Friday, August 23, 2013

Excitement on the 101

Now I get Facebook is good for.

Last Sunday when we were on the 101 heading toward one of our favorite brunch spots (even though it was already after 3) we found ourselves in the middle of something and for once instead of totally losing myself to watching what was going on, I thought I’ll put it on Facebook.
It started when the traffic in front of us suddenly slowed to a crawl. Then up ahead we saw a plume of smoke puffing up in the sky. It was that white with a tinge or orange that everybody recognizes as coming from a brush fire. The freeway twists around, but it looked like we were headed directly toward the smoke.

This part of the freeway goes through an area of rugged mountains and rolling hills dotted with California oak trees. In the winter the hills are green, but at this time of year, the grass had dried out from the summer and has turned golden and dry as dust.

It was then that I remembered my cell phone. However, I was in the backseat and the windows are tinted. I snapped away anyway, trying not to get the rear view mirror in (good luck on that one). Not only were the side windows tinted, but they were speckled with dry water drops, so the photos looked like they were taken through a field of polka dots.
We kept getting closer to the action and saw two fire planes fly over us and then get lost in the smoke as they dropped their fire retardant. We went under an overpass lined with fire trucks, all with their lights flashing. The helicopters started next. There seemed to be a swarm of them and they got lost in the smoke, too.

Now there were flames visible at the top of the hillside dead ahead of us. There were no off ramps, no choice of where to go, but forward.

The traffic moved even slower as the lanes were forced into each other as ahead the side lanes were blocked off and lined with fire trucks. Just beyond, flames were licking at the brush so close to the freeway it was frightening.
A cop over a loud speaker ordered everyone not to stop and to keep moving. It sounded like an excellent idea to me. I’d lowered the side window and was taking shots without the polka dots. Finally, I just pointed my and kept hitting the camera icon.

And while I was doing all this, I was actually posting on Facebook. It was just a couple of pictures and it was a real challenge to hit the right keys in the jostling SUV, but I managed.

Mixed in with all the fire trucks on the roadside, we saw what started it all. A completely charred VW bug. A helicopters went right over us, its bucket of water swinging and then in a rush it all fell onto a hillside. Further up the hillsides were dotted with the yellow jackets of the fire crews who were working to keep the fire from spreading.

And then we were past it and the traffic picked up speed and we went out for our eggs. By the time we returned, the flames near the freeway were out, but the charred hillside was still smoking ominously. I saw a red bulldozer headed to the scene along with news vans. A helicopter flew so low I thought we were going to get dosed with water. So eerie to be in the middle of all that.

In the end over 170 acres burned, no homes were lost and I don’t think anyone was injured. And I put up photos and a few lines just as it was happening.

What kind of stuff do you post?


Julie said...

Wow! So glad you're all right! That looks familiar to me, as we used to live in Thousand Oaks. Were you in the Calabasas/Las Virgenes Road Area? Our house backed up to a hillside and I spent this time of year on high alert. (When we first moved to TO I thought firebreaks were ugly on the hills. I came to love them as landscape features!)

Betty Hechtman said...

Good eye, Julie. I think it was near Lost Hills Rd. It must have been scary having your house backup to a hillside.

The next day there was another car fire on the other side of the freeway near the main part of Calabassis. Dick Van Dyke's car overheated then burned to a crisp, but this time the fire didn't go further than his car.

Linda O. Johnston said...

Wow, Betty! I saw your Facebook posts and wasn't exactly sure where you were and what was going on except for a terrible Southern California fire. Glad you were okay.

Betty Hechtman said...

Linda, lots of people on the road were taking pictures. I saw the person in the car in front of us, sticking their cell phone out the window to take shots. There was a cop on the side of the freeway taking pictures will his cell phone, too. I guess nothing goes unrecorded anymore.