Last November we stopped. Rome burned and Nero fiddled. The AQI (Air Quality Index) for many parts of the State of California were the worst ever recorded ranging from Dangerous, to Very Dangerous, to Hazardous. Shelter in place was the order for the week, plus, following the start of the fire that took Paradise from us. News outlets were reporting that the fire covered over 100 yards in less than a second. Barely enough time to register the danger before you were engulfed.
That week we sat silently and openly praying, begging and pleading for rain. Stories leaked out of those who successfully ran from the fire, oftentimes through it. Heartwarming tales of dogs returning to the remains of their owner’s homes lightened our moods. Still, the loss of over 69 people, 13,900 homes and countless number of animals still lingers today in the air we breathe.
Why did this happen? Is it just a natural occurrence? Could we have done anything more to prevent it or save lives? I heard fire is good for the forest, is this true?
In the little that I have read following the aftermath of this tragedy, there is plenty of blame to go around. Or is there? I do not really know. Is this a case of Caveat Emptor, Buyer Beware? Do the inherent risks of living in the woods ever really go away? Do bears still not break in and attack your refrigerator? Can you still not total your car running in to a deer at highway speeds? This last month I lost two chickens to predators. The cycle of life found me and mine in a maturely developed suburb. Is it just hubris to think we can control everything?
I have too many questions and after almost two months still have no good answers. The only thing that I can think to do is talk about it. Talk about it with people more studied that I. To that end I am again hosting a V-Town Salon & Speaker Series on Friday the 11th of January. Brandon Collins, PhD, from The Center for Forestry Research and Outreach has kindly offered to share his knowledge and perspective on how humans, and our forest management practices, effect the severity and nature of wildfires. The event wit again be held at Provisions, 300 Virginia St in Vallejo. Doors will open at 5:45 and the speaker will start roughly at 6:30. I hope to see you there and perhaps a few of our questions will have answers.