Tag Archives: fire

Unexpectedly Eventful Week (On Deadline)

This week began as many do—looming deadline approaching with promises of long workdays/nights to meet the target date. A previous project had me starting the week behind schedule, but toiling into the night Monday and Tuesday allowed me to catch up. Thus far, it was a week like many before. Wednesday morning brought roadblock one—a surprising voicemail:

“This is Christine from Dr. Kamajian’s office. Please call me back. It’s kind of urgent. Thank you. Bye bye.”

I was awaiting x-ray and MRI results for my left wrist. I suspected this message was regarding those findings. Despite my usual morning grogginess and sluggishness, I called back immediately. Soon I would learn that my wrist had been broken for the past three months.

The History of My Wrist & Bicycle:

April 29 – I drive away from a bike shop with a brand new Surly Cross-Check squeezed into my trunk. After months of research and advice, this seems like a good choice for a bike that can do a bit of everything for a price that isn’t ridiculous. I start riding pavement and trails regularly, but mostly trails.

May 24 – One of my bike goals has been to build up the stamina to cycle from our place in Tujunga, over the Verdugos, and into the Butcher Bird office in Glendale as a semi-regular commute (roughly 13 miles each way and up to 2500 feet of gain). I’ve put about 100 miles on the bike at this point, but haven’t been able to reach this goal yet. I drive the bike to the office this day and decide to ride 15 or so miles at lunch around the Glendale Narrows and Griffith Park. As I head back to the office, passing through town, I decide to ride on the sidewalk for a portion to avoid dealing with the vehicle traffic at a specific intersection. A car pulls out of a parking lot just before me. I hit the brakes. I rotate over the handlebars and arrest my fall onto the concrete with my left hand. My bike crashes down behind me. My sandwich launches over my head. I stop a few feet short of the car’s passenger door. The driver never notices and pulls into traffic. I gather my belongings and continue to the office.

There is minimal swelling, mild discomfort, very little pain. I ice the wrist for several days, occasionally wear a fabric brace, and continue my life as normal. I only limit or stop those activities that will most stress the arm such as climbing and eventually gym training. My assumption is that I have a sprain. When I finally see a doctor on August 16th, he suspects the same. The x-ray proves us both wrong.

I had given it 6 or 7 weeks to heal. When I found myself still experiencing problems, I attempted to see a doctor. This eventually turned into a convoluted process of  changing my medical group and primary care physician and finally visiting my new doctor weeks later. By the time I saw him, I was feeling very little discomfort and thought I may be wasting my time. I fortunately agreed to the x-ray and MRI.

Back to the Present:

Much of Wednesday is spent visiting an Orthopedist and ultimately having my arm wrapped in a fiberglass cast. He is surprised that I was able to function for 3 months with a broken wrist and worried that it hasn’t healed. Afterwards I reflect on the things I did during those months that helped impede that healing: 200 miles on my bicycle on bumpy trails sprinkled with a few falls and steep terrain often in intense heat, whitewater rafting, standup paddle-boarding, rollerskating, a few canyon runs (rappelling, hiking, a little swimming, and some down-climbing), gym work-outs for the first month until I decided to pause, A week-long shoot in Roswell lugging camera gear all over the city, a Yosemite visit with my parents, a 2000 mile drive to Wyoming for the eclipse, a dinky 5.4 climb, and the various day-to-day tasks that stress a wrist. Now, I am attempting to use it as little as possible. The cast is a good reminder. Oddly enough, I have had a cast twice in life: at ages 7 and 39. Both times on the left wrist.

Spending half of my day at a doctor’s office was not good for my deadline. Thankfully, working into the early morning allowed me to catch up. Heeding my doctor’s advice not to drive (despite driving back to the office immediately after receiving the cast), I decide to work from home for the rest of the week. Thursday moves along smoothly and we are still on schedule until nightfall when Luis, my other business partner working on this project, announces his wife may be going into labor. Babies don’t tend to be complete surprises and Luis had prepared for this possibility. Thankfully, Adam and Steven are able to help out from the office. Still on schedule.

Then, Friday afternoon,  the Verdugos ignite. Plumes of smoke grow in the distance as a fire spreads up and down the mountain range less than 2 miles away. Winds had been strong since the night before and were currently helping spread the fire in multiple directions simultaneously. Much of my afternoon shifts to watching live coverage, calculating where the fire is in relation to us, and determining if it is likely to become a concern for our immediate area. The winds eventually worked in our favor, but have made it stronger elsewhere. We went to sleep last night with the horizon painted red.

