Hello October; Please Play Nice


October has always been one of my favorite months. Summer is REALLY now over, and the promise of a new season lies ahead. Pumpkins, flannel, chilly evenings.

Growing up in a suburb of San Diego, there was not much in the way of seasonal changes.  When Steve and I were ready to buy a home, we loved the idea of the mountains, where I had cousins and my sister, Lisa.

Moving to Descanso gave us a real change of seasons. Snow in the winter and a luscious spring. After a hot and sometimes humid summer, a glorious fall awaited us. A REAL autumn, not just beach weather without tourists.

But living up here, in one of the most fire prone areas of the country, October also is the beginning of fire season. Santa Ana winds (devil winds) take hold, and they are the catalyst for devastation.

We’ve been through several fires through the years. We even had the Cow Fire right next door, named after our former neighbor, Benny the bull.  Benny head butted the firefighters while they were doing their job – hence they named the fire in his honor.  But the most horrendous and devastating fire in the history of California took place ten years ago in October – the Cedar Fire.

My former co-worker, Sandra Millers Younger, recently published her book, “The Fire Outside My Window,” which is about the Cedar Fire and her own harrowing experience in it. I just finished it. I highly recommend this book.  It is so thoroughly researched and it reads like a suspense novel. I swear my blood pressure was racing while reading it.

Sandra lost her home and was literally mere feet and minutes away from losing her life. Steve and I were inconvenienced. We were evacuated for five days. We stayed with my sister and her family in Pine Valley in the dark, until they were also evacuated. We stayed at a Red Cross shelter for 24 hours with our three dogs and no hot water. We had minor damage due to those devil winds knocking down one of our rare Cuyamaca cypress trees. We lost electricity for more than a week, and thus all our refrigerated and frozen items. We had no phone service for two weeks. We cannot complain. And we have to credit several men who took charge here in Descanso and saved our village.

Fifteen people died and more than two thousand homes burned to the ground during the Cedar Fire.  It consumed 280,000 acres. Steve and I were blessed.

The Cedar Fire forever changed the way we look at wildfires. I encourage everyone to read Sandra’s book, even if you don’t live in fire country. I also encourage everyone to be thankful for what you have, and to also be prepared for natural disasters. Sandra and her husband did all the right things to be prepared, but the magnitude of that disaster was beyond anyone’s control.  Still, there are lessons to be learned, and things we can do to help. Read her book. You will not be disappointed.

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