Our hills burned from our neighbors in Santa Paula, through the hills of Ojai and to the coast in Ventura, with fire taking hundreds of homes as the high winds whipped this way and that unpredictably. Then the winds started pushing the fire into our direction. The march toward Santa Barbara had begun.
As we watched the news and stressed about the people we knew south and east of us who had lost their homes, we tried to keep working. I was headed into Christmas and had custom jobs, jewelry on layaway and people to see who wanted to get their wives the earrings or necklace of her dreams.
I felt torn, I had to know what was happening. Every conversation with clients included the latest on the fire. We all had bad hair dents from wearing our masks. As I drove around I’d see people like me wearing them in their cars.
I wore less eye make-up as I cried with a client more than once a day. We were raw. Holding someone who is overwhelmed by what is out of their control was one helpful thing I could do. And boy did I understand. The fire was closer everyday to where I lived.
Being three blocks from a mandatory evacuation zone was freaky. Being in a voluntary evacuation zone was a daily decision. Having all your windows shut because the smoke and ash are toxic meant you can’t exercise in your home. We all needed air purifiers, but they were sold out.
I finally had to leave with a headache, stuffy nose and sore throat to a friend’s house miles away. When I arrived she ushered me into a room with an air purifier and said, “just lay down.” When I woke up I had no headache, stuffy nose or sore throat. I realized that my house had become toxic.
The search for an air purifier intensified. We found one and carried it room to room once I returned home.
My daily life felt like living in a post-apocalyptic movie. Poor visibility, few cars on the road, few people out of doors, the acrid smell of ash with each outdoor breath until you couldn’t smell it anymore. Ash was everywhere lending a dull grey to the landscape. The only people on the street wore masks, unless they were insane, (in my opinion.)
This was normally an incredibly busy time for me. It was eerie. I’d make calls to make deliveries or give progress reports on custom projects and we’d inevitably swap fire stories while figuring out our next appointment.
With my Christmas deliveries done, my visiting family shoehorned into guest rooms, couches and etc I did my final wrapping of gifts.
The fire had done its worst, burned homes mere miles from where I lived, stopped about a mile from my home and moved into the trackless back country where it burned through the acres day and night, racking up the #1 position for largest fire in California since they recorded them.
The wind had come and blown away most of the lingering ash and it seemed life could almost go back to normal. I thought we were done. Little did I know that the fire which had denuded our hills didn’t spell safety. Only safety from fire…Tune in next week for being a jeweler after the flood.
Your Personal Jeweler,
Read part two: Fire and Flood, My Stormy Jeweler Life – Part Two