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Hollie Grimaldi Flores: Fire and rain

Hollie Grimaldi Flores
Laura Mahaffy/lmahaffy@theunion.com | The Union

“I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain. I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end … ”

These lyrics from the James Taylor hit “Fire and Rain” have been running through my head all week.

While the subject of the song is not at all about weather, they are certainly appropriate given the state of climate in our region and across the country.



I see fire

Each year when September rolls around, I think about a now retired Cal Fire spokesperson who often told me, “California is built to burn.”

Fire has been playing out dangerously close to home, with nearly four hundred acres burned in a single incident in Nevada County last week, and nearby Butte County losing ten times that with 4,000 acres scorched and over fifty structures destroyed.




These, just two fires among approximately seventy-five others, still burning in the West.

After months and months of sunny skies and hotter than normal temperatures, it might be hard to remember we just survived a rather wet winter season.

The rain (and snow) began to fall in earnest in October and kept going until late April.

It took until April for the governor to declare that the drought plaguing Northern California was officially over.

Others continue to debate the issue, but there is no denying the incredible amount of precipitation that fell in Northern California just a few months ago.

We were concerned about raging rivers and creeks. Streets and businesses were flooding.

I was afraid the rain would never stop — an unreasonable fear developed from growing up in upstate New York — but stop it did.

Now it has been several months since the western side of the county has seen any measurable amount of precipitation. Our beloved rivers are back to somewhat tame flow.

Reservoirs are finally receding to show some shoreline and beach. Lakes are perfect for swimming, paddling and boating. And the fields and the hillsides are brown.

Each year when September rolls around, I think about a now-retired Cal Fire spokesperson who often told me, “California is built to burn.”

And of the frequently quoted executive director of the Nevada County Fire Safe Council who says, “it’s not a matter of if, but of when (fire will break out).”

It surprises some people to realize fire season is far from over.

It is gearing up — with September and October the most dangerous and busiest months for firefighters in our region.

I see rain

Meanwhile, much of the rest of the nation is literally buried under the effects of hurricanes and an unusually high number of extreme storms.

Texas is already suffering record-breaking amounts of rainfall and additional flooding caused by the release of water from reservoirs. The storm season is just getting underway and is doing so with a vengeance.

As I write this, the Southeastern part of the country has an eye on what looks to be another powerful storm heading toward land with one part of Florida or the other preparing to get hit with 130 mile an hour winds and massive amounts of rainfall.

In the Northeastern part of the country last month, where rain knows no season, I engaged in conversations with natives who talked about how the rain seemed to be changing.

Rather than counting on a full day of precipitation a couple of times a week, the rain seemed to fall nearly every day but for very short periods of time. Like Hawaii, but with 90 percent humidity and no ocean.

While there, I watched lightning storms some distance from where I was staying and listened to the rumbles of thunder — a bit of a treat after living more than three decades in Northern California, where such activity is rare.

Nothing scientific being discussed here, just an observation that the weather patterns appear to be changing. Might one even say, becoming more extreme?

I am merely pointing out the obvious examples of subtle and not-so-subtle vicissitudes that seem to be affecting the nation. And it is hard to deny that most climate scientists (those who study climate) believe it is indeed altering.

Mother Nature does not seem to care whether you agree with the majority or remain a skeptic. She is responding with ferocity.

I am not ready for another six months of grey skies, cold temperatures or non-stop precipitation, but I do realize how important it is to have it take place.

Rain in the fall is also sometimes the answer to extinguishing large fires in difficult terrain. It can be a fire fighter’s best tool. Lightning storms can cause fire. Rain can put out fire. It’s a fascinating dance.

Yes, “I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain.” James Taylor was not alone in his musing of these elements. According to http://www.songfacts.com, there are 229 songs about fire and 199 about rain.

Turn on the stereo and take your pick. My favorite way to enjoy them.

Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire. She can be reached at holliesallwrite@gmail.com.


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