Smokey Sunday


This isn’t fog or mist or even smog.  It’s smoke from fires over fifty miles away from San Francisco. It stings your lungs and sets off smoke detectors.  No one is outside; few cars are passing by.  On social media, the radio, and the television, fire departments plead with people to stop calling them to report smoke unless they actually see fire.


Mt. Diablo, towering over Walnut Creek California

Frightening when you realize this is the beginning of the fire season and not the end. The worst inferno to ever hit the Bay Area in modern times was in late October 1991 when hot, dry winds off the appropriately named Mt. Diablo created a firestorm which destroyed over 2,000 homes and killed 25 people. Video below:

The inferno came within a mile of my house but I wasn’t home at the time.  I was in a hotel in Los Angeles watching the coverage on the television worried sick about my dog who was in the care of our elderly neighbor, unable to sleep or eat, anxious to get home and yet afraid of what I was coming home to.


The scene many, many people came home to in October 1991

We were spared, however, because we worked in downtown Oakland, many of our co-workers and friends either lost their homes or had relatives who did.  It hung over our lives for years and still affects many people today.  Believe it or not, neighborhoods that resembled Dresden after the fire bombing soon attracted legions of ghoulish voyeurs whose slow progress along narrow streets as they ogled survivors got so bad that police closed the roads to residents only.  I wonder why people do things like that.  I guess they’ve never lost everything.

25 thoughts on “Smokey Sunday

  1. Oh Jan, I can’t even imagine that. I’m glad you were spared in 1991, but how terrible for your friends. As for people going to those neighborhoods to ogle survivors–that’s appalling. I just hope this year is much, much better, and that the fires burning now are shut down quickly.

  2. In Edmonton about 25 years ago a massive tornado ripped though the city killing some people and destroying a lot of property. Many people here feel the same way about tornadoes as those in your community feel about forest fires.

  3. That’s awful. Such a beautiful part of the world too. We have old friends in Danville who have mentioned smoke but 1991 sounds really scary. Let’s hope there’s no repeat.

    1. I have an almost irrational fear of fire – a psychic once told me I was the reincarnation of Joan of Arc! Probably more likely the reincarnation of some charwoman accused of being a witch by the lovely Puritans!

  4. I didn’t realize you lived in Oakland then. It was a scary time – and the present number of fires in California are ominous (as are the smoggy skies).
    And were you awakened by the the earthquake this morning? 4.0 on the Hayward fault in Piedmont (that’s in Oakland).

  5. I remember that fire back in October of 1991 all to well. We lived in the East Bay then, in Walnut Creek. Now we live up here in the Auburn area, and the fear of fire this year is even greater. I’m beginning to feel like Frankenstein’s monster! Hope you had a great weekend, Jan. :@)

    1. I had to go to Reno in June and was shocked to see the bare mountains – usually there’s at least a little bit of snow that time of year. Hope you guys stay safe!

      1. Went to Reno this weekend, Jan. Saw Dianna Krall at the Grand Sierra, but also saw the mountains surrounding Reno that you spoke about. Yep, scary dry! Hope you had a good weekend too, Jan.

  6. The Soda Creek fire that’s burning mere miles from my house is finally 90% contained, but it air is still full of smoke. I ran a 5k this past weekend, and now my throat is really irritated. Every year, it a bit anxiety-inducing to see what fires spring up and where. So many people were helpful around here and volunteered pasture space for animals, etc.

    1. I was worried about you when I saw news about the Idaho fires on the television. Wow. I was out side just long enough this last weekend to feel sluggish. Not a good feeling. Take care and let’s hope the rains come soon.

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