Tonight will be fitful sleep. My eyes are already red, my nose and throat already raw. Smoke is in the air, and it hangs heavy on the heart as well as the lungs. This is the dread of summertime here in the bone dry foothills of the Sierra Nevada.  It’s as though we develop an extra sense this time of year, a fire sense, and when it’s triggered all the hair stands up on the back of the neck, the pit in the stomach yawns.

It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a fire that really put the rattle in our boots. I recall the summer of 1988, between my eighth grade and freshman years of school, when the 49er Fire burned 33,000 acres and more than 300 homes right up the road from here. Smoke so thick you couldn’t see, ash falling from the sky like snowflakes. Doesn’t take any more than that to screw your head on straight when it comes to jackass antics like playing with firecrackers and throwing cigarette butts from a car window. That shit ain’t funny around here. At least, not to those who saw it firsthand.


Robbers Fire, July 11, 2012 sometime before it got up to 200 acres and the smoke started blowing west (in other words, it’s a lot worse than this now). Credit: Terry Roach via

Folks are saying this one was caused by a family playing with fireworks, who of course then high-tailed it out of the area in a maroon minivan (be on the lookout). Who knows if it’s true, but it might as well be. The fact that fireworks stands continue to pop up in the area every Fourth of July is one of those wonders of the libertarian mindset of this part of the world. Shutting down fireworks stands would be anathema to our freedom to be right a-holes, after all.  If we can’t burn down a few hundred homes, barns, pastures, crops, and forests in the name of America then the terrorists have finally won!

Sorry for the rant. But, as they say, smoke gets in my eyes. I’m cranky about it. There were no thunderstorms in the area. This thing was set alight by the hands of man, one way or t’other.  People are sleeping in shelters tonight.  Homes evacuated.  Luckily the fire, although due east of here, will have to cross an interstate and a river to get to us. Not that fires haven’t jumped that interstate and that river before, but I still feel pretty sure we are safe tonight. I might run all the sprinklers around the house an extra 30 minutes just for peace of mind. . . .