I was right in the middle of the Sesnon Fire below the hills in the northern San Fernando Valley. Returning from a trip to the East, smoke billowing from the hills just north of my house. Evacuations called for just blocks away. The cars packed, pictures off the walls, reinforcements brought in … my sons and friend. Many of my walking and hiking areas burned to black. Then we waited to see the how the fires turned, flowed or jumped in the dried hills.

In the dark of the night the bright blaze on the hillside had a hypnotic effect, both strangely stunning and scary at the same time.

The fire burned down to Sesnon Blvd. I call one of my race walking courses the Sesnon Loop. I’m up there all the time. Had the fire jumped that road houses would have surely gone up in flames. The firefighters made a stand here, pushing back the flames. They were on top of the fire immediately, letting some of the dried brush burn down so they would not have to come back and fight the fire in that spot again, then applying water to the fire and putting it out.

The fire swept along the side of the hills below Mission Peak, the highest point in that part of the range. The terrain is rugged there. I’ve climbed it enough to know. The fire was confronted at first by the water dropping helicopters and then water dropping planes. Only after the planes hit their marks, did firefighters walk up into the hills to tamp out the embers.

I checked on the progress of the fire and its containment from time to time, making the short journey up the street. On more than one occasion I thought the fire had flared anew only to realize the reddish color I spotted was a line of firefighters dressed in orange protective gear on the rise of a hill.

Ironically, I had a Fire Battalion Chief in to speak to my Pepperdine Public Policy School Class the week before. We talked about situations like this.

Government officials showed up talking about what was happening with the fire. Mayor Villaraigosa spoke about the progress made, Insurance Commissioner Poizner gave guidance on dealing with fire insurance issues. Governor Schwarzenegger said he would find the money to take care of this fire emergency. He reminded everyone that he tried to get a fee passed dedicated to a fund dealing with the California wild fires but was not successful

I expect we will hear more about the fire fee again soon.

In the meantime, we wait to see if the wind changes.