On Wildfires …

From Copperopolis, looking towards Half Dome, at Yosemite - which is usually visible.

From Copperopolis, looking towards Half Dome, at Yosemite – which is usually visible.

I’ll start by saying that if you are in the U.S., you no doubt already know about the RIM wildfire which started on August 17th in the Stanislaus National Forest and then quickly spread to Yosemite National Park. We live about 40 miles from the fire and were never in danger. The terrain in this area is very steep and rocky and the hills are covered with all sorts of vegetation. Yosemite has oldest living Sequoia trees (at least three hundred years old), thousands of California Oaks and “bull” pines – which sort of blow up like bottle rockets during a fire – spreading the fire in all directions. Anyway, the fire has been burning ever since, now covering 250,000+ miles and is finally about 75% contained – full containment is not expected for at least another two weeks. For several tense days, the communities closest to the fire were evacuated and smoke from the fire (which was so big and hot it generated its own weather – huge clouds and winds) traveled amazing distances. We were visiting friends in Incline Village/Lake Tahoe (on the California/Nevada border but had to cut the visit short because the smoke was like a light fog and made the air unbreathable – as it was in Reno, Carson City and Virginia City (those of you old enough, think Bonanza). We got back home to find the air a bit better, but not great – couldn’t open the windows for days. It’s hard not to think about those 5,000 firefighters who are on the scene and having to breath even thicker smoke 24 hours a day.

We had to go to Sonora today (about 25 minutes from our house and much, much closer to the fire) and all along the route and in town we saw signs on the roadside, on over-cossings, and on cars and restaurants, and on hot dog stands – pretty much everywhere – thanking the firefighters for their efforts.  Only about 100 structures have burned (including about a dozen homes), which is an amazingly low number considering the size of the fire and there have been no deaths of people or livestock. The locals have not only set up shelters for those those displaced, but have also pitched in to donate emergency supplies and hold “thank you” dinners for the off-duty firefighters.  Oh, and those wonderful firefighters were able to redirect the fire away from those Sequoias!

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