Weekend review–wildfires and some Darwin attitude

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but fire season has started early in Southern California. High temperatures combined with Santa Ana wind conditions fueled multiple wildfires this weekend. The Springs Fire in Ventura County has burned over 28,000 acres, damaging 15 homes and five commercial buildings.

Fortunately no homes were completely destroyed and there are no reported serious injuries. There is a cooling trend with possible light rain, and full containment is predicted for Monday. Good news.

It is likely to be a rough summer for firefighters. I’ve previously mentioned the memorial plaque at our favorite camping spot remembering the five firefighters killed defending a home in a wind-driven, arson-caused fire on October 26, 2006.

Engine 57But firefighters aren’t the only workers on the fire lines.

My father worked for more than thirty-five years as a lineman/patrolman with Southern California Edison, the primary electricity supply company for much of Southern California.

Dad would be called out during the worst of the wildfires to monitor and make decisions assessing the danger to high-voltage transmission lines. This would place him directly within the fire lines, risking physical safety.

It occurred to me today that although I was always very concerned when he was away, I didn’t really understand what he did during the fire. I understood repair, but what about before containment?

So I asked. I think I understood at least in the simplest of terms.

Obviously wood poles can burn, but lines carried by steel towers are also vulnerable to heat from fires. Dense smoke from wildfires can “trip” a circuit and outages can present a variety of problems.

Dad monitored the transmission lines, predicting and assessing the danger and communicating with the firefighters to minimize not just potential power outages to huge swaths of homes served in the area, but also monitoring the level of danger to the firefighters themselves.

Smoke in the air can become a conductor of electricity resulting in arcing between lines on a circuit or between a line and the ground. Firefighters’ safety can be at stake.

From the time I was very young I understood the danger dad was in, probably even more greatly magnified because he was often away from home for days at a time.

And we still talk about the time he huddled alongside firefighters as the fire jumped over them crouching near the fire engine.  I’m sure out of consideration for his family’s fears there are many other stories Dad never brought home.

I hope sharing this personal story sheds a little light on some of the lives and occupations of people who work in support of the firefighters in fire conditions. And I hope the dangers won’t be too severe this coming summer.

But the weekend wasn’t all about wildfires.

We had our moments of humor.

Darwin always amuses us.

We have been experimenting with putting up a barrier, creating just a little confinement when we aren’t able to keep a closer eye on him.  We couldn’t find him the other day. He somehow managed to wedge himself behind the air conditioning compressor. He can get into a corner, but he can’t back up. So for safety’s sake…

Darwin at little fence

It’s just a little fence!

We did all we could to make him happy. Just look! We even gave him an umbrella to shade his Saturday treat–romaine with a little powdered calcium. You’d think he’d be grateful–but NO!

Darwin in the shade

After a while we gave him back his freedom.

He showed us!

He helped himself to a mini-meal of cactus and succulents, unearthing a few more as he lumbered through the garden.

I think Pinky may have given him a little pep talk and told him to show a little gratitude.

He finally resumed his better behavior, had a little munch of grass, but with a slight pout he put himself to bed.

And I’m sure I heard him humming, “Oh give me land, lots of land under starry skies above–don’t fence me in.”

Be safe, one and all. And have a good week.