Smoke in the air

Updated: Dec 14, 2018


YREKA, California – When I got out of my car an hour south of Yreka, my clothes smelled like I spent the whole night sitting two metres from a bonfire. A strong, sour smell of something burned.

And indeed something did burn. 40-50 kilometres west of Yreka a 13.000 acres forest fire was raging with just five percent contained and 1120 fire fighters trying get that number up to a hundred. Miles upon miles of highway before, during and after Yreka lay covered in this thick, dark grey smoke.

Now, almost two weeks later, the fire, in Klamath National Forest, is more than three times bigger but the fire fighters have contained 85 percent.

You can read about the development of that fire and all other forest fires in the US here on this fascinating website.


“You can live here for 30 years with nothing happening. Or your house can burn down tomorrow,” an older man selling aprons and tea towels with prints at the local market in Yreka told me. 

No one knows how the fire erupted but a mix of brushwood and thunderstorm is likely to have been the cause. So in hot and dry August the locals never know when the next fire comes.


A lot of brilliant words have been written about forest fires in California and I can highly recommend this two-page essay by Joan Didion, which at least gave me a thrilling understanding of how it is to live with the constant threat from forests in Los Angeles.

Speaking of Los Angeles: this season’s biggest forest fire is right now roaring north of the city in Los Padres National Forest. That one was caused by an illegal campfire and has so far burned more than 100.000 acres of forest (404.000 square metres). To strike that match…


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