Fire and Smoke

The reality for all of us living in the Western US right now is fire and smoke. If you’re not affected by fire, you breathing in the smoke from the fires.  Even here in the desert of the Reno area we have air that is listed from hazardous to merely unhealthy. For the first time ever, the county’s Health District has posted a “Stage 2 Air Pollution Warning.”

When we moved here you could look out from our front door and clearly see the hills that are just a couple of miles away and looking across the basin you could see the Eastern Sierra.  The last few mornings that view has been of smoke shrouded hills and the Sierra is complete obscured by smoke.  Even though the nearest fire is 60 or so miles away, we can smell the smoke. Going outside isn’t something you want to do and it’s started to get into the house.

Most of our time here so far it’s been too hot to go outside for more than just a few hours in the morning.  Now that the temperature is reasonable to be outside all day, we have smoke driving us back indoors.  We hear from our friends and family in San Jose that the air is worse there and a recent heatwave made things unbearable.  Here in the desert we have a good A/C system, but that isn’t the case for many back in San Jose.

This last week was my older brother’s 71st birthday and we decided to make the long drive back for a birthday lunch.  It’s about a five hour drive oneway and doing the round trip in one day makes for a long day.  While we were in the process of selling our home in San Jose, I did many one day trips so it didn’t seem like a big deal to do it one more time for my brother.  I had briefly considered staying in a motel overnight, but with Covid restrictions and fears it seemed safer to have a long day in the car.

That was Wednesday.  All of you here in the west coast know what the skies looked like on that day.  It was clear and cool as we left Reno and headed over Donner Pass.  As we descended down in the California’s Central Valley the air became at first grey, then orange, and then dark.  The automatic headlights in my car came on about Fairfield as Heather tried to get pictures of the gloom.  I noticed that the streetlights had come on at the off ramps and instead of a sunny 9:30 am morning, it looked more like early evening as the sun was going down.

Heather texted the pictures to our family and our daughter-in-law replied back, “Turn around now! You’re driving into the apocalypse!”

I did consider that, but didn’t want to disappoint my brother and I thought it would get better near the coast.

It did, a little, just from dark to brighter grey.  Turned out not to be the best day for a picnic in the park to celebrate a birthday.  Still, my brother enjoyed his lunch out although we thought we felt rain from time to time – likely it was just ash, and not water.

Returning home, the smoke because less dense as we started up highway 80 and finally mostly clear when we arrived home.  Sadly that didn’t last as the next morning we could see the gray smoke starting to build over the eastern mountains like a slow motion wave crashing into the Reno basin.

It’s gotten worse each day and no real sign of when it will clear.  Even the weather forecasters don’t want to guess so we take it day by day.

This thing makes it difficult to be positive and keep up doing creative work.  Someday it will be better, but for now we just do what we can and wait for that clear cold wind that will bring clear air.

About Andrew Reynolds

Born in California Did the school thing studying electronics, computers, release engineering and literary criticism. I worked in the high tech world doing software release engineering and am now retired. Then I got prostate cancer. Now I am a blogger and work in my wood shop doing scroll saw work and marquetry.
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44 Responses to Fire and Smoke

  1. I’m on the east coast but my kids are living in that California smoke. Fires, Covid, riots, politcal unrest. The world I was born into 82 years ago is changing before my eyes. I’m afraid I’ve become one of those old folks who lament the ‘old days.’

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m on the east coast but my kids are living in that California smoke. Fires, Covid, riots, politcal unrest. The world I was born into 82 years ago is changing before my eyes. I’m afraid I’ve become one of those old folks who lament the ‘old days.’


