I live in a Red Flag fire area in the Berkeley Hills.

Fire Palette

Early this week my neighbor called me at 5:30am to say there was a fire down the road by the Golf Course and we need to be ready to evacuate.  I’ve lived in this house for over 25 years now and through all the earthquakes, rain and fire I’ve always put off being prepared.  Until now.

A Red Flag Warning means that critical fire weather conditions
are either occurring now…or will shortly. A combination of
strong winds…low relative humidity…and warm temperatures can
contribute to extreme fire behavior.

My “go bag” is ready, filled with underwear, pants, shirt, jacket and boots.  Extra cash, keys to the Brazil apartment, eyeglasses and flashlights are in there as well.  I’m in the process of xeroxing papers, getting dog and me food and extra batteries.  I talked to my neighbor and she has all her stuff in a backpack.  That sounds even better so now I’m transferring it all into something I can carry on my back.

It’s calming to know I’m ready.

I feel lucky that I live close to a Lake.  I read in the news how one couple survived because they stayed submerged in their swimming pool for six hours.  I feel lucky that I have 4 exits plus footpaths to get out.  The car has a full tank of gas and I pulled the nail out of the tire today and got it patched.  I’m ready.  Lila’s ready.

Emergencies are like opportunities.

You never know when they’re coming but oh the possibilities if you’re ready.  This seems to be a good rule for life in general.  Even in the studio, it pays to be ready.  I’ve had to consciously slow down and get my materials, griddles, electrical outlets and torches ready BEFORE I begin painting.  Perhaps it’s like the organized chef’s mise en place.  From the website, Things, Arranged:

In the kitchen, mise en place refers to the chef’s process of preparing ingredients and setting them in an ordered arrangement for eventual inclusion in a given recipe.  The selection, preparation and arrangement of ingredients before the cooking phase allows a chef to quickly access the right ingredient at the right moment when the heat is on.

Kitchen, studio or home; having an ordered arrangement has its advantages.  It allows for non-thinking action which is faster than thought.  Open mind?  Accessing subconscious awareness that senses danger or the next paint stroke is the key to greatness and survival.

I’ve set only one fire in my studio.

A small fire that sent my legs shaking and the immediate purchase and installation of a fire extinguisher.  In hindsight I realized I hadn’t fully organized my table.  I thought I had given myself room to torch my large panel.  When you torch a panel, you always start on one side of the panel a little ahead and finish a little beyond.  (I have a cotton drop cloth on my table for fire safety.)  That keeps the wax nice and level on the edges.  It was that little beyond that got me into trouble.

I finished my pass and noticed a tiny smoldering of paper to my right.  I patted it down and gave it no thought.  This was common.  As I began my next pass side left, out of the corner of my right eye I saw that the box of pastels was on fire.  The oily paper in the box had ignited into flames.  I scooped the whole ball of flame into my hands, ran out to the driveway and threw it on the ground.  I hosed it down with water and my legs were rubber.  Lesson learned.  Respect fire.

This week I received an extremely thoughtful email from James at North Berkeley Investment Partners, where I recently had a show.  Knowing that I was in an extreme fire area, he offered temporary storage for some of my paintings.

It’s the opportunity of humanity and kindness that will get us through these emergencies.

Someone asked me what I’d do with my Art if there were a fire.

I’m prepared.  I can call James.