Things are starting to get back to normal, at least for those of us not directly affected by the Santiago Fire. There was a layer of haze coating the mountains Monday morning, but the air smelled normal, and the sky, when the clouds broke up, was blue.

Layer of smoke in front of backlit Saddleback

My co-worker who stayed behind in Silverado came back to work today, and had all kinds of stories about everything from rescuing kittens from burning houses and repairing a radio repeater to holding off advancing flames with a length of PVC pipe (using it to break apart the brush ahead of it).

The air was clearer even than usual, affording a detailed view of the hills and Santa Ana Mountains. The clouds made patterns of light and dark on the landscape. The hills looked better in sunlight than in shadow, with the light brown (dirt?) dominating over the charred stubble. In the shade, the hillsides simply looked blackened.

The mountains, on the other hand, looked better in shadow. As silhouettes, they looked no different than on any hazy day (except for the one plume of smoke still rising). In sunlight, however, they looked gray (normally from this distance they look brown) from all the ashes. From what I read, there are places where every bit of vegetation for acres has burned. My co-worker said areas of the mountains looked like a moonscape.

Gray mountains covered with ash

I actually saw, from a long distance, a helicopter (presumably) dropping red flame retardant on the mountains to create a fire line.

Red flame retardant dropping into the mountains

Late in the afternoon I actually spotted some faint Anti-crepuscular rays (think Thomas Kinkade, but in the direction opposite the sun) looking out the window. They were too faint to get a decent photo, though.

Sometime, maybe this weekend, I plan on driving out to see the landscape more closely.

Golden Sunset

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