Thomas Fire Introspection

Hi!

If you have been watching the news at all you may have seen some of the reports about the Thomas Fire which has been affecting Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

I call Santa Barbara home – I love my little beach community.

The Thomas Fire (at the time of this writing is currently the 3rd largest in California history) broke out on Monday night December 4th. It quickly decimated 100’s of homes in neighboring Ventura (approximately 30 miles south of Santa Barbara).

As the fire grew, smoke began to pour into Santa Barbara causing our air quality to plummet down to an unhealthy and hazardous level. This basically means do not go outside unless you have to and if you do go outside wear a mask.

Over the last two weeks the fire has grown enormous affecting other towns like Santa Paula, Filmore, Ojai, Carpinteria, Summerland, Montecitio, and now Santa Barbara.

Yesterday, (Saturday December 16th) a large portion of Santa Barbara, Montecito, & Summerland was put on a mandatory evacuation. The scene was a bit surreal as nearly every major highway/road was already closed due to the fire and an untimely oil tanker spill on highway 101 (our main highway) had closed down part of that road too.

There is a gamut of emotions I’ve experienced these past few weeks – everything from absolute awe & wonderment at the raw power of mother nature, to guilt for feeling that awe and wonderment when so many have lost so much & are struggling.

There has been moments of anger at some of the insensitivity shown by the small few.

There has been a overwhelming, in a good way, amount of love as I have seen so many people trying to help other people.

There has been some frustration when I see headlines in the media that insist on using terms like “wealthy” to designate whose homes are at risk? (Side rant: they are people whose home’s are at risk. To me it seems like it is an effort to stir up the emotional pot. Why isn’t it sufficient to just say “people’s homes are at risk?” If any economic class should be emphasized in the media it should be the people who already had so little. Focus on them for they need help and do not need to be forgotten by shifting the focus away from them. This does not need to be a wealthy vs not wealthy focus. The fire does not care how much money a person has or does not have, so why should we?)

There has been a near constant feeling of gratitude for the fire fighters and other people who are doing everything they can to keep us safe. Its remarkable to see footage and photos of what they are up against.

There has been a reminder to be more patient with myself and show myself some grace as I’ve had a couple moments of feeling overwhelmed. During these moments I remind myself to stop, take a breath, & reconsider what I am reacting to.

There has been a desire to serve  and to find ways to help those who have lost so much.

There has been a curiosity – I’ve watched more news these last two weeks (only the local news as it’s been fire focused) than I have this entire year.

I’ve seen & heard remarkable stories of people coming together to help one another. People offering to house and shelter strangers and displaced pets. I’ve heard stories about people bringing food to first responders. I personally was able to witness an enormous amount of donated food, clothes, and other supplies.

Below are some photos/video I have taken over the last couple weeks with a few thoughts on each.

These past two weeks have been a reminder that life can happen at any time and at any time life can change the game you have been playing. Love fully. Be grateful. Support and cheer for one another. Be a friend. Laugh often. Don’t wait till tomorrow.

With love,

Jesse

I took the above photo Thursday morning from Stern’s Wharf in Santa Barbara. I felt a mix of awe looking at the power of Mother Nature, fear of what she is capable of, and guilt. Guilt for feeling awe at a time when so many have lost so much.

The smoke has been so thick here the last few weeks that if you can see the sun it looks like this (taken at approximately 8am). I read that the smoke is so thick that it is lowering the air temperature by 10+ degrees from what it really is because the sun is obstructed.

On Saturday the 9th I was lucky enough to get to volunteer for a couple hours in Ventura helping package up clothes, food, and other supplies people have donated to those who had lost their homes. This room is one of many similar looking rooms that was filled with donated items. It was so touching to see the outpouring of support of people helping other people.

It has been literally raining ash in Santa Barbara for most of the last two weeks.

Overnight ash accumulation on the windshield.
Scrolling through twitter looking for updates 99% of what you see is well wishes, kind words, and offers of support/help. There is a small % of messages like this. At first I was mad at this person. then I was mad at media & political organizations (among others) who have been working overtime to create a negative view of wealth and an emotional division between wealthy and not wealthy.  An “Us vs Them” dynamic.  Then I took a deep breath and began to feel for this person. I’m not sure what their life has been like to lead them to have such an outlook on the world and other human beings. It’s not my place to judge them as I do not know them, nor do I want to judge them. I sincerely hope they can find a path to travel that brings them to a place where in the future they will feel empathy to those who are struggling & perhaps want to love and support when possible.

Sunrise (first time we had had a clear-ish sky in over a week) with a mask.

Smoke pouring down from the hills on Saturday December 16th about an hour before I evacuated

The sun was so obstructed by the smoke that it looked like this! No filter, no photo shop, nothing!

I love this picture because I feel it captures what so many have been feeling – a deep sense of gratitude for the firefighters and other emergency personal who have been working so hard to keep us and our homes safe. They are fighting a fight in horrible terrain, unpredictable winds, extremely dry conditions, and so much more. They have saved countless homes, buildings, and lives because of their ongoing efforts. I’ve seen several other signs around the community of people thanking other people.

Be sure to share 🙂

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