Berkeley, CA — This story was updated on August 25, 2020. The audio (above) reflects an earlier version of this essay.
I live in the Berkeley Hills, an area that’s considered at risk for fires. Every fall, I wonder whether my neighborhood will be the next to burn down.
When I was younger, I remember thinking about what it would be like to evacuate our house, what I would bring if we had to leave in the middle of the night. While it was a real fear, I could never truly imagine my house on fire.
My parents have talked about leaving our house for years. Now, with deadly, destructive fires in the North, East and South Bay becoming the new normal, that possibility has become more and more real.
While the idea of moving out of my childhood home saddens me, my parents’ decision makes sense. No matter the memories our house has, I understand their concern when I smell smoke as I leave the house or see brown clouds of smog from our window.
It’s terrifying to think my home could burn down because of a lightning storm, like those that caused the current wildfires, a faulty transmission line, like in the fire that destroyed the town of Paradise, or whatever other accidents spark fire seasons for years to come.