California Is On Fire

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Issy Bailey on Unsplash

I try to keep these posts light and — when possible — amusing, but at the moment I am overwhelmed by reality.

As of Friday morning a lot of people I know — dozens at least — have been told to evacuate their homes in California due to a huge lightning sparked wildfire. Big Basin Redwoods State Park seems to have been burned over, and the fire threatens UCSC and Santa Cruz, among other places.

I cannot find an official online fire perimeter map, probably because the smoke is reducing visibility to zero and aircraft can’t work the fire effectively. A friend shared some sobering notes from a briefing. Apparently where aircraft can still fly, the fire retardant gel they drop is unable to get through the tree canopy in some places. As a result the fire is moving along the ground unchecked in those areas. To make matters worse, there aren’t enough resources — people or equipment — because the fire situation in the state is so bad.

There have also been prolonged power outages and very high temperatures.

In short, it’s a nightmare scenario and from my perspective the epicentre is right where I used to live.

I am so sorry, friends. Please be careful. Remember that things can be replaced but you and your families cannot. Be cautious, and stay safe.

For my Canadian readers, I know there is at least one large and dangerous fire not too far from here as well, near Penticton. Many people there have been evacuated, and a lot of that town is under threat. Again, I am so sorry, and I hope everyone there stays safe as well.

This hurts. People I know are suffering and there isn’t much I can do. I am separated from them by 1000 miles and a pandemic-closed international border. If I still lived there I would be helping people pack and evacuate. As things stand all I can do is worry. I’m good at that, but it accomplishes nothing.

I suppose I will write something about my life this week regardless of the ongoing disasters. As I think about it, most of 2020 has felt like train wreck at some level. It’s been less personal until this fire erupted, but it hasn’t been much fun. I’ll do my best to provide a bit of distraction, but I don’t promise to succeed.

For those keeping track, the roof project is almost done. I don’t have a picture to share because it is raining — again — and I am not climbing a ladder in the rain if I don’t have to. Only a couple of details remain to finish up. Even better, the dumpster has been hauled away so we can park on the driveway again. The new roof looks fine, though the flashing where the the roof meets the second storey wall is rather large. Still, you can’t see it unless you are actually standing on the roof so we really don’t care.

At the moment I am waiting to hear from another company that will do the custom flashing around the chimney. They were here on Tuesday to get the info to create the bid, and I have a verbal quote. Interestingly the guy found another issue that also needs fixing. Turns out the boiler (which drives the hot water heating system we have in much of the house) needs service. There’s a lot of sulphur dust coming out of it, probably starting to clog it up and make it less efficient. It’s a byproduct of burning natural gas, and in addition to clogging up burners it collects on brick and cinder block where it turns into an acid and gradually destroys the chimney.

Our boiler is pretty new, but there is sulphur just sitting on it in a couple of places — clearly coming out of the joints in the vent pipe — and that is not a good sign. We need it cleaned out and the inside of that chimney lined with aluminum to avoid more accumulation and damage. They are going to do all of that as well as the flashing we need on the regular fireplace chimney. Or at least that is the plan. I still need to see the bid.

We knew the house needed work, so this is not a huge deal. It’s a bit of a surprise, but not a big problem in the long run.

I spent some time this week working on the garage. Gradually the pile of stuff is being reduced and space is opening up. Just three boxes remain, which is a major improvement. I am honestly not certain I have enough storage space for the contents of those boxes, but I will keep after it.

On another front, I downloaded a trial version of the new CNC software that should solve the problems for Xwalacktun. Of course Windows Update had do its thing for 90 minutes first, but then I could download and start up the software and see that it runs. Lots to learn, but at least I got that far.

And it occurs to me that I should have shared Xwalacktun’s website, so you can see what kind of work he does. Have a peek. If I can help him in any way, that is a good thing.

Finally, if you wonder why I worry about typos in these posts I have a video for you. This is by CGP Grey — one of the biggies on YouTube — and in it he discusses how he got a key point wrong in one of is more recent videos. I recognize this is a bit obscure, but it is also funny and enlightening, Definitely worth a watch, if you’re me. But I am happy to spend 18 minutes on something like this. If you think you might like it as well as well, here’s the link:

I object to typos and other errors for similar reasons to those explained in the video, and I am deeply grateful to those readers who point them out to me. I fix them and republish, which Medium makes trivially easy (unlike YouTube) and that means future readers (if there are any) won’t see my mistakes and other lunacies.

Thank you all for telling me when I get anything wrong. Seriously.

That’s it for this week. Please keep these fires in mind, and if there is a way to help out please do so.

Written by

Sculptor/Artist. Former programmer. Former volunteer firefighter. Former fencer. Weirdest resume on the planet, I suspect.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store