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smoke from southern california wildfires start to darken the blue skies

Clear skies darken.

The sun glows a blood red in the distance, as it shines through the smoky clouds.  Dark orange and brown clouds of smoke creep into the clear blue sky.  There is no movement outside; all the creatures have withdrawn.  With the sunlight blocked, an eerie glow alights your world and casts it in a shadow of red and orange.  The typical heat of the evening sky no longer irritates you as the temperature cools.  The air smells of burning wood and a breath end in a fit of coughs as the clouds settle into a haze and you are surrounded by unseen floating particles.  Before you hurry inside, you notice small things floating down from the sky.  Is it snow?  As it settles, you look down on the ground to find a thin layer of ash is raining down.  It’s time to get indoors before you get respiratory problems.

sun obscured by smoke clouds from wildfires appears to be glowing red

Ruby red in real life.

The next day, you drive to school to find the parking lot empty.  One lone nark (the school’s patrollers/guards) stands at the entrance.  You approach, rolling down your windows, and she tells you school is canceled.  Surprised, you go home and turn on the television to listen to the reports of the wildfires burning through your neighborhood.  The ash is still falling gently so children and the elderly are advised to stay indoors.  Videos of fires are shown along with clips of planes flying by, dumping tons of that pink stuff to put out the flames.  Some houses have been lost already, but you live in a densely-populated area far from the wild vegetation of the hills.  The fires would have to burn through a lot of houses to reach yours, so you stay put.

water in outdoor spa sprinkled with bits of ashes from wildfires

Floating ashes.

There has been an order for evacuation in a neighborhood on the other side of the freeway, a few miles away.  It was a neighborhood you almost bought a house in when moving to this city.  You have friends who live there and you wonder if their homes are in danger.  As night falls, you look out at the view from your backyard.  The once dark hills in the distance are glowing with firelight.  There’s probably still a good 10 miles between you and the closest fires.  The spa in your backyard might provide a useful refuge if the fire somehow makes it this far.  You don’t see why you’d still be around by then though.  You consider packing the cars with emergency items and sentimental things, in case your family needs to drive off somewhere to escape the burning wrath in the distance.  Perhaps tomorrow though; there is no imminent danger.

wildfires at night seen beyond lights of the city in the faraway hills

Fires glowing above, city lights below.

As the days pass, you hear reports of how the fire jumped the highway.  You drive by on your way home and find all but the far left lane shut down as the fire burned next to the shoulder.  By the time you squeeze through, the hills are blackened and smoking from the dead fires.  Their charred faces are steaming unhappily, but they have been subdued.  Firefighters remain just to watch it a little more before they go on to the next site.  Soon the fire is mostly contained – 50%, 60%, then 80%.  School is back in session and you try to stay indoors.  The smoky air irritates your throat and gives you a hacking cough.  One of your friends is out there somewhere, fighting one of those fires.  He posts period updates on his profile, with pictures of what he’s up against.  Finally, one day, the threat is gone.  The fires in your neighborhood have been completely contained and another summer is through.

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