Autism Watch: 2007

Southern California Fires

Posted on: November 15, 2008

When I am out-of-state, and I tell people I’m from California, I usually hear something akin to “Ahh, sunny California, must be nice!”

Well, let me tell you, this non-California-Native is not loving California on a good day but right now, if someone asked me where I was from, I’d say “windy hell.”

To back up a bit, I was raised back east. I grew up with snow in the winter, beautiful leaves in the fall, rain in the spring, and tolerable temps in the summer that made us appreciate the sun. But here? One day looks like the next, most of the year. For example, it’ll be Thanksgiving in a couple of weeks; we were wearing shorts and the temps were pushing 90. Hottest “fall” on record. Normally, we’re in the 70s now, lower temps at night, and enjoying some long sleeves.

Contrary to popular belief, not all of California is sunny 24/7. And not all Californians want it! I thoroughly enjoy cooler temps, sweaters, gloves, wearing my heavy coats, boots and turning on the heat or using the fireplace. I moved to my location years ago, and one reason we like it here is because it is more of the ‘burbs, with mountain views (we’re in the foothills) and we experience more seasonal weather than we’ll find in many areas of SoCal…except when it’s blazing hot, 115 or so, days on end in August, and electricity bills are $500 a month or above. I’m not here because I love this state, but because this is where our support system is. Our friends. Our doctors. We’re considering an out-of-state move, and one huge reason? NO wind like what we have here. Seasons. Changing leaves. The kids can play outside without worry of getting knocked over by 75 mph gusts weeks on end, without worry of embers blowing around or the air quality causing asthma. They can enjoy the snow or the rain and Christmas feels like Christmas.

So, back to windy hell. And fires. Yet again, another batch of days on end of Santa Ana winds. All my plants were brought inside. Our patio furniture — heavy wrought iron — is affixed to the concrete. Our natural gas barbecue unplugged and moved to a safe location. (And it easily weighs 100 pounds.) Trees blown over everywhere you look. Trucks on their side on the nearby freeways. Crappy air quality, and you can’t enjoy your backyard, the school playground or a walk from the car in the lot to the door of the store because you literally are blown sideways, and even sturdy people have difficulty standing in a real gust. Day after day after day of this gets old — and we’re lucky in that there’s no fire in our area.

That said, you can see the Corona/Yorba Linda fires from our front windows. The air is a nasty grey-orange, and it smells bad. Yet, our homes are unthreatened so we’re fortunate. (Flashback to the 2003 fires when we could see them out our back windows, on our own foothills, and we had to evacuate.) But it still sucks. Fires not only kill people, and hundreds of homes are gone with their families displaced, but the crap in the air, and the stuff they drop out of the tankers isn’t stuff you want to be breathing.

Knowing how fortunate we are that our home isn’t threatened by a current fire, I still am so tired of this. When you can drive and point out various fires, even seeing flames, it’s just wrong. My heart goes out to those whose homes are damaged, those who are evacuated, and those wondering. The TV coverage is riveting, walls of fire and clouds, it sucks you in and it’s hard to turn away yet hard to watch at the same time.

What does this have to do with autism? This is an autism blog, afterall. Well, on one hand, it gives me an opportunity to clarify to those who’ve wondered that the fires aren’t near enough to us to be a threat. (I do have some amazing photos from the upstairs windows, I just wish I knew my D-SLR Nikon D-80 enough to do it justice.) On the other hand, fires usually cause regression in autistic children close enough to be affected. Those who have to evacuate are taken away from their routines, their special items, their comfort zone. Those who aren’t evacuated but still can smell the smoke often regress for no obvious reason. We’ve speculated that the electricity in the air during strong winds does it, as my little guy often has more mood issues when fires are close or when winds are bad. Winds have been bad all week, yet he’s holding steady and I hope he stays that way.

If you’re of the praying variety, add the fire victims and evacuees to your prayers. I’m sure there will be donation drives coming up, if you’re able. Many of these people weren’t given much time at all to get out of their homes, and I cannot imagine what it must be like to sit in an evacuation center waiting on news of your home. Heartbreaking. And for those with children with special needs, even moreso.

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2 Responses to "Southern California Fires"

Good luck with the fire situation. I wouldn’t be surprised if the regressions are from the fire and wind itself, as the arguments about environmental toxins and their link to autism seem plausible to me. Especially when added to questionable air quality to start with.
We’ve got good docs and seasons in New York! Are you really considering moving east?

I really liked that post, I am a little confused, and have a small question. Can I send you an email?

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