The Mountains are Burning: My Fire Diary

Jake Orlowitz
14 min readAug 27, 2020

by Jake Orlowitz

Photo by Adam Wilson on Unsplash

Saturday night the lighting came, thousands of bright white flashes in the sky. People said it was the most beautiful storm they’d ever seen. Hundreds of fires sparked across the landscape. The fires connected forming what they call a Complex.

They cut the power to our neighborhood in 95 degree heat. We sat around a pool telling ghost stories and drinking ice water from our cooler in large orange mugs we’d gotten from the hospital when they were worried my wife would hemorrhage before the baby was born.

Tuesday afternoon we came back from cool evening beach air to an impenetrable gray fog. We walked inside our house, shut every door and window. There was a dark cloud and we were in its center. My brain starting shouting, “When you’re surrounded by air you can’t breathe, shouldn’t you leave?” I fell asleep in a hot, powerless, sealed up room enveloped by plumes from nearby fires. My wife woke me up at 1am. We’d gotten the call. It was time to go.

I’m SAFE in the CZU Lightning Complex California forest fires. We evacuated Wednesday morning at 2am from the Santa Cruz Mountains (from our neighborhood in Bonny Doon). We went downtown to the east side to stay with my wife’s stepdad.

My cats are safe. Baby is happy. Had time to pack up essentials. Monitoring windspeeds and evacuation orders but will probably be dislocated for several days. The only upside I can borrow from this is that now COVID masks can serve double-duty as smoke filters. That’s the best thing I can say.

We lived at Swift Circle in March. In April we moved to Empire Lane.
Wednesday we evacuated to Fredericks Boulevard. Thursday we are
going to Pearl Street. So, yeah.

It’s almost inevitable that smoke damage to Grainger was severe, even if the house wasn’t engulfed. The hottest forest fire in 100 years passed right through our property. Because of landscaping, structures may have been spared, but the entire region has been drowning in smoke for days.

The Santa Cruz mountains got fucked. Even if we could move back, it would be a disaster zone for months and a wasteland for years.

Jake Orlowitz

Internet citizen. Founder of The Wikipedia Library. Seeker of well people and sane societies. Read my book: