Today is the release day for Old Flames. But it’s very hard for me to celebrate right now. Oregon is on fire. This last week has seen the deadliest and most destructive wildfires in my state’s history.
One week ago today, on September 8, I woke up at 8:30 and thought the sun hadn’t risen yet. It was dark as night, but when I looked out the window I was greeted by the unnerving sight of red. The sky was red. The air out my window was red. Everything was red.
As it turned out, overnight massive wildfires had broken out due to a historic windstorm the night before. Hurricane-force winds more typical of winter weather came along with unprecedented high temperatures and low humidity. Everything caught fire. Everything.
That morning when I looked out the window, a massive fire was raging just 15 miles east of my house. We spent several days on tenterhooks, unsure of whether we would have to evacuate or not. Miraculously, I did not need to evacuate. But many of my friends did. Many members of my community lost their homes. Some members of my community lost their lives.
And that morning, as I looked out my bedroom window at a world on fire, I was very, very cognizant of the fact that I was just days away from the publication of a book where the main character is in the exact same position I was. When I wrote the book, I specifically noted that I invented a fictional town because I didn’t want to wish destruction on any real location. And then, one week before its release, I got to watch that very destruction befall my own community.
I felt déjà vu as I looked out at the orange sky, as I breathed in the horrible smell of smoke, as I watched the evacuation zones grow closer to my house, as I packed my go-bag, as I scrambled to find N95 respirators for my family who needed to work outside in the smoke. And I kicked myself for the little details I got wrong. Like the fact that ash caked the ground, the rooftops, the cars on the street in a way eerily reminiscent of the eruption of Mount St. Helens. Or like the fact that even though they were able to send out blaring text messages to alert us about contaminated drinking water, they haven’t figured out how to do that for fire evacuations yet, meaning some people slept through evacuation notices and barely escaped with their lives.
I wrote Old Flames both as a way to raise awareness about this reality of life in the western US, and as a way to process my own experiences with wildfire in 2017, when I had to watch the destruction of my former home of Sonoma County from a distance, unable to do anything but worry. I had no way of knowing, when I finished writing the book in July, what was waiting for me and my current home the very week of this book’s release.
This time, I am here, and I can help.
I will be donating all proceeds from sales of Old Flames through at least the rest of the year to aid for fire victims and to organizations focused on wildfire prevention. This includes Kindle Unlimited page reads, so if you’re a KU subscriber and you’d like to check the book out that way, I will still dedicate those funds to helping the community recover from these fires.
If you would like to more directly help the victims of the Santiam Fire (also known as the Beachie Creek Fire) and the other disastrous fires in Oregon, please check out these resources.
Old Flames is available now for anyone who would like to read it and support the fire victims in this small way.