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  • Writer's pictureJanee Pennington

From the Flames...

So much has happened since my last post. Millions of people in the West Coast are breathing toxic air, thousands have been evacuated, and hundreds have lost their homes or livelihoods to the fires. All of this happening during a worldwide pandemic intensifying the situation and emotions to the max.

Border to Border

Colin and I were in Malibu a month ago. The smoke first started to creep over from the Lake Hughes fire just inland, north of LA. We decided to head south to San Diego to see family members passing the Ranch2 fire smoke to the east along the four hour drive south. Three days later, my environmental and chemical sensitivities started to sound the alarm as I felt like I couldn't breathe, even when trying to stay sheltered inside our eco-trailer. The air quality (AQI) was climbing rapidly, as were my reactions to the smoke. We knew we had to make a move, and do it quickly.

We decided to cut our trip short and start heading north. It pained us to have to leave without seeing more of our loved ones, but we knew it was going to get worse before it got better. We drove all afternoon and well into the night stopping (even with a car warning light flashing away) in Bodega Bay at 5am the next morning. Here, we felt safe though we had no idea at the time how deceptive this feeling would eventually turn out to be. Blue skies abound. We decided to rest a bit, wipe down the trailer from the smoke and make plans to have the car serviced the next day in Marin, only to be engulfed by smoke by 2:30pm. I was still in loungewear when I heard Colin raise his voice and insist I pack up our mobile home and race from the nearby flames. One look out the window would expose a blanket of fire smoke filling the sky and turning the sun an eerie shade of blood red.

At this point, breathing was becoming a chore. I will absolutely admit, I was scared and losing hope that we'd make it to a safe area. Over the coming hours we were underneath the plume of smoke from the Bush fire, watching the flames off the side of the freeway. It reminded us of the night before as we passed the SCU and LCU Lightening Complex Fires. The news outlets were reporting very little promise for this to subside any time soon. Days of driving and not knowing if we were going to make it somewhere breathable started to take a serious toll. Something had to give.

These levels of air quality are unprecedented. Even for completely healthy people with no chemical sensitivities, it is dangerous. We had to keep going, there was no other option. We woke up every day exhausted but felt as if we headed north we would soon find a safe place. We set our sights on Seattle, fought through the depletion of any and all energy we had left at this point, and kept heading north.

After exiting the golden state, we made it to Oregon. There we found fresh, clean air!! Oh the relief! I can't even begin to describe the weight that left our shoulders. We had made it out of the dark, toxic cloud that was creeping over California, into the warm embrace of Oregon's breathable air. I took some deep breaths and was able to ease the tension in my body.

And then, another happy encounter: RAIN! Glorious, wonderful rain. It was such a welcomed sight. I was crossing my fingers that it would make its way south, where it was (and still is) desperately needed.

Stepping outside and taking in the ocean gave us a much needed boost. I had almost forgotten how beautiful Oregon is.

The next morning was no exception. We awoke to another stunning view.

After soaking in the clean air and gorgeous sights, we no longer could ignore the electrical issues which needed fixing immediately. Nothing like waking up in the middle of the night to your car alarm going off without reason! Something had changed where the alarm had become so sensitive, even mice scurrying by would set it off. We set our GPS for Seattle and headed to the Porsche dealership for repairs.

My health requires I stay in only fragrance-free, non-toxic lodging. It's why we bought the eco-trailer to begin with. This can make traveling challenging as the population has not yet caught up with the need for fragrance-free accommodations. There was no where safe for me to stay. Fortunately, the wonderful staff at Porsche Bellingham were willing to let us park the trailer right on the lot! We stayed the night amongst some of Colin's favorite models and we added it to the list of most unusual places we've stayed over the last 10 1/2 months.

On The Run Again

When we heard the news that fires had started in Oregon, our hearts sank. More lives at risk, homes being evacuated, wildlife in danger and of course, more toxic smoke... It was incredible how quickly the AQI started to rise to unhealthy levels. It felt like we left one epicenter for another. A whole week of non-stop driving, just to end up in the same situation we had just fled. My sensitivities flared as the air quality became no longer safe. Again, we had to run.

We drove all the way to the town of Blaine, WA, right below the Canadian border hugging the coast for the fresher marine air rather than traveling the quicker I-5 corridor. Then back down towards Seattle for scheduled appointments and onto Mt. Rainier. Everywhere we went the smoke was following us. The trailer was no longer sheltering us from the toxic air and my well-being started to nosedive.

After weighing our very limited options, feeling exhausted and defeated, we had an old friend offer her fragrance-free apartment on Kauai for refuge. The thought of flying during the pandemic seemed dangerous. But, after talking it out, we really had no other option. Our health and sanity levels were heading to zero. I needed to get on that plane and get to safety, in some ways It felt as if I was playing Russian Roulette.

The sky the day we flew out of Seattle.

Fortunately, the airline staff did an excellent job at easing our anxieties and keeping the flight as safe as possible for all travelers. I remain thankful for their efforts. Once landing on Kauai, we were met by Army soldiers, police and investigators. After pleading our case to Hawaiian officials, we were finally granted access to our friend's fragrance-free home on the condition of a mandatory two-week quarantine. No leaving whatsoever, not to walk to the beach, shop for groceries, rent a car, etc... no exceptions. We agreed to the terms and are so relieved and grateful to finally feel safe.

This view will get us by while we wait out our quarantine, and thankfully we are still able to work from here. Our only visitors at the moment are the officials who make sure we are sticking to the rules.

We don't mind. We are just happy to be safe and still have our health. On that note, I wish you all the same. Sending love and light to everyone affected by these fires or any of the natural disasters going on around the world.

I think we can all agree that climate change is not up for debate. It is happening in real time and we are living with the devastating effects. This is not the curse of 2020, this is our wake up call and I hate to admit it but this is just the beginning of disasters to come. We must start taking this crisis seriously on a mass scale. I encourage you to call your state representatives to see what the plan is for your region going forward. We should also be insisting on more bans from major polluters all over the world if we want to see a future for our children and grandchildren.

And since voting has already begun in many states, PLEASE exercise your rights and vote for those people who will help keep us all alive. THIS election is the most important in our lifetime. We all need to step up and take action NOW.

Thank you for checking in today. I'll make sure to update within the next couple weeks.

If you live on the west coast of the U.S., please make sure to check your local AQI levels and stay indoors as much as possible until the fires are under control. In the meantime, you can also check with your local areas on how best to help with wildfire recovery. Thinking of you all.

In good health,


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Sep 17, 2020

I have been so worried about You guys!!!

So glad that you are here!

Can I do anything for you???

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