A year and a half ago, when we sat down at the magazine to talk over the idea of a story about Southern California’s wildfire season, we knew very little about the subject. We didn’t know how complicated is the science of fire in our chaparral landscapes. We’d never heard of the spooky relationship between fires already set, and the arsonists who are triggered by them to light more. Finally, although that May’s 800-acre fire in Griffith Park had recently been fought, and won seemingly with ease, we didn’t realize how truly dangerous conditions on the ground had been for fire fighters that day. On the last count, we were apparently not alone in the L.A. media. When the Los Angeles City Fire Department agreed to tell their story of that day – sharing with us all their radio communiquÈs – we were surprised, and honored, to relate the events of a fire that was not simple or easy by any stretch. In writing that story, we hope we gave readers a better understanding of wildfires they live with today, and wildfires that may grow increasingly worse in the coming years.
What we did know on that long-ago day that we sat down was the story’s publication date – mid-October, the beginning of our fall fire season. ‘People will be thinking about fire,’ we reasoned – the story made for one great cover line on the newsstand. That people would be fleeing from fire — in Malibu and Blue Jay and Modjeska Canyon — was a thought that never crossed our minds. Horribly, all that came true the week of the story’s publication. At the time, we were congratulated in the media for being lucky, but no one had luck that week unless they were spared by nature. Now that fire season is upon us once again, we thought it was time to publish the story again online.