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The California Fires Are Too Close To My Heart

In keeping an eye on the devastation taking place in Southern Calif, my heart strings are being tugged and I am trying very hard not to cry. I worked for NASA/JPL, a job I loved and looked forward to going in every night. At that time, JPL was a self contained, highly guarded and protected city of a minimum of 6,000 workers at any given moment. A few years after leaving JPL, I went to work for the U.S Forest Service/La Canada Station, division of the San Gabriel mountains, right next to La Crescenta. Oddly enough it was located just a few miles east of JPL. My days were spent in the mountains I grew up in and spent most of my free time hiking, rock climbing, waterfall sliding, camping and fishing. My father had given us kids a love for the outdoors that has continued to deepen my whole life, but I was most at home in the San Gabriel Mountain range and the Mojave Desert. The last home I lived in before moving to Kansas in 1979 was on Poppyfield Drive in Altadena, one block south of the foothills. The Marx Brothers Estate was not too far from us, and while the mansion was long gone, the property was beautiful to picnic at. I have been to the Mount Wilson Observatory on many occasions, several youthful moonlight trysts were enjoyed there.
On the Albert Schweitzer Trail there was a waterfall that was extremely difficult to get to as after a very long downward hike, you would come to a cliff and the only way down to the canyon bottom to continue on was to climb down a metal cable inserted into the top of the cliff that reached almost to the bottom. On one occasion we witnessed a girl fall from the top and hit head first on the rocks. We climbed back up the cable and ran all the way to the rangers station to have them call for air support then ran all the way back down with two rangers to where she was being comforted by some friends we left with her. The helicopter came and we never found out what happened to her, but it didn't appear to be a survivable wound, hence the relative seclusion of the falls, just too difficult to get to. Once we reached the falls, being the young hippies we were we would set up camp on a sandy beach near the bottom of the falls, strip off our clothes, climb back up the falls, sit at the top, one at a time, with our legs outspread to build up a force of water behind us, close our legs and FLY over the falls and into a clear, deep pool at the bottom. Before your minds get all kinky, the reason for being naked was clothes would wipe away the heavy slick moss at the top - that was what allowed you to slide freely. We witnessed a horrific injury there as well, but too emotional to go into it now. I will tell you, the funniest memory was a troop of Boy Scouts and their leaders were hiking up the mountain on the trail across from us. As we were all there basking in the sun in our birthday suits, the leaders, after rounding the corner and seeing us, barked orders at a whole bunch of maybe 12 year old boys, "Eyes to the right! NOW!" We were polite enough to pull our towels around us, but it was the funniest sight ever.
Now, all of that is going up in flames. Old friends homes, my old home, everything, is either burnt, burning or going to burn. People are losing every thing, thousands of them, and people are dying. I can be happy with my many, many wonderful memories, here safe and sound in Kansas; they cannot and will probably need years to recover from the devastation. Please send prayers, energy, everything you can, that the weather changes and they manage to get a handle on it quickly. That the winds stop blowing and the rain starts falling. We are all members of the family of humankind and our brothers and sisters need our help.
Thank you, dear friends and family, for letting me ramble on and ask for your support.
Peace, Jo

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Comment by Jo Lewis on September 5, 2009 at 7:57pm
My niece sent me this link. I hope it works. It is stunning and powerful. If it doesn't click drag or copy/paste into browser.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0jHlxe8169Q
The person that took the video is Brandon Riza. If the above link doesn't work, try www.brandonriza.com Zero Percent Contained..Station Fire In Los Angeles
Comment by Jo Lewis on September 2, 2009 at 8:50am
Looking at some of the pictures and recognizing many places I worked as a firefighter. One of the fires I worked was a "controlled burn" that had gotten out of control. We were in the process of clearing a fire break when things went horribly wrong and we were over run by a flash over. I saw it seconds before it hit us and only had time to say, "Oh no!" My boss grabbed me and threw me to the ground and had just enough time to cover us with the silver fire retardant blanket. It was the most horrific sound I ever heard and hotter than I can describe. When it passed, we were okay but all our arms and facial hair had been singed off and we had a heat burn. I was ok, just eyelashes and brows gone, but my boss "had" a nice beard and mustache, which was mostly gone with little patches of melted singed hair here and there. He remained clean shaven after that. Unless you've experienced it, there is no way to describe the complete exhaustion that saps every bit of strength out of you when fighting a fire. Exhaustion on a cellular level. These heroes are fighting to save the lives and property of complete strangers. They willingly put themselves in harms way to protect us, and some pay the ultimate price. My hat is off and my heart and prayers go out to each and every one of them. In this bad economy, if the politicians YOU elect want to cut funding for ANY fire/rescue service I hope you all respond with a HUGE "HELL NO!" Remind them you put them in office, you'll yank them out if they fail to do the right thing here. California is already financially devastated, the cost of this fire could seal their fate. But remember, as one of our states goes under, so will we. If every one can send even $1.00 to the California U.S. Forest Service/La Canada Station (pronounced Canyahduh) and any fire stations involved, it may help defray some of the tremendous cost. As individuals we can and need to step up to the plate and do the right thing just because it is the right thing to do. Despite our politicians beating us over the head to make sure we remember that we are separate from and not equal to one another, we are in fact brothers and sisters.This is what we as Americans do when times get tough - we help.
Comment by Jo Lewis on September 2, 2009 at 8:17am
Thank you Cardan and Kittycat for your comments. Have been praying that the "hurricane" (unheard of for the west coast) heading to Baja will allow rain to blanket southern Calif. Praying for those in the path of the hurricane as well. Kinda taking it personal now as I also lived in Baja, Rosarita beach, for a while. Years ago it was a financially devastated area. While those of us that had homes on the beach front cliffs lived well, just across the highway on the mountain side, people lived in tin/cardboard shacks. In recent years it has become a hot spot for tourists and the economy for locals seems to have improved a bit, but they certainly cannot tolerate a hurricane. My niece just told me they now have the fires 22% contained but it is still a very angry fire. Pray, meditate, send well thoughts, whatever any one ascribes to, that the winds will die and the rains will come. Not torrential but steady rain to douse the fires. For all those involved, either directly or indirectly, we are praying for your peace of mind, safety and well being.
Comment by Kittycat on September 2, 2009 at 5:00am
Such devastation. So sad.
Comment by Jo Lewis on September 1, 2009 at 3:55pm
The last three photos of the "city" nestled against the mountains with all the smoke, flames and plane dropping fire retardant, is actually JPL. Photos are courtesy of a friend of mine.
Comment by Jo Lewis on September 1, 2009 at 11:21am
Dear God! Please help.
Comment by Jo Lewis on September 1, 2009 at 7:12am
Spoke with a friend late last night and my beautiful home with all the fruit trees, is gone. We had a large avocado tree right outside the dining room window. I would simply open the window and lean out to pick an avocado. The local butcher would take a brown bag full of avocados and give us steaks, roasts, chops, bacon in exchange - I miss bartering.
Comment by Jo Lewis on September 1, 2009 at 7:02am
Thank you so much, sheril. Last night as I was praying for the safety of all involved my mind went to all of the animals involved - being the animal lover that I am - and I couldn't get the vision out of my head of all those poor creatures trying to flee, but with nowhere safe to run to. We were blessed to see not just bunnies and deers, but mountain lions and bears - had one chase us once. It just breaks my heart.

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