California : Irvine : Fires

In 2003.10, there were roughly ten major forest fires within the state of California.  Smoke from these fires was easily visible from satellites, and clearly covered an area several times the area of the state of California -- particularly over the Pacific Ocean. 

I tell people that in the city of Irvine the only fires I saw were on the television screen!  The closest fire must have been 40 miles away. 

However, for a couple days near the end of the month, the air was filled with smoke and it was "snowing" ashes.  Streets, cars, plants, houses, and any other surface was covered with a subtle gray dust, speckled with larger bits of ash.  Striking an object, or closing a car door, would send a little cloud of ash swirling in to the air.  The sky was dark gray, and the sun was a deep, blood red color.  One of my friends claimed he could look directly at the sun and see details on its surface. 

The smell of smoke was impossible to escape.  It was very uncomfortable to not be able to find any refuge from the terrible smell.  Even in my bedroom with the window closed all day the smell was strong and distracting.  A friend left a window with a screen open in his living room, and ash visibly covered a table; removing the ash blackened a paper towel. 

The experience seemed to bring extra significance to my 10th anniversary of living in California.  Almost exactly 10 years ago I saw fires on the hills around UCI, forming a beautiful, sharp, orange line on the western horizon relative to my Park West apartment.  At that time, much more ash fell from the sky on to the UCI campus, much of it in the form of long ribbons. 
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