When you grow up in an area where fires are prone to happen, like I did, you get to learn weather patterns. And in Redding, the pattern is fairly wet winters, and long, hot, dry summers. So there's plenty of rain for the grass, and then the heat dries it out. From about May to late October, open fires are prohibited in Shasta County. And this makes obvious sense. Wildfires are a common danger. We have a squadron of air tankers stationed at the airport to cover all the wilderness areas around Redding.
So you learn, growing up here, the term "fire weather". Fire weather is hot and dry conditions, combined with gusty winds. In those conditions, if a fire gets started, it spreads rapidly, thus the origin of the term. When there's "fire weather", you take extra precautions to not cause any sparks. You don't mow your lawn, you don't park your car on dry grass, and you take lots of precautions. You don't even shoot your guns off, bullets hitting rocks cause sparks.
Today was the perfect example of "fire weather". Temperatures in the valley were well over a hundred degrees before noon, and even up in the mountains, temps had reached the ninties. There was a gusty breeze. Fire weather. And sure enough, as I started home from the college today, there was a cloud over the mountains like a thunderhead. However, I knew it wasn't a thunderhead because it was clear as a bell everywhere else. Thunderheads tend to pile up.
Wildfire then. And as it turns out, there's a wildfire burning just west of Weaverville as I type this tonight. I can smell the smoke in the air, and the local news has been breaking into programming all evening with updates. There's at least nine houses destroyed so far. They don't know what caused it, but I have my suspicions. It's either one of two things, deliberate arson or somebody being stupid.
And it's a shame. We send firefighters out to fight these things, and accidents happen. People get killed on the lines fighting these things.
Fires are awesome things. Full of destruction and horror, and at the same time beautiful and awe-inspiring. Which pretty much sums up my relationship to the stuff. I love playing with fire, give me a campfire and a stick, and I'll be a happy camper. But at the same time, I'm scared to death that my house will burn down, or that the embers from my campfire will get into the trees...I guess I'm weird.