By Caroline Moassessi
“The kicker is going to be the next six weeks,” said John Glenn, chief of fire operations for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in Boise. “We definitely have the potential (for more fires) in California, in the Pacific Northwest, and the northern Great Basin, which includes Nevada, southern Idaho and Utah. Those areas we will be watching really close.” (Huffington Post 7/23/14)
(Reno, 7/27) Ever have that nervous feeling—the calm-before-the-storm type of upheaval in your gut? Something is brewing and it is very, very wrong. That is what I haven’t been able to shake for over two weeks, only this isn’t a hurricane or a tornado. It’s a firestorm. Previously, I shared on this website my crazed experience with the smoke from the 2013 Yosemite Wildfires settling in to Reno and traumatizing my family, in Downwind from Yosemite—Clean Desert Air Turns to Asthma Nightmare. The last time wild fire season came late, it ended up with an October blaze not far from my house–friends evacuated, school was canceled as we watched flames eat up the hillside behind our local high school. It’s still fire season here in Northern Nevada but I’ve yet to threaten to pack my bags and move out.
The temperatures have been hot, vegetation is drying up and those afternoon summer storms are becoming frequent visitors! The storms bring on swift thunderstorms and lightning strikes. But the rain is too brief and intense to re-saturate the terrain. The lightning strikes combine with the strong winds and tinder-dry vegetation, creating the perfect setting for a wildfire and darkness-at-noon haze. Last year, our homes were untouched, but our lungs were still vulnerable.
I am driven to make plans. I recently replenished our asthma and allergy medication cabinet, stocked up on new HVAC air filters to clean the air flowing into our home, and checked our nebulizers to make sure they are functioning. My pantry is stocked with SunButter, Peabutter and Wow Butter, crackers and other high protein sources, ready for a quick evacuation. I started my prayers and good luck dance specifying that all upcoming wildfires will be properly contained and our air quality will not be affected too harshly. Bracing for flight, I ensure we have enough Epi Pens and Auvi-Q epinephrine auto-injectors on hand to save a small village. But where will we flee? As a food allergy and asthma parent, the unknown is what we fear and plan for–the unknown is what makes life dangerous. Spontaneous was removed from my vocabulary 14 years ago, upon diagnosis.
Adding to my stress, local codgers keep mentioning that we are due “for a big one”. When I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, the old folk in my town would use the same exact words regarding earthquakes. I was pleased to move to Reno and stop waiting for the mother of all earthquakes. Apparently, when you are an anxious person, the Gods of Worry simply swap “big one” for another. What is it about the desert? I know that people used to move from back East to the Southwest to escape their allergies, but of course that relief lasted long enough to sensitize to the local vegetation, as well as to mold in air-conditioning systems. You have a tendency to allergy? We’ll find a way to keep it busy.
Let’s hope the next wildfire in Northern Nevada will be manageable and will leave the old timers still waiting on the next catastrophe.
Darn—the smoke from a Northern California fire burning off highway 49 is lightly blowing into town–our air quality was just down graded to moderate: Washoe County Air Quality Report
Caroline Moassessi blogs at GratefulFoodie.com. Caroline has also served as local Board Chair, American Lung Association in Nevada, is Current Secretary/Treasurer for American Lung Association Southwest Region and National Assembly, is an Open Airways Instructor, and Co-Leader/Co-Founder of the North Nevada Asthma and Food Allergy Parent Education Group (AAPE).