Burning / by Karie Luidens

California wildfire (1).JPG

I was able to witness firsthand the effects of climate change on the coast west of Los Angeles yesterday. What was meant to be a carefree vacation in sunny California, planned weeks ago, turned into a strange sort of ecotourism when our road trip took us along the Pacific Coast Highway through Malibu where the Woolsey Fire burned just a week earlier.

We’d been driving south through green hillsides for an hour when suddenly we hit the Santa Monica Mountains. They were burned bald of trees and scrub; the exposed dirt beneath was scorched black. The sky was a clear blue, but the air smelled of smoke. We passed at least a dozen white utility trucks servicing downed power lines. Traffic lights that had lost electricity were temporarily replaced by stop signs. Where elsewhere rows of palm trees waved like verdant flags, here their skeletons were charred black.

According to the latest data posted online by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, three people lost their lives in the blaze and 1,500 structures were destroyed. Yet we rolled on through past tourist-filled beaches and surfer-filled ocean waves as if this were just another Friday. Just another holiday weekend.