It is officially fall, and those darn Santa Ana winds are causing quite a ruckus once again. These are extremely dry offshore winds that sweep through Southern California every year around this time, often resulting in dangerous wildfires.
On Monday, these winds ignited two deadly wildfires in the San Fernando Valley. So far, the fires have killed one man, destroyed several homes and caused many families to evacuate.
This week alone there have been five large fires in the state of California that have burned a total of 33,399 acres. The fires were located in Los Angeles County, Marin County, Angeles National Forest, Los Padres National Forest and at Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base.
As of Thursday afternoon, only one blaze has been contained while the others continue to threaten structures and residences.
Although these fires are a safe distance from my home and loved ones, I have been on the other end of the spectrum and deeply sympathize for those affected.
I used to live in upper La Verne and have been forced to evacuate on more than one occasion. As a result, my family and I have unfortunately become quite good at the evacuation process.
We know for the most part what we want to take with us and how to pack our belongings in an orderly fashion.
Our pets even became evacuation professionals as we drove to safety with two horses, a dog, a cat and a hamster on more than one occasion.
My sister and I never took much, just some clothes, photographs and our school books. But every time we were advised to evacuate, we had to drag our mother away from her precious antique player piano.
I remember telling her time and time again that it is just an object; what matters is that we have each other, and we are going to be safe. So, for those of you who are ever asked to evacuate your home, remember that it is always better to be safe than sorry.
I remember staying up so many nights as the sky was lit by the blazing orange flames, waiting for that knock on our door saying that it was time for us to go. It always did; and we said goodbye to our home, our belongings and our memories. Although we were always lucky enough to return to our normal lives, not everyone was so lucky, and my deepest condolences go out to them.
Many people feel that if they are in serious danger that they will know when to leave and have plenty of time to do so, but that is not the case.
“In some situations you may not be able to even outrun this fire,” Los Angeles County Fire Chief Michael Freeman said.
Also remember to stay calm and not to run, rush or speed. During these recent fires, another man was killed in an automobile accident as the flames brought traffic to a sudden halt.
As I hear and read about these fires, I cannot help but think of the men and women who risk their lives to put them out. These firefighters have dedicated their lives to protect our homes and our lives, and I could not be more thankful. It is a very stressful job that requires both mental and physical strength, and that is why I call these individuals heroes.
I spoke to a friend of mine today who is battling these blazes, and he said, “I’m OK, just hot and tired. Lots of work and smoky as hell.”
It was then that I told him how much I appreciate and respect all of his hard work and so do the families whose homes are in danger.
At that moment, I decided to use this column as an opportunity to tell as many firefighters as possible the same thing. So to everyone who was, is or plans on becoming a firefighter: thank you from the bottom of my heart; you are all heroes to me.
Please be safe and show those darn Santa Ana Winds who’s boss.
Madison Steff, a senior communications major, is editorial director of the Campus Times. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.