The New Normal

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There used to be a fire season. Now wildfires and their consequences are the predicate of a new normal. Pete Gavin has this Perspective.

October was one of my favorite months. Great weather, magical light, the last bite of ripeness before the rain, the cold, the darkness.

That was before the fires.

Now, when October arrives, we’re on edge — afraid, anxious. After the 2017 wine country fires, we convinced ourselves they were an anomaly. Surely, we wouldn’t have to endure something so angry and destructive again for a long, long time.

But last November the Camp Fire devastated a community and rocked our state. Horrible tragic stories too awful to fathom, an evil seed planted in our minds. So we told ourselves ours is a vast land. The southeast has its hurricanes, the Midwest its floods, California its fires.

Then this October: the Kincade fire, the Getty fire, the Simi Valley fire.

In some places they pray for rain — for drinking water, for crops. Here, now, we pray for rain to extinguish the fires.

It’s becoming commonplace to have a generator. Not in the country, but in the suburbs, even the cities. We have to-go bags stocked, packed, ready to grab at a moment’s notice. We have evacuation plans, extra gasoline, regular power outages. We watch the wind.

The indigenous peoples understood this. They knew how to manage the land, the forests. They set fires intentionally. We could learn from them.

I was born here, raised here. I don’t want to leave. Nothing compares to California. But I worry for our state, our way of life.

This is the new normal; we are hamsters on a wheel, going around and around, to nowhere.

With a Perspective, I’m Pete Gavin.

Pete Gavin is a retired teacher living in Sonoma County.