I remember feeling really embarrassed and kind of dumb because I called up our swim club and asked them if they were open - I had heard the fire department on TV telling residents to use as little water as possible to keep the pressure up for the fire hoses - so I thought the club might be closed - and I wanted to go swimming.
"Yeah - why wouldn't we be open?" The guy had said in 1977.
"Uh.. OK, Thanks, Bye" I had said and hung up as quickly as I could without slamming down the phone.
The 11 year old me was mortified at having asked such a dumb question.
That is what was running through my 2008 brain as I stood on the balcony and watched the homes of at least two families go up in smoke. As tragedies go, our Santa Barbara fires are on the lesser end of the scale - the wealthy areas are the ones that get hit the hardest and people who live there know they are at risk - but I am sure that for those families who are presently watching their worldly possessions go up in smoke - it doesn't feel like that.
Some friends of ours most likely lost everything - they were only able to grab a few photos before they were forced to flee the encroaching flames.
That's what people take in such a situation - memories - the mementos of lives lived, family stories.
If nothing else, the light from those red hot fires lets you see with unusual clarity what is important and what is not. And a new generation of 11-year-olds is experiencing the events - from the terrible to the trivial - that they will remember 31 years from now, also with unusual clarity.
Landscaping tips for the fire prone