The Jesusita Trail above Santa Barbara, before the fire. Photograph by Steven Pinker.
At last the trail climbed above the mist level and, looking back, Joseph and Thomas saw the tumbling sea of fog extending to the horizon, covering from sight the sea and the mountain slopes. And in a little they reached the pass and looked over their own dry dead valley, burning under the vicious sun, smoking with heat waves… Joseph’s heart was filled with sorrow and with defeat. “Something has failed,” he thought. “I was appointed to care for the land, and I have failed.” He was disappointed in himself and in the land… Joseph looked up at the dry, white hills and squinted his eyes against their reflection of the glaring sun. His eyes followed the water scars up the hill to the dry springs and over the unfleshed mountains… Once, from the foothills, he looked back on the dry houses, huddled together under the sun… “It will win,” Joseph said aloud. “The drought will get in at us.” He was frightened.
Excerpts from TO A GOD UNKNOWN by John Steinbeck
According to a late Saturday night report from the Associated Press, “Thousands of residents were back home Saturday as a blanket of cool, moist air flowing in from the Pacific Ocean tamed a wind-driven wildfire that burned dozens of homes along the outskirts of town during the week…”
“Notorious local winds known as ‘sundowners’ sweeping from inland and down the face of the mountains drove the fire into outlying neighborhoods Wednesday afternoon, causing most of the destruction, and again late Thursday and early Friday.”
“A predicted sundowner failed to materialize Friday night, and instead the normal flow of air from the Pacific Ocean pushed ashore a dense, moist marine layer that didn’t let the sun peek through until nearly midday. Officials had said an onshore flow would raise humidity levels and blow the fire away from developed areas on the foothills.”