FIREMAGEDDON

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Submitted Date 09/08/2020
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A fire tornado isn't real to me. The name conjures up mental images of "Sharknado". It's unreal.

I cringe a little when I hear the words "the new normal," but I'm here to tell you that firemageddon is the new norm out in the American West. Thank you, climate change.

I woke up to the sound of distant helicopters and a news article that said Washington state had 80 fires pop up during our historic fire storm. Labor Day ended up being a day of labor for first responders and firefighters all over the Pacific Northwest. Good morning, Kristy! The town of Malden, Washington is 80% destroyed! Somehow, I enjoyed 7 hours of decent sleep.

Visibility declined from my forested rental in the Columbia River Gorge shortly after morning on Labor Day. Within 2 hours, I lost sight of the mountains, the river, and the sky. The sun was a glowing blood orange against a smoky white abyss. The area received warnings of a historic firestorm on its way through. Low humidity, Santa Ana-style winds, and temperatures reaching 100 degrees.

Though each year brings unprecedented and historic fire seasons, firenadoes, and fire storms, climate change is still denied by those committed to deny it. A handful of televangelists and fundamentalist Christians will pull Bible verses out of context to preach that Jesus is coming. Others, not too far from this group, will celebrate the burning of the "liberal" west coast of the United States—though most of Washington and Oregon are rural, and therefore primarily conservative. "Othering" the opposition is often state-wide. Black and white thinking or belief in God's ultimate return with fire can dehumanize people in California, Oregon, and Washington who will lose everything.

I spent the evening bouncing from neighborhood page to neighborhood page on Facebook. The fastest way for rural Washingtonians to get news is via social media. Fires move 7-14 MPH if the wind does enough encouragement. Deputies are knocking on doors before emergency services has time to issue cell phone evacuation alerts.

I notice how quickly the seemingly endless chatter of political talk turns to helping and supporting each other. There's optimism to be found here—people coming together when we are stripped down to our humanity. We are bound by our collective anxiety. We are bound by our primal drive to survive.
 

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