The fire has now encompassed an estimated 8,000 acres and the LAFD have been struggling to contain it. Helicopters have not stopped flying since the blaze began and water drops continued throughout the night. Three homes have burned and many more are in danger. Mandatory evacuations have displaced several communities. The path through the Verdugos I was hoping to ride in the future as an office commute is now ash. The fire may still be growing.

For what it’s worth, we did still meet our deadline.

The Mountains are Burning

Erika and I helped a friend of mine evacuate his home in Altadena. From his backyard, we could see huge plumes of smoke and flames burning the mountainsides less than a few miles away. I expected the fire to be close, but not so close. Helicopters and planes of various sizes soared overhead pouring pink blankets of fire-retardant along the perimeter. An anxious wild rabbit scurried through the bushes every few seconds. The streets were littered with rubberneckers aiming cameras and cellphones at the horizon until the police evicted them. His house is both his home and place of business so we loaded up his valued possessions and inventory. As we drove away, more police cars were appearing alongside news vans and firefighters. Presently, he is grabbing a few extra things while he can before the police kick him out of the area. Let’s hope for the best.

Burning Rubber

A couple of nights back Erika noticed a nasty burning smell wafting through the windows. I walked around the complex for a few minutes looking for the source. Then, I came upon this tiny Asian couple standing at the gate staring through its bars. The woman was talking on the phone in broken English. Parked directly outside the building in front of a tree was their car—hood ablaze. Apparently, it had overheated and caught on fire after they parked it. Next to the man’s feet was a bucket of water. He had done the last thing he should have—thrown water on it. A blanket or a fire extinguisher would have worked wonders and possibly saved their car, but not water. A loud hiss exited the hood, startling me, as the fire grew larger. It was probably the radiator. I was starting to get worried the blaze would jump to the tree or the car parked in front of it. I walked down the hall contemplating whether I should bust the glass to one of the extinguishers when I heard sirens. The firefighters had the fire out within moments. The front of the car was a melted, black mess.

Everything in California seems to catch on fire.

Fire Flight Photos

Directly across from us, roughly 200 yards, after we reached the top of our climb.
It took about 3 minutes to turn from a spark into this.
It, of course, doesn’t look nearly as foreboding in a photo.

If you haven’t read my prior post, now is a good time to check it out because I have pictures and you may want to know what I am talking about if you look at them.

More Pics Here

Adventures in Mining

I returned to the Altadena Mines for the third time today. With me were Erika, Patrick and Anne Marie. We visited two mines, I explored the smaller claustrophobia-inducing one further this time, and we were making good time traversing the steep climb to the third cave. We stood at the summit taking a small break before entering the last mine shaft. Erika smelled smoke. Then, I heard crackling. Patrick pointed out a patch of smoke. Ahead, across the thin ravine, dancing up a hillside was a growing flame. It was moving quickly and growing steadily. Adjacent was the path we had taken into the gorge.

There was no time to waste. The route to the third mine is roughly thirty minutes of climbing rock faces ranging between five and fifteen feet, a few mildly precarious. The climb is dry, dusty, and littered with pebbles intent on tripping anyone not paying special attention to their footing. We launched down the mountainside. Sliding, jumping, slipping, occasionally climbing. We moved as quickly as possible without risking plummeting over an edge. As quickly as we moved down the mountain, the fire doubled moving up the opposing hillside. Erika and I slid into the gorge. Across from us, Patrick was waving us toward a somewhat slippery and dusty steep slope that would bring us to the exit path much sooner. Anne Marie was nearly at the top and smoke was beginning to roll in.

We jogged down the path towards the park entrance. Firefighters with hoses and fire trucks passing us along the way. The top of the nearby hill was already black and burned through. At one point, flames flickered along the edge of the trail. A helicopter passed overhead. We approached the street, a news van parked along the curb, spectators gathered outside their homes and near their vehicles staring into the distance. We were filthy, bruised, scraped, but we were not on fire.

I wonder what would have been the turn of events had we made it to the cave five minutes sooner. How strong would the blaze have been when we exited? Some hikers were air-lifted to safety. We were lucky enough to see the fire start and escape before it got too large. We were also lucky the weather wasn’t against us.

Al-Insan asked us not to do anything new and exciting without him. I hope he’s not too upset.
News Report by ABC