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We don’t have wildfires in Tennessee

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By Melina Taylor

When I first moved to Redding last month I had been warned about the infamous California wildfire, but I shrugged and laughed off the jokes people made about my future state burning to the ground, breaking off from the U.S. because of a massive earthquake or being carried away by a mudslide.

When I drove the homestretch of my three-day drive across the country I was excited about reaching my destination. However, once I hit the valley side of Lassen National Park I was shocked to be engulfed in a sea of smoke. I had been hearing about the numerous fire outbreaks from the June thunderstorms, but I didn’t think the thick grayish red smoke would still be around at the end of July. Clearly, I was mistaken and had no idea what I had gotten myself into.

I’m used to the Tennessee summers of 100-degree temperatures and 90 percent humidity. It’s hot, just like it is in Redding, but it’s moist, to the point where walking down to the mailbox leaves you covered in a fresh coat of sweat. I was looking forward to the dry heat and the cooler nights. I guess I should have known that no climate is perfect.

Over my first week here, the smoke subsided and the air became its normal crisp blue. I thought the fire threat was over, until yesterday morning. I was having a quiet day, had just finished my turkey sandwich for lunch and was about to head to the gym when my boyfriend flew through the front door and told me I needed to head outside.

Before I even saw the plumes of smoke I smelled the unforgettable campfire aroma. It looked like the area surrounding Turtle Bay was on fire and it was, along with the ridge coming down North Market Street from Hilltop Drive. A massive operation of law enforcement and firefighters were working frantically to reroute traffic and douse the flames. Two helicopters and two bombers were continuously diving towards the Sacramento River and making laps across the hillside. For two hours my boyfriend and I, along with local business owners and scared residents stood taking pictures and watching as the aircrafts flew overhead carrying thousands of gallons of water.

I don’t think I’ve ever been completely captivated and spooked at the same time. It wasn’t until a few minutes after I had been watching the black smoke billow up into the sky that I realized the fire might spread to my side of the street. I immediately started to make a mental list of valuable items to throw in a box if the time came to leave.

Luckily, I escaped the need for evacuation and it turned out no structures were harmed in the blaze. I was anxious about moving to California and can say my time here so far has been adventurous to say the least. I thought that I was safe from the California weather curse, as my friends back home in Chattanooga would say. I was immensely impressed at the organization level and the amount of law enforcement personnel who devoted their time to getting the fire under control. I’m sending them a big round of thanks for keeping this new citizen safe.

Melina Taylor lives in Redding.

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