Fire Pun Goes Here
August 30, 2009
I’ve been exceedingly lucky during my life – getting into Northwestern despite an SAT score a mule could have recorded, meeting the people I did at NU, getting the opportunity to write this blog by ending up in Japan. But none of that compares to my greatest bit of good chance – I’m very fortunate to avoid fires.
I’ve been caught in floods, blizzards…geez, Chicago experienced its first earthquake in like 50 years while I lived there. Yet somehow I’ve dodged fire. This stands as a particularly amazing accomplishment given that the town I grew up in is only slightly less flammable than a rag soaked in gasoline, Tiny Acton, located in Los Angeles County but miles away from anything remotely resembling civilization, is best known as the shooting location for The Flintstones Movie, Reno 911 and that scene in Little Miss Sunshine where they drive by some rocks while Sufjan Steven’s “Chicago” inexplicably plays. It’s also a very dry place surrounded by brush just waiting to be engulfed in flames.
It has happened before…I just got lucky and found myself out of the area. Acton got national media attention back in 2004 due to a big wildfire, one that got to within four minutes of where my family lived…they were told to evacuate, but insanely stayed. I was safely in Chicago attending a summer program, keeping in touch with my family while showing all my new friends the news, hoping they would finally remember where I was from (“the place that’s burning”). This situation played out once again two years ago, though to a much less dangerous degree, while I was in England.
Well, my streak of good personal luck continues…Acton is currently facing down a massive fire and I’m sitting on the opposite side of the globe. It’s bad enough that Acton made the front of the Los Angeles Times website (never a good sign), though “treacherous fire” sounds a little less hopeless than “unstoppable blaze,” which was the prognosis before I went to sleep.
So, I might be lucky not to be caught in the middle of this…but I’m still freaking out. My family was told to evacuate yesterday (this one was mandatory, so they actually are away), which is a first. Friends on Facebook updated their status from “it’s raining ash here, how crazy” to “hope fire doesn’t get over the hill, my house is right next to it” to “evacuating Acton.”
I have never wanted to be back home more in a very long time. Japan’s great and safe (except Tokyo’s going to get hit by a typhoon) and all, but I’d feel a lot better if I could actually be around my family and friends. The time difference is an absolute nerve-wrecker during a situation like this – I found out about the evacuation right before I went to bed Sunday night and all the LA newspapers weren’t updating at that hour. Since the “old media” sort of completely failed me at that moment, I had to turn to (gulp) social media. Twitter results for “Acton” came up with useful tidbits like “being evacuated” or “fire approaching” to the more worrisome panicking of “KFI (shit radio station) said Acton will be wiped out” to a subway closing in London. So, more useful than a newspaper at 4 a.m. California time but not by a ton.
(I’ll also be honest and say I have a morbid interest in these type of things – I think it’s the journalist in me wanting to be at newsworthy events. Not the most noble thing, but hey, being truthful.)
In all honesty, I don’t think anything too horrible will happen, at least for my greedy self-interests. My family and friends are all safely out of town, and for the fire to reach where I live it would have to completely torch 60 percent of Acton. If Acton makes national news…well, then we’ll have a problem. Still, this is the first time I’ve felt completely hopeless about being away from home – at least Chicago is in the same continent as LA – and am seeing just how tricky distance can make things. I’ve tried to get it all off my mind – got up extra early to run and watch a baseball game, but hard to shake it from your thoughts.
Well, I guess work will distract me. If I can stop from looking at my iPhone every other minute…