Northern California through Northern Irish eyes…

As people back home on the island of Ireland contend with what’s been dubbed, “Storm Ophelia,” here in California, its the opposite problem of horrific deadly wildfires ongoingly dominating.

A huge need for rain is the repetitive cry here. I wish they could have some of our Celtic variety.


Last week’s devastating wildfires in Napa and Sonoma Counties have now claimed over 40 lives, and ruined no less than 5700 homes. It’s horrendous and doesn’t bear thinking about.

California’s Governor, Jerry Brown, said it was, “One of the greatest tragedies the State had ever faced.”

Hundreds of people are still missing, unaccounted for, and more than 100,000 people have been displaced.

One thing I find extremely disconcerting, though, living ‘just up the road,’ (at present about 3 and half hours north of where some of the devastation was and is), is the general sense of, ‘Hmm, it’s another awful wildfire. Oh well, so glad it doesn’t affect me,” and then life trundles along and we continue on in our sheltered sun-kissed lives.

It feels a ‘wee bit’ bizarre, to say the least. But not uncommon here, with this, and other things.

But I suppose, what else do people do? Life goes on, and people have to just keep going with their own lives. We can pray, (and local Christians have been), but apart from that, there’s also a slight sense of the out of control nature of these fires, and what to do about them.

Something about my age and younger folks, though, (one might call ‘millennials’), is what I call, ‘active ignorance.’ The deliberate choosing of ignorance here, rather than to be informed or actually know a bit more of what’s going on around us here.

I am the opposite, as the journalist and reporter in me wants to know details of what’s going on, wherever I am.

One gets the sense, that people here, though, would rather stay entertained or sheltered from the reality around them which does not align well with inner mantras that believe everything is awesome.

It takes a bit of strong inner self-awareness and personal honest confrontation to come to terms with dealing with the fact that not everything in life is (awesome).

My heart goes out to all those affected and devastated by the horrendous fires down the road.


Just six weeks ago today I was blessed to drive (a rental car) through Napa Valley, knowing it was well renowned for its distinctive, and abundant wineries. I recall clearly thinking, ‘Wow the grass is so yellow and sunburnt here, it could easily catch fire,’ and sadly this proved to be oh so right.

At least 13 wineries in Napa Valley have been destroyed and millions of dollars worth of wine. Only time will really tell the further implications of this past disastrous week here in this region.

Fires are nothing new to Northern Californian people, and they have an in built resilience to them, it seems, in the same way that perhaps we as Northern Ireland people might have inbuilt resilience to political chaos or terrorist activities.

They will rebuild, and life will happen again, even for those devastated communities.

For today though, I cant help but continue to think of all the firefighters and their families, doing their best to tackle these ferocious blazes, risking their own lives in doing so. Currently over ten thousand are still in action. This is the brave spirit of America right in action.

And prayers continue for Ophelia to run her course and not do the horrific damage she is predicted to back home, though I gather she’s already doing her worst.

Stay safe folks.



(Photo above: Portballintrae, Northern Ireland).



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