Diamond Bar evacuations from smoke, fire

The Country Estates, a gated community about 1 mile up the road from our house has been evacuated. There is an evacuation center set up at my alma mater, Diamond Bar High School on Pathfinder Road. We feel pretty safe here on the southwest side now, though we are ready to pack up and go if necessary. A lot of neighbors have already packed their cars just in case.

The air quality is abysmal though. When you step outside it feels a bit like a huge barbeque gone wrong and it’s not clear if the heat you’re feeling is just from the California sun, or if it’s coming from Tonner Canyon over the hill. The side streets have a flurry of activity, but the freeways are eerie and empty. Businesses are open still and life is going on, just with some apprehension. Fire fighting planes and helicopters have been flying low over our neighborhood since earlier this morning, making a massive effort to protect the city. I read later on L.A. Now that 15 helicopters and 10 air tankers are in the fight.

If you watch the local news, they are trying to see Diamond Bar from helicopters, but the smoke is so thick you really can’t see anything, particularly arund The Country. I have not seen or heard of any actual flare ups in the city, however. Here’s what it looks like behind my house.

Diamond Bar smoke

embers in the hills

It is a bit surreal when your drive home consists of barricades and smoke and embers. I left Long Beach before 5 p.m. today and got home to Diamond Bar just before 8 p.m. This is usually a 30 minute drive.

But I am very lucky that I have a home to go to. I have seen California wildfires in the past, but I have never seen a blaze from the hills near my house as I have today. The Yorba Linda fire stretches for longer than my eye could go and there are small blazes in many parts of Brea. Here in Diamond Bar, we have a canyon between us and the fires that will hopefully protect our city, but I saw a small stray blaze near Tonner Canyon Road being put out by a police officer on the way home.

The immediacy of the information being put out is very helpful though. In addition to local radio, Twitter feeds are offering very detailed information about hot spots, traffic and general information. (Twitter is a service that allows people to text message or post online short statements or news, a kind of microblog that can be read like an RSS feed.) The Los Angeles Fire Department created a hashtag, #LAFIRE, and there is a similar one for Orange County, #ocfire. I’ve been particularly impressed with the California Public Utilities Commissioner Rachelle Chong and her dedication to twittering the news. To get a feel for how people are reacting, I suggest Monitter (pictured below). I searched for tweets within 10 miles of Brea, CA and used the search terms “fire,” “evacuation,” and “canyon.”

The Orange County Register provides a good map of the flames. Our house sits right on the border of Diamond Bar, Rowland Heights and Brea. Things are ok now, aside from dismal air quality and the ash falling out of the sky. I hope it stays that way, and that, for our Brea neighbors, these fires come under control.

monitter-fires.jpg

emerging in California

flight to Los Angeles

After just over a week in semi-hiding, I am proud to say that I’m back in California. It’s been one year and one week of traveling and teaching and writing (and eating) in Asia and it feels good to back where the avocados are cheap and the toilet paper is two-ply, even in public restrooms.

And lucky for me, there are no Korea-withdrawals. Diamond Bar, California (where I went to high school) has two great, very large Korean markets. And just down the road I had a fruity drink and som tum and soft rock with a friend to fulfill my southeast Asia craving.

My semi-hiding week was for family and writing. I’ve found a surprisingly good work space in my sister/grandmother’s room and I’m starting to get back into the routine of writing everyday. A group of reviews from the week I spent in Busan just ran in Asia Pacific Arts, including one of the Malaysian drama/comedy/musical Sell Out! That shout out was just for you, Joon Han.