My heart goes out to all who suffered and continue to suffer because of the California Wildfires. Many of us in Victor Valley were inconvenienced with the closure of I-15. Some, trapped down the hill, were unable to return home until hot spots from the Grass Valley Fire and downed power lines were extinguished and it was safe again to drive through the pass.
The wind driven smoke intruded into the High Desert all the way to Hole in the Wall north of Kelso Station. There it mixed with the water droplets in the otherwise white mid-level cumulus clouds making the bottom of the cloud cover appear stained with mud. It was mud; dirty, ugly, black mud.

These are minor inconveniences when compared to the loss of life and property, the impact on health, and the terror that was experienced by others. We learned about their tragedies from family and friends living in the fire zone, from the news, and from conversations with our High Desert neighbors. Everyone, it appears, knows someone who was in danger; and everyone has a story to tell.

I don't wish to minimize the loss and pain of others by making comparisons. I understand just a little bit what they are going through because I too was threatened by fire when we lived down the hill.

I understand the feeling of isolation one feels when the smoke is so dark gray and thick you cannot see the curb across the street. I know how badly your lungs burn with every breath. I am acquainted with the feeling of desperation when faced with choosing what you will take in the car should you have to evacuate and all you want to do is flee. I appreciate the helplessness when live embers fall into your own back yard and you learn that a house three blocks away burned because no one called in the alarm and even if they had, the capacity of the fire department was too overspent to respond.

I recall that it took months of applied elbow grease and about twenty packages of paper towels to clean up the black oily smoke residue from windows, blinds, walls, ceiling, floors and furnishings. We thought the only fire danger we risked was from a hot pot on the kitchen stove. We lived on the flatlands, mid-city, away from the forest, in a local the insurance company considered the lowest risk for fire damage. We had a concrete roof, a stucco house and no dried brush could be seen within miles.

As you can conclude, I did not easily get over the emotions from those encounters. They were on my mind when I evaluated how close prior burns came, from the 2002 fires, to the property I selected for my Hesperia home. When I learned that the evacuation area was one block away while the nearest fire station was five miles, I had to make a realistic decision about the purchase without being driven by impulse or a defiant disregard of the facts.

Pluses: The houses in the area have cement tile roofs. The brush is cleared away from most structures. Hesperia has good water pressure. The people here appear to be self-sufficient; more apt to take care of themselves and their neighbors should a major problem arise.
Negatives: Fires happen everywhere and winds fuel and direct them. With our broad expanse of open land we have lots and lots of everywhere. We have winds daily and are at the mercy of their capriciousness when things go up in flames.

Responsibility: Is it safe to contract with the county to provide emergency services knowing that Bill Postmus can divert funds intended for the Oak Hills Fire Station away with one hand while, with the other hand, he spruces up his office? (Peter Day editorial December 26, 2006.) If we can't set a fire under the politicians who have plans for our arterial roads on the back burner, maybe we should request that all residents of Victor Valley be provided with all terrain vehicles. Then when the next fire comes and the roads are clogged with emergency vehicles we can high tail it to safety on our own.