It’s hard to imagine anyone doesn’t know this, but as I write this large parts of San Diego City and County are on fire. Late last week we learned that a Santa Ana was going to blow in on Sunday. Santa Ana’s are a mixed blessing around here; they are winds that blow from east to west (against the prevailing winds) and blow hot and dry air into our area. It’s good for people who like warmer weather (like Nancy) but bad for people who have asthma and/or allergies (like me) because they blow dust from the desert into our area. They also create fire dangers because if a fire starts it has the tools to be really bad (dry air and wind). On Sunday afternoon we noticed clouds of dirty air which are normally a bad sign.
We didn’t know how bad it was. By Monday morning we learned that several places nearby were threatened. My territory with San Diego Hospice includes Poway, Rancho Bernardo, Escondido, Valley Center, and Fallbrook. The first wave was the Witch Creek Fire that started east of Ramona (near San Ysabel) but was heading west with a vengeance; several of my patients were in areas that were under mandatory evacuation. I spent virtually all of Monday on the phone trying to find where the evacuees went; one was not hard because her next door neighbor dropped her off at our headquarters. I spent the next three hours with a few of my coworkers trying to find a place for her to stay with her cartons of cigarettes and her dog. Once the statute of limitations is over I’ll have a great story to tell.
Others took a few days to find. Waking up in the middle of the night and being told that you have 10 minutes to grab what you want to save and evacuate is incredibly stressful. It’s even more stressful if you need a pail of medication and oxygen tanks to survive the day. That’s what several of my patients (and their families) faced. In all the confusion they weren’t able to call us and tell us where they landed.
One of my first jobs entailed tracking them. Sitting in an office talking on the phone doesn’t sound like stressful work but it was. I spent the last three days scrambling to find cell phone numbers for patients whose home phones no longer work or were not being answered. Some are with relatives, others are with hotels, and some are in shelters who are not equipped for hospice needs. At least one has lost his home along with all his books, journals, and correspondence. He’s in his 90’s and I can only imagine what has been lost to the ages, but he’s philosophical and ready to start over. I wish I had his perspective.
A bright spot in this tragedy has been my hospice. I’ve had the chance to talk with and work with people from all levels of management at SDHPC. They’ve been, without exception, overwhelming in their support of the staff and the patients. It makes me more more and more convinced that I work for a good place.
A dark spot has been the impact on the lives my teammates. I live in La Jolla, several miles from any of the evacuations, and am safe. But many of my teammates live in these same areas as the patients. About half the team was evacuated and a few may have suffered the loss of their homes. I ask for prayers for them.
I’ll have more to say in the next few days but I ask for your prayers during this painful and difficult time.