When the Foothills Burn

Since Mother’s Day, countless fires have started in the Sierra foothills where I live. Although only one home in the vicinity of mine has been entirely lost to the flames, all fires have scarred our foothills and its inhabitants.

People, first puzzled, then nervous, are now on the edge. Firefighters and the police have confirmed that the fires – at least the majority – are the work of an arsonist or several arsonists.

Although we have received very little rain and snow this season, temperatures are mild for the season with only very few days above 100. Most days are also breezy, a pleasure for outdoorsy people like me but an enemy for the firefighters.

Yesterday afternoon, sections of Highway 41, the major road that gives access from the south valley to the north toward Yosemite, were blocked due to several blazes.

As if it weren’t enough, a much more important fire started then, in Mariposa. From my home, forty minutes away, the smoke bloomed like a nuclear mushroom or the eruption of a volcano. Simultaneously a heavy grey tarp clouded the once blue sky. When night fell the flames shot like angry devils’ orange tongues, behind the mountains and toward the sky.

The distinct acrid smell of fire only crept later at night, and we closed all windows. Evacuation of the area lasted most of the night and this morning the sun is a smear above the blurred mountains.

Who knows what started this raging fire. For now, concern for the residents who have been evacuated is on the locals’ mind. That and worry, too. Will the firefighters be able to contain the fire? Will it be a horrific fire season in the west? Colorado has already received more than its share. Is it California’s turn?

None of the pictures my family took last night could depict the ravenous hunger of the fire and agility of the flames as rightly as the video and pictures taken by residents and published in the Sierra Sun Times.

No words can match them.

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