Thanks to our many friends around the world who’ve asked if we’re ok. We are indeed, and, if you’re curious, here’s our story.
The fires began on Sunday, and soon filled the air here in Del Mar on the coast with smoke thick enough to burn your eyes and throat, and leave the sun a dull, eerie orange in what otherwise would have been a clear blue sky. The smoke came in so quickly and thickly that I found myself with many of my neighbors walking around the block to see if a fire had started somewhere nearby. No indeed– the nearest flames at that time were 30 miles to our east.
Sunday night brought ferocious Santa Ana winds, making enough of a racket to wake us up from time to time– clearly an ominous development.
We awoke Monday morning to learn that the fire had raced 20 miles toward us, breaching the barrier of Interstate 15, and hearing that essentially everyone to the east of the second key man-made boundary– Interstate 5, one mile to our east– had been advised to evacuate. The event that came to be called the Witch Creek Fire– one of several hitting the county simultaneously– continued to make a beeline towards our home during the day, giving us plenty of time to calculate what we should bring with us if we had to evacuate.
My strategy was rather minimalist. I’d been living out of a suitcase the last two weeks as I gave lectures across the country, and would bring exactly the same set of stuff with me. Three sets of clothes, and I’d visit a laundromat if I needed to live out of that for longer than anticipated. Some family photo albums, documents like checkbooks and passports that might be annoying to lose, and the immediate things we’d want like sleeping bags, pillows, and food. And if we lost all else, so be it– we have too much clutter in our lives. Anyway, this was all hypothetical contingency planning.
By late afternoon we realized we just might want one more detail to this hypothetical contingency planning, namely, where the heck we would go. We called a friend in La Jolla who was gracious enough to accept (as a hypothetical contingency, anyway) not just my wife and me, but also my wife’s parents and an elderly neighbor we’d adopted for the occasion as well. We invited the latter to join us for dinner at our Del Mar home Monday evening while we monitored developments, thinking she might get worried being on her own. However, sitting around the TV together proved to be far from soothing, as they provided very little useful details but delighted in replaying the same footage over and over of a particular set of houses going up in flames.
Shortly after 8:00 p.m., we learned that this was all more than hypothetical. Our second, surely impregnable line of defense against the advancing flames– Interstate 5– was deemed insufficient by the local authorities, and we were ordered to evacuate.
I was still cheerful enough about all this, fully expecting to come back to the same house we left. After all, a half-million San Diegans had been instructed to evacuate their homes, and surely no more than a few thousand homes would actually be destroyed– pretty decent odds, really.
Though later last night, in my happy little sleeping bag in our friend’s living room in La Jolla, I thought of taking some pictures, and realized I had no camera, and no lots of other handy stuff as well. I began to wonder if I’d be regretting this whole minimalism thing. Surely it wouldn’t have hurt to throw in the camera, and guitar (there was a much more minimalist time in my life I would have gone nowhere without that), and …
If the wind was demonic on Sunday, Monday night it was angelic, at least from a narrow Del Mar perspective, gently blowing in from the sea and stopping the witch’s westward wanderings in her tracks, about 4 miles east of I-5. The “mandatory” Del Mar evacuation seemed to morph into an advisory on Tuesday, and by Tuesday afternoon the sky here was blue. We were officially told it was ok to go back home.
Which was just fine with minimalist old me. Not to mention our gracious La Jolla host.
UPDATE: Wednesday morning back in my Del Mar home, the sky is clear and there is not a trace of wind. Here is this morning’s updated map:
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