During the final descent into the Los Angeles airport last Thursday night, the pilot uttered, "The fires are on the right side of the plane." It was strange to connect the news stories with the rows and rows of red embers scattered throughout the landscape before my eyes. At my hotel I met Paul, a fire-driven evacuee from San Diego. He was leaving the next day to return to a home spared by the fire. Paul was relieved that his home was still standing and so was I. If his house burned, what would I have said? "I'm sorry... God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life...We're all praying for you?" What do you say to someone whose house burns down?
As I drove from Los Angeles to Riverside on Friday, the sun barely broke through the seamless smoke cloud. You could smell the smoke. After arriving in Riverside, just miles from the fires, flurries of ash fell from the sky.
On Monday morning at around 9:00, I met Maria at the Comfort Inn Hotel. This petite, silver-haired lady was on her cell phone, waiting to hear if her house had burned down. I didn't know what to say so I listened.
Maria said that she only had fifteen minutes notice before she had to grab her two dogs and leave her house in one of the mountain communities near Los Angeles. She said that she has had to cry alone because her husband is on an international business trip and will not return until November 25. Maria's 20-year-old son also has a home in the same neighborhood and its status was unknown. He's in the Navy so his young wife has had to cry alone as well.
Maria said that they will never leave the mountain even though it may always be a fire hazard. "I love it up there." When asked what she was going to do if she lost her house she proclaimed with a determined spirit, "buy another house up there."
Should people live in areas where fire destruction is highly likely at some point? Why risk it?