Tales of a Sierra on Fire

Every other year this happens and every other year we start thinking again about climate change and what it means to those of us living up here in rural America —close to the reservoirs and settled in for the apocalypse, but you know, not able to do rain dances to bring relief.

When your world is set on fire many thoughts go through one’s head and none of them are really pretty. Week one of the fire—no big deal. Fire is in a remote area of the forest. Yes, old growth forest is burning down , but the human in us is saying, well, at least it isn’t us. The air is thick—like driving down Foothill Blvd in Pasadena, CA in August or Hollywood about 1 in the afternoon in July. The air smells and feels like I’ve been smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. I’m from Los Angeles. I take pride in how I have gotten my lungs ready for such things. My years in the LA basin like a vaccine against bad air. 

But now I’m no longer being LA snarky about my Sierra Mountains being on fire. Now I’m just pissed off. Now my eyes are burning and my kids are bored and indoors and we can’t go to the creek or the pool or anywhere but inside. The whole reason we live in a forest and not the city is so we can be outside and that is being taken away from us.

I try not to be a conspiracy theorist.

But I have unanswered questions. I want to know why people from all over with little or no training in hiking are allowed on trails that are not maintained or staffed because of budget cuts. I want to know what runs through someone’s mind as he starts a campfire while signs all along the high way say ‘extreme fire danger’. I want to know if said hiker can receive the death penalty because he’s certainly sentenced us.

I want to know why in a state that’s the 7th richest economy in the world that we don’t have a better plan for fire. Why don’t we go gangbusters at the first sign  of fire? Because it is too expensive? Isn’t it more expensive to have a fire blazing for the better part of three weeks?

I want to know why I can point my iPad at the night sky and get a full read out of the constellations and history. I want to know why I can google the farm house I lived in in Japan and where I grew up in Augusta , Georgia. I want to know why no one can watch a damn forest with the same technology that clearly already exists.

Who is in charge? Is this like the Greenville Sheriff Station which refuses to arrest domestic abusers when they break into their ex-wives’ homes? Is it this level of bumbling bubba-ness? Is there something more sinister at work? Is it just our just desserts for living so unsustainably in the first place?

The fire is good for no one. Not a fire this big. This isn’t the redwoods–there’s no germination taking place on a grand scale. But my kids couldn’t work in the community garden today like they do every Wednesday because they couldn’t see. My eyes are bloodshot as a three day drunk binge.  It didn’t have to get this bad. Not at all.

About Margaret Elysia Garcia

Margaret Elysia Garcia is the author of short story ebook collection Sad Girls and Other Stories, and the audiobook Mary of the Chance Encounters, and the co-founder and lead playwright of Las Pachucas, theatrical troupe. She teaches creative writing and theatre in a California state prison.
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