Shocking Day

The consequences of the Almeda Fire (yeah, not ‘Alameda’), as it’s been declared, are rippling out. It’s named after the little street where the grass fire was first reported. The air is surprisingly clear, declared green by AQI, with a rating of 46, but a smoky odor teases you like a strong memory.

My little town, Ashland, Oregon, was where it started. We suffered some losses of homes. The area to the northwest suffered much more.

A trailer park is gone. Fast food restaurants and homes are gone. A winery.

Continuing into Talent…much of the northern side burned. The Camelot Theater is gone.

On into Phoenix…

Most news services are declaring that the small town of Phoenix, population of forty-five hundred, is gone. The primary road into town is blocked off, so confirmation is yet to come, but Youtube videos taken during the night attest that Phoenix suffered. Information is spotty, as the news services cope with elections, COVID-19, wildfires across the western US, and the snow in Colorado. We’re hampered locally as reporters had to evacuate their homes and the fire burned through a cable affecting at least one service provider. Some early reports said it was a local ISP called jeffnet, but others say it was Spectrum. Maybe it was both.

Those who bundle everything — television, phone, Internet — to one provider suddenly found they weren’t receiving the local emergency alerts, a new consideration offered for you the next time that you’re debating you options.

The fire continued into south Medford, about fifteen miles up the Interstate. That section of city was evacuated, along with the

Damage reports continue seeping in. So many fires are burning that the area lacks the resources to combat them. While towns and cities this part of Jackson County are fighting this fire, a larger fire is consuming another part of the county to our northeast. The county to the west is battling its own blazes, as are towns further north in Oregon. Little help is available.

The wind has abated. This is good news. Cooler temperatures are prevailing, the low nineties, but it’s going to increase again tomorrow and continue to get hotter the rest of the week.

Fickle Winds

I wrote about our local wildfire this morning. The fire was put out, so huzzah! Some homes destroyed…

I went on with my normal life for about an hour. I then turned back to netborhoods for fire updates and experienced heavy shock.

The fire had spread north. Going from less than a hundred acres, it was now over a thousand acres. While the wind had dissipated in our area, it stayed strong elsewhere. Pushed by the wind, the fire was spreading along the Interstate 5 corridor on the southern side.

Highways were being closed. Smoke filled the air…north of us. Neighborhoods, businesses, hemp farms, and wineries were evacuated. School classes were canceled.

Tuning in to other news revealed that numerous other fires were burning fast in southern Oregon, forcing evacuations, closing roads, destroying buildings, chasing wildlife. Central Point, Eagle Point, to the west, areas to the northeast two hours away.

Sifting through the news, I realized how fortunate we’d been. The fire started about three and a half miles away. A fortunate wind saved us, to the detriment of others.

The wind is still out there, though. All of Jackson County is at level one: be ready to go.

I packed some things in the car, just in case. Fickle winds can’t be trusted.

Disrupted

Nothing to see here. Just some first world venting blended with some humbrag complaining.

My writing concentration today has come like a reluctant child who’s itching to leave as soon as possible. I blame events, beginning with yesterday.

Yesterday was another hot one. Not a scorcher, it reached 99. It’s a scorcher when it goes over one hundred. Night temps had gone down to the mid-sixties the night before, enabling us to open windows and cool the house at night in the morning before buttoning up and enduring the day.

The temp was slow in dropping, though, still at 86 at 9:30 PM and 84 in the house. The office, where we read, surf the net, and watch our telly, was the hottest room, at 87. We, being staunch supporters of the church of miserly spending, eschewed the air con and just turned on a fan. Finally, though, I did a skin test. Walking outside and then returning in to feel the difference, I decreed it felt cooler outside, so I opened up windows for a welcome breeze.

Thirty minutes later, a strong wood smoke scent russhed in. “Winds must have shifted,” I said, mostly to myself. My wife was doing a puzzle and didn’t acknowledge my comment. The cats heard me, but I’d not mentioned food, so they were already on to staring at one another again, in case one of them tried something. I hoped that shifting winds was the source, even as I worried. We have several smaller fires burning within twenty-five miles. Sometimes, though, California wildfire smoke follows I5 up through the pass and down into our valley.

This smoke was worryingly strong. I closed the windows, muttering curses as I did. Going outside, the smell hit me like a broom to the face. Going back in, I said, “Wow, that smoke is really strong. You should check it out.” Worrying about new fires and evacuation, I hunkered down on the net.

Yes, the AQI had skyrocketed from around a pleasant and green twenty-five to a red, unhealthy one fifty-seven.

WTH?

Nothing from the city nor the fire department, but others on our local nets were wondering and worrying, too. In the fire department’s opinion, the smoke was coming from the 350 acre Grizzly Creek fire that firefighters have been battling.

Yet, they had noticed the smoke — and now there was falling ash. “There aren’t any reports of new fires,” the fire department said. “But if you see some flames, call us.”

Well, sure as shit, we will.

Responding to my comments, my wife went outside. Returning with wide eyes, she said, “It’s terrible out there. The smoke is really thick at the bottom of the hill.”

I went out to check again. The smoke was worse than before.

