Fired up, thanks.
You may have heard that we have a fire going on here in Santa Cruz.
Fires are, unfortunately, not unusual in California—generally in October, when the dry season is dragging on. But fires are now an annual, close, pressing presence, all over the state. For a quarter of the year, every year, our lives have become dominated by fear. Fear and smoke.
This year, nothing is usual. Why should fires be? Or rather, fire fighting.
Because this one, they’re not actually fighting. Thousands of homes are in the line of the fire, and yes, so far most of the people have gotten out, but a fire that would normally have 3000 or more firefighters on it, has had 600.
Normally, within twenty minutes of the first whiff of smoke, you hear the spotter planes. Then the water-bearing helicopters and the retardant-spraying planes arrive, to crush the fire before it could build and take off—
But for two days, our skies have been empty.
In part, it’s a problem with the terrain, and the difficulty of dumping water on the tops of redwood trees, attempting to get it to the ground. And in part, it’s the way the wind is riding the front of the fire line, obscuring the target ground.
And the bigger problem? Our inability to get the Covid response under control.
Summer fires in California depend on the inmates of prisons and youth facilities, who train, get paid, and have a highly employable skill when they get out. But in 2020, the prisons have either locked their inmates down or given them early release.
This morning, I wrote a note on Facebook with a picture of the air we’re trying to breathe—
—and a comment that decisions made in DC have rippled across the country.
Now, I did not mean that DC has anything to do with where our Conservation Corps prisoners are sent. I meant that the incredible catastrophe that is this government’s Covid response has now resulted in a situation where my neighbors’ houses are burning, their livestock and the wild creatures that live here are dying, and a quarter of my county has loaded up their cars and fled to safety.
Other countries have problems, absolutely. No argument there. And yes, global heating means that the hills are tinder dry and the sun is hotter than ever and you can’t blame the people in DC for all of that, since much was inherited. But once the fire is burning? Locking down our firefighters has thrown kerosene on the flames.
The countries that acknowledged the problem early, that frankly ordered people to retreat until the numbers were down, that required their people to wear masks and keep apart and be both responsible and sensible—those countries might be watching their hills burn, but it isn’t because firefighters who want to work are kept from the fire lines.
This is a stupid way to live. What can be more basic than wearing a bloody mask and not going to large gatherings? Why is this country not only unable to bring the response under control, but unable to even agree that there are things that can be done, now? Why can we not just grow up?
My fire has nothing to do with your life, I know. Of course, if my house burns down, it means that you won’t have a book or two from me while I’m trying to put my life back together. And if you insist on not wearing a mask when you go out, and pretending that hanging out in a crowded bar or venue doesn’t matter, and yes, if you vote for people who treat it like a joke, then thanks, but I’m not sure that we’re ever going to crawl out from under this thing. Which would be too bad, to never be able to hang out and chat about the new one.
Ripples spread. And the Covid-denier one is currently crashing on my coastline.