of a shift in the wind to bring the hellfire upon us. Walking outside, gritty ash stuck in my eyes. A pile of black ash formed where the wind swirls in the corner near our house. My wife, who has asthma, could not walk outside. When I walked outside and came back, I stank like I'd just strolled through an ashtray.

As a recent transplant (18 months ago) to San Diego, this fire has been quite the lesson in geography. Now I really know where Rancho Bernardo and Rancho Sante Fe are. Also, I have new empathy for everyone in New Orleans, as it really does take far, far too long for the mechanisms of state and federal disaster relief to start churning. Yesterday they were asking folks to bring "packaged--not homemade--sandwiches" to Qualcomm Stadium, as well as blankets, pillows, etc. I can't believe the state or city or feds don't have this kind of stuff ready for quick deployment. Though everyone agrees that this fire is being fought with far greater efficiency and communication than the Cedar Fire which took place four years ago and devastated several neighborhoods.

This has also been a bit of a lesson in business and personal disaster preparation. I think we did okay, but clearly we could do better. Once this is all settled down and we are back in our home and office, I will be spending quite a bit of time planning a bit better. Be it earthquake, fire, bird flu, or terrorist attack, we all need a good disaster plan. I use backup.com on both my work and home computers, and I also copied the home computer directory to my laptop, which I took with us. There are other services, of course, but this one works pretty darn well and seems fairly competitive on price, so I'm happy to plug them.

We are, of course, operating on little sleep, as we have been watching this fire since Sunday, waiting for the evacuation order. We are trying to do some work, take calls if we can. The mayor of San Diego has requested that folks stay off their cell phones and restrict electrical usage. We are staying in the hotel another day, as air quality at our home is, we are told, very, very poor. Plus the fire isn't at all contained. The winds could shift yet again and then we'd have to evacuate again. So we are staying put at least until tomorrow morning.

I am online and trying to answer email as best I can. Thanks for your good thoughts. Do a rain dance.

Z

1 comment:

Michael S. Hugh said...

I'm doing several rain dance, my friend. May it por for three days.

Two pieces of advice, having gone through two of these, ensure you keep two bottles of water with you for every family member, a blanket and a samll first aid kit with you - all the rest is disposable after that (believe it or not) - and sleep as much as you can - for me it helped to cuddle my children and tell them stories during some really trying times

All the best. My prayers are with you.

Michael

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