Eyewitness to Hell: The Woolsey Fire

The demonic-shaped face of a cyclone, with two fireballs for eyes—the earthly equivalent of solar flares, with long filaments of plasma—whose pursed lips are like the world’s largest vacuum, suctioning all the dust and debris from the Great Basin—all the sand of Nevada, all the sediment of Oregon, all the stones of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming—until that vacuum becomes a gun barrel; unleashing a fusillade of wind, heat, and fury; unleashing over 5,000 years of accumulated rage, as it traverses mountains and rivers—as it travels across America’s Dead Sea—until it ignites California and incinerates innocent lives.

My city is in ashes, with a plume of smoke visible from space and a wall of soot impossible to penetrate from where I stand. My friends and neighbors, whose names are not famous but whose deeds outshine the biggest stars, among these families—whose ancestors predate the transformation of Malibu into a colony for the rich and famous—among the men and women of the land, whose grandparents and great-grandparents rest not-so-peacefully below ground, among these individuals, the fight is more than a battle between man and nature. It is a war over a way of life.

The ranchers and horsemen, the farmers and farmhands—their property is barren, their animals banished or burned alive, their crops bombarded, their workers battered and bruised.

Three days after Veterans Day, a century after the end of the Great War, the hills and streets look like one uniform Bocheland: a hellscape of chimneys without houses, forests without trees, and people without homes.

It will take a lifetime to heal from this disaster.

It will take years to recover from this catastrophe.

Some will never heal from this tragedy.

At least 50 souls will never recover from this inferno.

Felled by unimaginable forces, it falls to us—the survivors—to repair the breach.

Photo credit: Kyle Grillot for The Washington Post via Getty Images

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