Nothing to do about it but grit our teeth and stay vigilant, my wife and I told each other and the cats, retiring to our evening routines. It was midnight. She went to bed to read while I stayed up watching telly and checking the net for new local fire news. The cats asked to go out. “No, dummies, it’s too smoky. You’ll ruin your lungs.”

Later, in bed, the wind was suddenly howling like a lonely beagle outside our window, beating up the trees, and punishing anything loose in the yard, knocking things around like a hyper cat expending energy. My wife whispered about her anxieties. I listened, wondering, is that the fence? The trash can was on the street because it was trash day. I worried about the can getting blown over, letting our contents flee on the wind.

6:30ish, I looked outside. The gray ashy sky made me gasp. Shit, to the ‘puter.

The net was down.

Terrific.

Verifying the trash can was upright and in place (and the fence was standing, and nothing was damaged), I reset the system. Walking around outside, the wind was still strong (forty mile an hour gusts was what I later read), shaking the trees and bushes. The cats were with me on the inspection round, but each time a sharp gust struck, the three headed back into the house floof haste

The net returned. Hallelujah. Eagerly I hunted news. It was there: a grass fire had sprung up in the city on the other end of town. With the winds, everyone was told to go to Level 1 and be prepared to leave. Those in the immediate area of the fire were issued immediate leave orders. I5, just a few hundred yards behind the fire, was shut down in both directions. The traffic cameras showed empty lanes southbound and double lines of idling traffic northbound.

Looking out the office toward the northwest part of town, I confirmed, yep, I see smoke.

Damn it. I reviewed checklists, supplies, and go bags. Which way to go. Well, north, of course, because south led to California, which was on fire. Except north required us to use I5. I5 was closed, and all of the town would be leaving on highway 99, a road that varies between two and four lanes and has multiple traffic lights. However, Highway 99 was also closed, just outside of town. Thus, we can’t go north.

A situation update arrived. People were returning to their homes. The city was issuing reassurances that nobody needed to evacuate the city. It looked like the interstate was being re-opened for travel. The wind faded away like…a dying wind. The sky is blue and smells fresh again, though the horizons are smudged.

Fire damages from the area are trickling in. We fared better than Malden, Washington, Colorado, California, and other places. No one was hurt. Yet, there are reports that another neighboring small town, Talent, had parts evacuated. The story continues.

I have my coffee. (It’s my second cup, if I’m honest, but why start now?) Time to settle down and write like crazy, at least one more time.

Whine #7,635,499,117,006

Sometimes I think, TGFC. Yes, thank God for coffee, a.k.a., thank God for caffeine. Coffee helps me cope when the friggin’ world seems determined to be the pebble in my shoe.

First, the wildfire smoke has returned. Grrr. Yes, the smoke isn’t as bad as the actual fire, nor the many accidents, disasters and true nightmares that others are enduring, you know, like being a refugee without a home — or country, any longer — or being torn away from your family and sent to another place, or raped or shot. I’m far from starving or being financially insecure. That’s why this is a whine.

Second, the bloody Internet connection is sooo…damnnn…slooowww…tooo…day….

I was at home first experiencing this. What the hell? Who knows, at that point. But now, in the coffee shop, it’s OMG time. Task Manager and all the security apps said there’s nothing wrong here. I tend to blame Google Chrome. Hasn’t been working right since that update.

Again, not big stuff, first world complaints.

Which took me back to Dr. Dinardo’s post, “Shifting From Anxiety to Excitement”. Her salient point:

Did you know that fear and excitement share the same set of neurotransmitters, including dopamine, glutamate, and acetylcholine.

  • Opposite emotions. Identical neurotransmitters.
  • Same neural activity. Different cognitive appraisal.

And the best way to shift from performance anxiety to excitement is to say one sentence on repeat.

Her information can be applied to multiple situations. It’s about changing your  reactions, right? So, as I walked, I worked on changing from feeling negative toward something on the spectrum’s positive side. While doing that, I thought about how Dr. Dinardo’s point is directed toward the first world. Her focus is on helping her students. The lessons can be applied to others (like me), but imagining myself leaving one of the world’s war-torn, disease-ravaged countries without any idea of where I’m going, it would be difficult for me to try to change my cognitive appraisal to be more upbeat.

It’s not a slam against Dr. Dinardo (although some might think, that sure read like a slam). It’s a slam against the world and the many ways that suffering is forced upon others, how slowly change takes place, and how impermanent it often seems. It’s a slam against people who think, let’s go back twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, one hundred years, to when times were simpler and life was easier. I consider that simplistic, narrow, and short-sighted, perhaps as simplistic, narrow, and short-sighted as my whining about the wildfire smoke and a slow Internet.

Yes, I understand that I’m simplifying cognitive appraisal and its mechanism. Hey, I’m only on my second cuppa. I’d need one or two more cups of coffee to go into it more thoughtfully.

I’ve read — and I’m dubious about projecting these things — that climate change will eventually affect our coffee supply. I’m dubious because projections are based on the known, and there often turns out to be many things that aren’t known that affect the projections. I’m also hopeful that a woman or man will arise, unite us, and say, “Enough with this shit. It’s time for a change,” and manage to rally everyone around them to change the world for the better for all, and save coffee.

It’s probably a naive hope. Meanwhile, I have coffee, time, a secure place, and a working computer. I’ll take advantage of the here and now, at least how it applies to me.

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