January 08, 2012
After moving to another Valley suburb, my father and brother hosed off the roof and extinguished sparks as 1975’s Big Tujunga Fire failed in its quest to render us homeless. My brother and his sons suffered a rematch with the fire god in 2008, as the Sayre Fire attempted to destroy a commercial-storage facility in which many family treasures are kept. The 2009 wildfires truly saw California burning.
One cannot totally prevent arsonists from plying their trade. As individuals, there is little we can do to head off civil unrest. But we have some choice over our living arrangements. While some of the homes wildfires destroyed here are in areas the flames rarely visit, many others are in places that have repeatedly been burned and then flooded. Living in the midst of nature can come with a heavy price. But time after time, the survivors swear to rebuild.
The glorious City of Angels is once again safe from fire, be it from arson, riot, or lightning. But it will strike again, as will our atavistic fears. Perhaps this is a good thing: While we are worrying about going up in flames like Rome, we will not be worrying about the Big One, the great earthquake that supposedly will someday destroy us as Vesuvius did Pompeii. It is a heavy burden, fending off disasters while serving as the world’s greatest city—even if we are delusional.