Fire. The thing all residents of the Santa Monica Mountains fear and know that sooner or later they will have to face. Topanga and Pacific Palisades were plunged into wildfire hell this week. As of Tuesday, May 18, when the Topanga New Times went to press, the fire had burned 1,158 acres—down slightly from the initial estimate of 1,325 acres,and containment was 32 percent, and the suspect who allegedly set the fire, was in custody, apprehended on May 16. 

As the containment number climbs and the threat recedes, it’s increasingly clear that the Palisades Fire was a disaster that was averted, thanks to the response of firefighters and cooperative weather, but we had no way of knowing that when the incident began. The smell of smoke, the ominous darkness, the ash falling like snow, the glow behind the mountains that lets you know the fire is on the other side even if you can’t see it, that’s the stuff of nightmares. 

The anxiety wildfires cause is the price of living in this particular paradise. Recovery from a wildfire, even one that mercifully has spared lives and houses, can be painful and slow. The media and the world forget about the impact of the disaster long before the people experiencing it are out from under its shadow. We will get through this together as a community, but it takes time, patience, and kindness to each other and ourselves.

We’ve summarized what we know about this fire on page 8. And the most important thing we know is that we are blessed to have tough, skilled and experienced firefighting crews and fire pilots, dedicated volunteers at organizations like TCEP and Topanga Animal Rescue ready to help in a crisis, assets like the one-of-a-kind 69 Bravo helistop atop Topanga, expertly coordinated interagency cooperation, and some of the best neighbors anywhere. When bad things happen we are in good hands.

The Topanga Community Center is hoping things will be back to normal soon, and has rescheduled its May concert, featuring Kummerspeck, for May 29. TCC gates will open at 4 p.m., the show will begin at 5 p.m. Tickets purchased for the cancelled concert will still be good for the new date. It’s not too late to buy a ticket. Visit www.topangacommunitycenter.org for more information.

Here at TNT we are also hoping that things are back to normal or near normal by Friday, when this paper arrives. In addition to our fire coverage we have a feature on toxic garden plants, a look at WWII history and a walk down memory lane with our retrospective on the first full year of Topanga New Times.

We also share reflections on the lessons of the 1995 film Groundhog Day applied to life in the perpetual state of deja vu generated by the coronavirus crisis. That crisis is beginning to recede. California Governor Gavin Newsom has pledged to reopen the state in June, and new CDC guidelines may mean mandatory face coverings will soon be a thing of the past, although many of us are not quite ready to take off our masks in public. Little by little, one travels far.

Stay safe, be well.