  3. Christi says:

    Oh, I’m sorry. You can ignore my previous comment where I asked about the smoke. Now I know better.
    It’s such a tragic situation and even the idea we have a “wildfire season” is awful.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow. Stuff like this certainly does make us appreciate clear, fresh air when we can get it. I’m glad your brother still had a nice time. No doubt he was touched that you came.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What a horrible experience to drive into that! We’re suffering from the smoke up here, too. We’ve been under air quality warnings for the past week, and we’ve been staying inside as much as possible. Fortunately we have A/C, too. I feel sorry for all the people who have to decide whether to close the windows and swelter or open them and choke.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is horrific, Andrew. So frightening. I read similar accounts by Australians earlier this year. I am very scared of fires having experienced a few in my own life.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks for sharing your experience. Stay safe!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. wolfsrosebud says:

    So sorry. It’s hard. Last year even in Wisconsin we could smell the lingering smoke as it spread across the states. Times are changing.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Smoke travels. We are experiencing the smoke from California with Washington’s smoke from forest fires here in Western Canada on Vancouver island. We have also had a serious fire in our hometown as well. At first it cast a yellow hue everywhere which looked acapolyptic. it was replaced by what looks like heavy fog until you realize it is smoke. This is the first time I have experienced anything like this.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Baydreamer says:

    I can’t believe you drove on Wednesday, but glad you were safe. That day was the eeriest of all. I don’t think anyone has ever seen anything like it. I walked my dog at 7 am and felt like it was a midnight walk. Still, others who are living in the path of the fires have it much worse. The images of homes reduced to ash and rubble are so heartbreaking. I did hear that maybe by Wednesday, the sky will be clearer, though. So like you said, all we can do is wait…what a year!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Dave says:

    I find it remarkable the smoke and ash from the West Coast travels not only to Reno, but also across the desert, through Utah, and over the Rocky Mountains to our locales here in eastern Colorado. We thought our smokey skies were from our own fires to the west and up north, but our newscasters were quick to say it’s much more likely from those in CA, OR, and WA.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I’m far from the fires as well but we still have heavy smoke and bad air quality here in Redondo Beach. Last Thursday I walked down to the farmers market and became out of breath from the short walk. I thought something was wrong with me until I watched the news and heard the LA air quality was the worst in history.


  13. Lakshmi Bhat says:

    This year has been terrible, something or the other happening. But I am glad you could meet your brother on his special day. Take care

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Cough-cough. Another reason to stay inside. Glad you got to see your brother.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I keep watching the reports about the fires because we have many friends in Oregon and Northern California. Plus I see where there are now some in Arizona and we have family there. As if we didn’t have enough to fret over, I wonder how much worse this year can become. I know…don’t ask!!! Praying for safety for all in harm’s way.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. jfwknifton says:

    I looked at an interactive map of Washington and Oregon the other day, and I was truly shocked. Our news tells us about the problem but somehow doesn’t manage to get over just how many fires there are and how big many of them are.
    Wearing a Covid mask would help, I should think, and are there better quality ones on sale on the internet?

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is shocking. I wouldn’t have expected some of those areas to burn as aggressively as they are. They’re telling us that the average homemade Covid mask won’t do much for smoke. What is needed is the N95 or better masks which are still rare and mostly restricted to medical personnel. So far just staying indoors (or in the car) works. We’re hopeful of some relief near the end of the week.


  17. kathy70 says:

    I can only imagine how terrifying it must be and very difficult to feel you have any sure level of safety. There are no answers, just know we all pray for your safety.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. floridaborne says:

    It means a lot for a family to get together for a birthday.
    It has to be hard to think that you left all the fire scares behind just to be in the midst of the smoke.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. pommepal says:

    We Aussies watch in horror at the images coming from your part of the world and shudder at the thought that we are on the brink of our fire season. Hope you get rain and cooler weather soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hope you don’t get it this bad down there this year. There’s a cold front moving in later this week that might help, but we’re a couple of months away from our rainy season that would end this.

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Dave Foyle says:

    Enjoyed hearing what you’re up to — glad you got to see your brother, even though it was less than ideal.

    We’ve got smoke up here in Olympia, WA as well. Fires and smoke all up and down the whole west coast. There are satellite pix that show it…ugh! 2020 – the gift that keeps on giving!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m hoping the new year will be better. We were looking at the air quality and fire maps earlier today and looked to see how things were going in your area. Looks like the whole coast is burning or smoked out.


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