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Monday night, December 4, 2017, ended with a power outage, which is fairly common in my fairly dilapidated 'hood. It was about a quarter to ten, and I was bedding down anyway, so I thought, "It will be back on tomorrow, probably.", and proceeded to crash out. I was in blissful slumber until about 12:45 AM, when I was jolted awake by a neighbor, who was banging on my door and yelling at the top of his lungs, "FIRE!!! FIRE!!! FIRE!!! GET OUT!!! WE HAVE TO EVACUATE!!!" I walked out of my front door and saw the hillside less than a quarter-mile away completely engulfed in flames. "Holy fuck, this is bad!", thought I.


Still half-asleep and at least a little bit startled, I walked out to look at the fire as everyone else on the street proceeded to scamper. Moments later, I was joined by another neighbor, who, after guzzling his 18th cocktail of the evening and inhaling from not one, but two marijuana vaporizers, said "Dude, this is fucked up." The understatement of the year. The fire seemed to be getting exponentially bigger every few minutes, and I finally decided to haul ass after a police car pulled up and announced over its PA that the area was under mandatory evacuation, not taking very much with me.


While driving up to a friend's house that I thought would be a safe haven, I noticed that the fire was much more massive than I thought, as the ridgeline parallel to the highway was burning intensely for many miles. Originally going there to seek shelter, I realized that my friend's house would also be under threat very soon. Sure enough - within the hour, we were loading his vehicles with his valuables. The massive fire was encircling the entire area, almost as if by design. About 5 AM, after listening to some on-the-spot reports, I decided to reconnoiter my 'hood despite the roadblocks (I know more than a few ways around them), and much to my delight and relief, saw that the fire which was threatening that whole part of town had been put out, or more accurately, burned itself out. Meanwhile, the fire grew to being within 100 yards of my friend’s house before finally being checked. We were both very fortunate, as many others fared much worse.


There are few things more terrifying on this earth than fire, especially huge fires that are burning out of control on all four sides of you. I knew a woman who survived a structure fire about 20 years ago, and she’s completely traumatized by it to this day. On 9/11/2001, many people trapped in the WTC buildings chose to leap to their deaths rather than be consumed by flames. The Islamic State, as if their beheading videos weren’t bad enough, also showed them dousing their victims with some kind of fuel and burning them to death. To partially quote Washington, fire, like government, is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.



John Minehan Added Jan 1, 2018 - 7:38am
Ever read MacLean's Young Men and Fire.
Stephen Hunter Added Jan 1, 2018 - 9:52am
Michael thanks for sharing your feelings in this well written article. There is nothing which humbles one more than the power of a natural disaster. The innate fear we feel with fire is hard wired into us. 
wsucram15 Added Jan 1, 2018 - 10:30am
Happy New Year Michael!!!
Takes on a new meaning doesnt it?  Im glad you are safe.
Im sitting in a hotel room typing to you because of a type of fire inside the furnace.  The house still is not fixed.  Sometime in January, but no one was hurt.
Christmas time was interesting for me this year...a Learning experience if you will.  After Christmas Eve and an auto accident happening not even 12" from my feet on the beltway at I imagine 65-75 miles an hour, Im pretty glad to still be here.
(I was standing by a tow truck and a woman pulled me out of the way from behind).  I cant begin tell you what its like to be hit by flying car parts while watching cars crash and people fly forward, while you stand there. 
I learned to appreciate "safe distance", having seen what happens when a driver at high speeds does not allow same.
Also Ive never been in an actual fire, just the one in the house that caused the blow back which Im still shocked didn't ignite the entire house.  But anyway...I had a friend that was, her house burned part way down. 
She once told me "it was the most helpless she ever felt"  and that "she had to watch everything she owned burn".  
I understand that now...some things are beyond our control. 
Its better to be safe.... thank you for the story.
Jeffry Gilbert Added Jan 1, 2018 - 11:52am
Glad you made it through intact. 
Michael B. Added Jan 3, 2018 - 11:49pm
@ John M. - I never read much about the smoke jumpers, but I know they have brass balls. Regarding the fire, we decided it was like Kiev in 1941.
Michael B. Added Jan 3, 2018 - 11:50pm
@ Stephen - Thank you, and you're most welcome! I cannot improve on your comments! Mother Nature constantly reminds us of how truly insignificant we are, yet we go on thinking it is the other way around.
Michael B. Added Jan 3, 2018 - 11:50pm
@ Jeanne - Happy New Year, Sugar! I know you had a structure fire, and am glad you are OK! Oh, and friendly advice: Get, and stay away from, ALL ROADS!!!!
Michael B. Added Jan 3, 2018 - 11:50pm
@ Captain Gilbert - Thanks bro! I'm also glad that you are still around, you salty fuck!
Mark Hunter Added Jan 4, 2018 - 3:03am
Glad your home was saved, and that you're okay. I have a little experience with the power of fire, and it's way more dangerous than a lot of people realize ... until they have their own close call.
John M., Young Men and Fire is a great and sobering read, much recommended.
Flying Junior Added Jan 4, 2018 - 3:31am
I live on a wilderness interface on Rose Canyon, the old Indian trail, separated from La Jolla's Mount Soledad by about two miles as the crow flies.  The fire department sends an officer every two years to see that our scrub brush, trees and debris are safe to resist a fire.  We have had two small fires in the last twenty-five years.  However with two winters of no rainfall on the heels of a prolonged drought, the outlook is changing.
The last fire was this summer in August.  It was caused by a homeless encampment campfire for cooking.  Normally this would have been a very small fire, but due to extreme drought conditions, it burned much of the coastal chaparral on a swath of the hillside.  Less than one hour after I heard the first sirens, I talked to one of the firefighters who assured me that the fire was mostly put out and that I had nothing to fear.
Still it was several hours before the fire department was able to send the police officers home and declare an all clear.  I remember after the big firetruck left they deployed two smaller trucks with four men seated on each side.  These men used picks and shovels to deaden any burning embers and unavoidably killed whatever plants that were clinging to life in the extended drought.
If this fire had occurred after the Burbank fire or the Thomas fire I would have been much more frightened.  We were also lucky that our fire department resources were available and not dispatched elsewhere.
Glad you made it through okay, bro.
Where do you live?  Sounds like it didn't rain very much this winter.
Shane Laing Added Jan 4, 2018 - 10:20am
Good to see you okay.  We are seeing news regarding the massive cold front on the east coast. One extreme to another.
opher goodwin Added Jan 4, 2018 - 12:08pm
Glad that it didn't engulf you. A frightening experience.