A year ago this week, I was camped out at my brother's house, evacuated from home due to wildfires. Santa Ana winds are fairly common this time of year, bringing hot, dry weather from the east, creating "perfect storm" conditions for a wildfire like they did last year.
Wednesday morning, as if on cue, we woke up to Santa Anas. It had been exactly one year to the day after Rice Canyon (Fallbrook) fire started. This week's Santa Ana is pretty mild. Although it's been warm, the breeze is quite mild compared to last year's extremely high winds.
Homes are still being rebuilt. Avocado trees that lived through the fire were pruned and now have a new growth. It may be a few seasons before they will once again supply Super Bowl guacamole. Other trees that weren't so lucky have been chopped into firewood and replaced. There is a big grove right by the freeway that I pass several times a week, and it is a constant reminder of last year's fire. That and actually being able to see the neighbor's house, formerly hidden behind their mature trees.
A couple weeks ago, when the season's first Santa Ana blew in, I packed a suitcase with some extra things and stashed it in my trunk. "Just in case" I leave home one of these days and don't get to go back, at least I'll have a toothbrush and some clean clothes. Extreme? Perhaps. Some would say I'm inviting disaster. Others would bet against a fire, because I'm prepared.
One family that lives not far from here built a fireproof garage last summer. I don't know the details, but the structure was designed and built to not burn down. It worked. The fireproof garage survived. It was largely empty because they hadn't stored anything in it yet, which is unfortunate because it was about the only thing left on their property after the fire went through.
I'm not sure why this has been on my mind all week, I guess perhaps because it was so memorable. Because I can't forget how narrowly we got by. Because I'm still grateful.