Monday, September 1, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Inferno makes drought real in SoCal

navarrette column sig

By
From page A9 | May 18, 2014 |

CARLSBAD — A few days ago, in this beautiful coastal city that my family and I have called home for nine years, I met with someone from the California Water Alliance. Founded by farmers and other agricultural interests in Central California, where I was born and raised, the organization aims to solve what it calls the “water emergency” in the Golden State.

First, it has to find a way to make people in the urban areas – including cities such as Carlsbad and most of San Diego County – care about the drought that has ravaged agriculture in the state. When you live near an ocean, all you see is water. It must be hard for my fellow urban dwellers to understand the dangers of building homes on thousands of acres of dry brush that doubles as kindling.

I think we all understand a little better now.

This week’s outbreak of at least nine devastating brush fires north and east of San Diego scorched nearly 10,000 acres, threatened hundreds of homes, destroyed numerous structures and caused the closure of dozens of schools. The fires also prompted the evacuation of thousands of people, including my family.

I was about 20 miles away from home, dropping my kids off at school in a nearby city, when my wife called. She was getting frantic text messages from friends saying that our neighborhood park – the one about a quarter-mile from our home where I play catch with my son – was on fire. And the flames were spreading fast. I rushed home, listening to the radio for updates. In the distance, I saw a huge plume of black smoke coming from the general direction of my neighborhood.

When I arrived at our house, the evacuation order was already in place, and I had about an hour to pack up the essentials. There are things you need for the next few days as well as the keepsakes that are dear to the family. You do it all as fast as you can, dreading that non-negotiable knock at the door when a sheriff’s deputy orders you to get out.

These moments put things in perspective. You grab documents, family photos, your kids’ favorite toys, computers, some clothes for everyone, your daughter’s journal.

That’s about it. When you’re forced to flee your home, once your loved ones are safe, what’s remarkable is how much you don’t take with you because you don’t care what happens to it. Why do we spend our lives accumulating so much useless stuff?

Then, giving in to professional instincts, I defied my wife’s pleading to leave the neighborhood and instead drove closer to the fire. I grabbed my notebook, and I got within 50 yards of the flames. The air was thick with white ash and toxic black smoke that smelled like nicotine. I saw what looked like an all-out war against a crafty and cruel enemy, with helicopters and airplanes attacking the fire as if it were an invading army.

Neighbors used garden hoses to water down their roofs and backyards. Others jumped out of their cars and surveyed the fire line with binoculars or shot video to track the fire’s progress.

Eventually, the police arrived to start directing traffic and get the spectators out of the way. This was my cue to get started toward my parents’ home 20 minutes away. My wife, who was at work when the fire broke out, would pick up the kids at their school and join us later.

We would spend an anxious night not knowing if we had a home to go back to.

Carlsbad officials said later at a news conference that firefighters were able to save hundreds of homes. Mine was one of them.

Journalism is about gathering information as a dispassionate observer. But there was no way I could do that when staring in the face of a disaster that threatened my family’s home.

Opinion journalism allows for passion. Some of the best I’ve seen came from writers who were emotionally invested in their topics – i.e., columns filed from Boston after last year’s marathon bombing, or from New Orleans in days after Hurricane Katrina.

I was emotionally invested in this story, as were all my neighbors.

A couple of them more than others. Two of our neighbors are firefighters, and I thought how heart-wrenching it must be to report to work to save not just other people’s homes but also your own.

Firefighters are real heroes. I’m getting ready to move my family back into our house. They’re getting ready to battle the next blaze.

Ruben Navarrette is a columnist for U-T San Diego. Reach him at ruben@rubennavarrette.com.

Ruben Navarrette

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

 
Highway 12 project nears completion

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1, 1 Comment | Gallery

‘Snail mail’ still kinda cool

By Tony Wade | From Page: A2

 
 
Car club raises funds, supplies for SPCA

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A3

 
Democrats plan candidates meet, greet

By Glen Faison | From Page: A3

Stand Up 2 Cancer Viewing party set in Vacaville

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

 
Senior center schedules discussion on senior travel

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

Local government schedule meetings

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

 
Premier post details of new lease

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A7

 
Il Fiorello to host jazz event

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A7

 
New doctors join NorthBay

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A7

Goodwill opens Outlet Store in Fairfield

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A7 | Gallery

 
Fairfield economic team announces addition

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A7, 2 Comments

Small earthquakes shake Solano

By Glen Faison | From Page: A9

 
.

Opinion

Editorial Cartoon: Sept. 1, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
 
Whopper of a tax dodge for Burger King

By Mike Kirchubel | From Page: A8, 1 Comment

Is social media enlarging or stifling democracy?

By Cynthia M. Allen | From Page: A8

 
Compromise on Cordelia Road rail crossing costs

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8, 3 Comments

Justice for all

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8, 4 Comments

 
Good job, Susan Winlow

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8

.

Living

Community Calendar: Sept. 1, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

 
Today in History: Sept. 1, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Is my husband right when he says men aren’t made for monogamy?

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: B5

 
Horoscopes: Sept. 1, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B5

 
Horoscopes: Sept. 2, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B7

.

Entertainment

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A5

 
5 takeaways from a punch-less summer box office

By Jake Coyle | From Page: A11

Joan Rivers’ daughter: I’m keeping fingers crossed

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

 
TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A11

.

Sports

Source: 49ers OL Boone agrees to new 2-yr deal

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
49er Ray McDonald accused of domestic violence

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Kahne holds off Kenseth to win Atlanta shootout

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Wozniacki outlasts Sharapova, in US Open quarters

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Falcons looking to be defensive

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Otto wins Italian Open; Gallacher comes up short

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Weather for Monday, Sept. 1, 2014

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

Henley takes a 1-shot lead at Deutsche Bank

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Dunn dealt to A’s, could be his last shot playoffs

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Fred Couples wins Champions Tour event

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
A’s frustrated after 8-1 loss caps sweep by Angels

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Ernst wins LPGA’s Portland Classic in playoff

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Giants power past Brewers 15-5 for 3-game sweep

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Down at half, US beats Turkey in basketball worlds

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Source: Chiefs’ Smith agrees to 4-yr extension

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Tony Stewart’s return to race track ends early

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Sam clears waivers, meets with Fisher

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

FC Kansas City wins NWSL title over Seattle, 2-1

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Raiders claim DE Mayowa off waivers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Jensen waived after Jaguars awarded TE Shuler

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
This date in sports history for Monday, Sept. 1, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
.

Business

.

Obituaries

Laurie Danielson Bailey

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

 
Hazel Gertrude Wamsley

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

Jerry Lee Trammell

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 6 Comments

 
.

Comics

Pickles Sept 1

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Wizard of Id Sept 1

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Garfield Sept 1

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Sally Forth Sept 1

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

For Better or Worse Sept 1

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Baby Blues Sept 1

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Peanuts Sept 1

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Blondie Sept 1

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Rose is Rose Sept 1

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Baldo Sept 1

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Beetle Bailey Sept 1

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
B.C. Sept 1

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Get Fuzzy Sept 1

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Frank and Ernest Sept 1

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Dilbert Sept 1

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Zits Sept 1

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Sudoku Sept 1

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Crossword Sept 1

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Cryptoquote Sept 1

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Word Sleuth Sept 1

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Get Fuzzy Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
B.C. Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Baldo Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Garfield Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Frank and Ernest Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Zits Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Dilbert Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Wizard of Id Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

For Better or Worse Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Sally Forth Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Peanuts Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Blondie Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Rose is Rose Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Cryptoquote Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Sudoku Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Bridge Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Word Sleuth Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Crossword Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7