We Southern Californians get a little skittish when we smell smoke, especially after 2003's devastating Cedar Fire which burned nearly 20% of San Diego County, killing 19 people and destroying over 3,000 homes. Our town was under mandatory evacuation orders; our family stayed with Keith's dad "down the hill" for four days. This past summer, four different fires burned areas immediately surrounding our small town, once for which we evacuated voluntarily for three days because of the smoke and T's asthma. The sheriff's office issued reverse 911 calls to alert us to the danger, and the kids and I were outta here in under an hour; Keith stayed to watch over house and dog with the van packed and ready to go in case he had to leave quickly. Just a faint whiff of smoke causes a frisson of fear down the spine around here.
So when I stepped onto the porch a few moments ago on my way to the laundry room, I was alarmed to smell a strong scent of smoke, enough to make T start coughing. I also noticed the sun was shining hazily, with that yellowish tinge that always makes alarm bells ring in my head.
The boys noticed these signs along with me, and their faces paled. They became as skittish as colts, unable to remain in their seats for grammar and spelling because they were constantly at the window, judging the sunlight and watching for ash.
So I turned on the TV -- nothing about a local fire. I turned on the AM radio news station -- only our local Roger Hedgecock subbing for Rush and no story regarding fire on the half-past local news. Okay, it's time to start calling around town to see what's up.
I called Sheri, who was as mystified and concerned as I was, and whose husband was trying to find out what was happening from his office in the city. She assured me that she would call me if she heard anything. I called Judith next, and although she wasn't home, her husband was. And, whew! He told me that is was a "controlled burn" north of town. Now this is NOT the usual season for a controlled burn, especially with the vegetation as brown and dry as it is now, but so be it. I sighed with relief, called Sheri back, and settled the boys back down to their studies.
Smoke is no joke around here. I feel relieved that it is only a controlled burn, but the adrenaline is going to have to calm a bit before I'm ready to settle into my own work. The past is hard to forget around here, especially when fire is concerned.