The hills are aflame

Esperanza fire

smoke rising

While we were waiting Thursday morning for the bus to take us to the Getty Villa, we noticed a column of smoke rising behind the mountains. It could mean only one thing — wild fire.

When the bus reached the outlet malls in Cabazon, the fire was clearly visible burning in the mountains just south of the I-10 freeway. By the time we returned in the evening, we began to see flames all along the freeway as soon as we got to Beaumont and Banning. During the day, the fire now known as the Esperanza fire, had spread several miles.

flames visible at night

Fire officials have since determined that the fire was deliberately set, probably by someone who know how to use the Santa Ana winds to spread the fire widely and quickly. Four firefighters were killed when they were overrun by flames, and a fifth is still in critical condition.

map_320

Updated map (PDF, 2.8Mb, TheDesertSun.com, 1-Nov-06)

The fire has now consumed nearly 40,000 acres and burned more than two dozen homes. Fanned by the Santa Anas, the fire jumped over two state highways.

Every place on the face of the earth is susceptible to disasters of some kind, whether natural or man-made. Here in Southern California we know "the big one" earthquake will happen some day (the San Andreas fault runs through the Coachella Valley) and wildfires are a constant summer danger.

Thanks to those who heard about the fire and called or e-mailed to see if I were in danger. I'm not, thankfully, but a lot of other people were.

On the other hand, if the winds had been blowing in the opposite direction—

I've included a slideshow of a few pictures from The Desert Sun and the Los Angeles Times.