Its fire season again in Southern California, but the devastation this time seems to be worse than usual. Fast spreading fire-storms have destroyed over 110 multi-million dollar homes in Montecito, near Santa Barbara. Last night, another major blaze erupted in Sylmar on the northwest edge of LA, leveling more homes as well as threatening the power supply of the city. Now, looking from our house on a hill, I can see smoke in all directions of the compass, as high winds and low humidity have combined to blow embers from as far as 40-50 miles away and start new fires in the southern and eastern parts of the city. Fire crews, already stretched thin by the existing conflagrations, are struggling to keep up with the new hot spots. Aid is coming in form other parts of the state, as well as adjacent territories, but with no rain in the forecast and the amount of dry brush that has accumulated, this may turn out to be a very long and costly battle.
For the first time in a while, these events have started me thinking about what I would try to salvage if the flames were to appear closer than they are, and mandatory evacuation orders get issued, as they have been in the areas currently threatened. For many, the flames spread so quickly and unexpectedly, that they literally had no more than a few minutes in which to get out. In times like these, it’s revealing what are the things most important to us. Family photos, small mementos from parents and friends that have little, if any monetary value, but are perhaps the last physical links to a cherished relationship make the cut. Insurance policies, financial documents necessary to try and rebuild a new home should our present one be lost have to be included. A change of clothes, a list of addresses and phone numbers get thrown in the car. All the other “stuff” we have accumulated over an acquisitive lifetime, seems all of a sudden not so important. All are replaceable, and as I reflect during this time, most are unnecessary. Just as nature clears out the dead brush of the past to make room for new life, perhaps this is a good time to pause, reflect, set new priorities, and start doing the same. Be well.