I was in Fort Worth, Texas when the Thomas fire broke out, with my face glued to my phone, impatiently thumbing for updates and texting family and friends. It's difficult to reckon with the feeling of watching something destructive happen to a place you know so intimately. A place where you'll remember the shortcuts no matter how long you've been gone. The fire was swift, massive, and unrelenting, as was the response by thousands of firefighters and first responders. They were faced with impossible conditions due to a wild wind and unforgiving terrain, and it's a testament to their bravery and expertise that so many lives and homes were saved.
Hardships and disasters of this scope tend to bring us together. The irony that a tragedy is at once so terrible for a few, and then immediately hopeful for so many, is one of the universe's most savage jokes. Just keeps reminding us that we do actually need one another. So many people are now at once aware of any given tragedy that gets through the pipeline, and also able to comment in any fashion they choose. The goal, generally, is to avoid comment sections at all costs. But we don't always do that. It's a very strange world of shared experiences that we live in.
The destruction of property was largely random. On some blocks, rows and rows of houses in a row disintegrated, with one nearly unsinged house still perfectly between them. Some neighborhoods it was the opposite, with just one unlucky house in the center of a cul-de-sac getting the wrath of the swarming embers. In the back country, just charred earth as far as I could see. Glass bottles stripped of their packaging, covered in soot and ash were everywhere. Not a regular sight by any means. None of this was, of course.
I started this post a few days ago but I as I'm finishing the upload of photos, I am watching as the rains mercilessly flood the burn zones north of Ventura in Montecito, which tragically turned into deadly mudslides. Tore right through homes near the canyons and into town before turning the 101 freeway into a river. Fucking surreal. In awe of the power of nature while grieving for the fallen and the victims. We just don't stand a chance against our planet, which is why I believe we should join it.
The fire didn't get close enough to have a real go at our house, thankfully. After seeing close to one hundred leveled house foundations covered in an eery green material with only chimneys rising from them, I couldn't help but wonder what it must have been like to see the mailbox from the backyard. If the mailbox would have even made it. Some souls were out among the rubble sifting for any valuables that might have survived. There were a number of cars buzzing about, touring the neighborhoods, all curious eyes. We all wonder what we would do, what we would grab. We talk about that stuff on road trips. To see that very scenario in real life, where you have to condense and pack a carful's worth of memories in 5 minutes... I didn't feel super great about shooting people while they searched, so you'll have to take my work for it. I stuck mostly to the structures and landscapes, which had stories of their own. You hear the phrase "it looked like a warzone" thrown around sometimes in situations like this. On some streets it was hard to disagree, with tens of houses in a row just gone.
The whole experience is an uncomfortable reminder for those who only had close calls...that something will come for us eventually. That's the nature of our existence. It's just so terribly present and menacing when reality hits home.