Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Earthquakes and Forest Fires

The topic around the office watercooler on Monday was the earthquake that shook Baja on Sunday afternoon.

My boss, who has a house in Yuma, felt the quake the most. Fortunately it didn´t cause any damage to her place.

I had seen our chandelier moving, but I didn´t realize it was from an earthquake. Blissful ignorance. Our house is an open plan and not all that big. We had finished a delicious Easter lunch and had moved to the living room couches, about six feet from the table. While the four of us were talking, I noticied that the chandelier was swaying a lot. But we had the ceiling fan going, and I chalked it up to air currents. Odd, I thought, but I didn´t want to interrupt the conversation to point out a light fixture. A minute or two later, and all was calm. After that I didn´t think anything else about it.

Later, after our friends went home, Kent fired up the computer to check the news. That was when he saw the earthquake info and called me. Neither of us had felt a thing. Then I remembered the chandelier.

A few years ago, I remember hearing about a book, The Unthinkable, that was written by Amanda Ripley. The book studies people´s reactions to sudden, tramatic events. There are people who react immediately and then there are folks who stare and ponder for a while. Guess we know which one I would be. The upshot is, of course, that the ponder-ers don´t always survive.

Since the earthquake didn´t affect Phoenix, it hasn´t gotten much attention. The new headlines in the newspaper yesterday warned people that the lush and lovely desert we are enjoying now may turn into wildfires later. The article warned that as soon as the blooms fade and the heat returns, the growth will turn into dry chapparal, tinder for potential fires.

The article came with a bullet list of things to do now, like keep weeds cut back away from the house. We are not in any danger here since our association frowns on the Natural Look. Our grounds are as manicured as a model. But in other places the trend is to let the desert grow naturally, sometimes hiding the homes from view. This can be beautiful but deadly if there is a bad fire season. So I hope the predictions are wrong, and I hope people take precautions. After the chandalier-quake lesson above, I am going to be more alert. If I smell smoke, I will not assume someone is having a Bar-B-Que.

No comments: