Bears and Alligators Environment Fire Life and Life Only

Fire Weather VI: “Courage” & Patchy Afternoon Smoke

Afternoon smoke looking down at S.F Valley

Okay, I figure we all need a levity break today…
as people deal with the fact that homes are lost, and as the accusations begin to fly fast-and-furiously as to who ought to be blamed for these catastrophic fires.

With that in mind, I offer
the following odd anecdote from my friend Sooki Wheeland. Sooki works in the film industry and is also a fellow Topanga mom. Her house is closer to the Pacific Coast Highway than mine is. Thus if a fire came roaring up the canyon from Malibu, her number, so to speak, would have come up first.

On Monday,” she says, as the winds and the rumors grew ominous, she busied herself loading more of the requisite family photos and Important Papers into her family’s van, while her husband Ken drove up to the ridge that separates Topanga from Tuna Canyon in order to see what he could scope out about the status of the Malibu fire.

NOTE: It is a rule of thumb, if you’re potentially in a fire’s path, whatever you see on the TV news is either dead wrong or of little use when it comes to decision making so, in the absence of updates from the firefighters, such look-sees are often wise. (Plus, we lost TV reception in Topanga on day one of the fires.)

“We all felt the adrenaline of impending danger,”
says Sooki, “and worried that clogged roads would impede our departure if we waited too long to evacuate.” On the other hand, they wondered if they’d be able to get back in if they left prematurely. “We had already heard that residents were having trouble with access.”

But as husband Ken, plus a neighbor pal, headed out to do fire reconnaissance, (both appropriately supplied with emergency radios and face masks), they rounded the corner on their home street only to have their access to Topanga Canyon Blvd. blocked by “the arrival of TWO stretch hummer limos, loaded with stressed hairdressers.”

It seemed that this double gaggle of very nervous-looking stylists had been scheduled for a “rejuvenating seminar” at the Topanga-located “Institute of Courage.

The fact that fires were exploding all over Southern California and that Topanga might or might not burn, had evidently not dissuaded the hair people. They were scheduled for rejuvenation, and by gum they were going to get it.

(No, although I’d seen the sign, I had no idea what the Institute of Courage was either until I Googled it this morning after Sooki emailed me the story. You too can become similarly informed if you click on the link.)

How the hell the duo of mega limos got past the Highway Patrol people is a question that no doubt some other intrepid reporter will want to investigate.

No word at….um…press time whether the hairdressers stayed for smoke-haunted spiritual renewal… or not.


POST SCRIPT: I was checking the National Weather Service a few minutes ago,
to see what the coming days held in terms of heat and wind, I found that the NOAA people actually have a designation for what we see overhead, complete with a nice little smoke-billowy graphic.


  • The hair story is just too Topanga! There may be fire and brimstone and even the sky can be falling, but that’s just the time for a self-empowerment and visualization seminar. And of course, complete with good hair. Hey, maybe they can be useful offering comp hairdos for stressed residents who may be interviewed by the swarms of “reporters” on how they feel. Even if your house is burning, you’ll look and feel a lot better being on tv with good hair.

  • “Patchy Smoke” – amazing!!

    I wonder if they have deep in their database, designations for, say, a “War of the Worlds Invasion” scenario.

    Or, (I know this is sick…but I grew up in the 50’s) a nice mushroom cloud…you know…Intermittent Fallout with a chance of 600mph wind driven firestorms, changing to light soot and extended nuclear winter for…hmmm…the next thousand years??

    I will stop now.

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