What can we count on the GOP to deliver?
Here’s a couple of things:
Inaction in the face of climate change.
Refusal to regulate vital industries.
I haven’t got confirmation from the ground yet, but the latest fire maps leave little room for doubt. The Dixie Fire exploded yesterday, burning through the mountain town of Greenville, surrounding the next place up the road, Chester, and pushing north into the Warner Valley and the southeast corner of Lassen Volcanic National Park.
So, be warned: all this may be of interest to no one but myself. If that’s the story for you, just read on by…
My family owns two little cabins in the Warner Valley, our plot bordering on two sides on the park itself. They’re nothing special–one is a 20×24 ft. single room (plus bathroom) with a murphy bed in the corner. That was the one my mum built as her personal shelter; the other, larger, was the family cabin of my childhood. Built in 1964, it too was basically a single room: the three bunkrooms and the room my parents used were separated by partitions, not floor-to-ceiling and noise proof walls.
No, I still don’t know what mom and dad were thinking.
Now they are almost certainly gone. The latest fire maps show the leading edge of hot burn well up the valley from our cabins. That means all our neighbors places are gone too.
This wasn’t a zillionaires’ retreat, btw. The Warner Valley is a strictly seasonal destination. No one ploughs the road, and there are a half dozen or so little clusters of cabins in the area that no one can get to from roughly November to May. It’s hella remote–5 hours or so from the Bay Area, with minor roads for the last bit of the journey. It’s the kind of place folks in Chico build what folks in Maine call a camp to escape the summer heat at lower altitudes. It is, or was, just a gorgeous stretch of mountain country that extended-locals and a few of us lucky outlanders got to enjoy.
I spent every summer there growing up, and every year since I was about 30 I, and soon my own family, would spend a week or so there. Totally off grid: cell phone service didn’t reach our corner of the valley; there was no town electricity, and for the last few years we gave up on our generator; no internet, of course. Paradise in other words.
And now it’s gone. I suppose I can still hope for one of those fire miracles, but realistically, the structures are tucked up against the base of a really steep slope (Mt. Harkness, at whose summit fire lookout tower Edward Abbey completed Desert Solitaire) and are surrounded by large and bone dry trees. The immediate ground around the two buildings is bare and clear…but it won’t take many embers to do the job. Dammit.
The Dixie Fire is the product of two American political tendencies. The first has been to ignore climate change, an core plank of Republican posturing for two decades. That part of the world is in the second year of one of the deepest droughts on record. There is essentially no residual moisture in the soil, plants or air. Temperatures have been high, humidity during the fire has often dropped into single digits, which combined with the wind patterns has produced what are called “red flag” fire conditions several times in the three weeks and counting the Dixie Fire has burned, including yesterday and today, when the blaze burst past the containment plans that aimed to hold it off the north side of Lake Almanor, Chester, and the national park. That red flag status will hold until at least tonight.
On the parochial level, the one that has me torn up right now, there really was nothing to do once the fire did jump that line: there’s only one small road into Warner Valley, so fire crews couldn’t safely get ahead of its front edge. It will keep on going until it hits the next plausible defensive position or the weather and winds change dramatically.