Every Saturday the women and girls in the Nation Of Islam are privileged to various education classes, fellowship and spirituality. The morning of November 15 was no different, except that at the time, there was a huge fire raging in Sylmar, California.
I was monitoring the news about the fire when I went into my class, which was hosted by our beautiful sisters in the Inland Empire, and not much had changed.
But when my Sisters and I came out of class, which was about an hour's drive from Los Angeles, and headed toward the 91 Freeway, an easy route into the City, we saw miles and miles of black and red smoke covering part of Orange County.
Immediately we knew it was a land fire and not simply structural because of the size of the clouds, but we were startled because we'd heard no reports of fires blazing on the east side, just out west in Sylmar.
Our children marveled at the bright yellow and red water dropping planes and I quickly redirected our van to an alternate route, because many of the Orange County freeways were shut down.
At least 8 freeways were shut down in all.
As we watched motorcycle police and four San Bernardino County fire trucks whiz by, we listened to the personal stories of escape and loss on talk radio.
Health officials warned people with any respiratory problems to stay indoors.
What we found out was that three other fires had formed from Orange County to Santa Barbara. In all one elderly man died during evacuations.
We've seen massive fires in California before - most recently in San Diego County and L.A. County - yet these drew the same response: "Unbelievable!"
My Sister, Toni, and her family, as well as many of our friends live in Corona, which took many losses Saturday. But they were all OK. The worst for them was they were under a lot of smoke and ash and could not really leave the area because of freeway closures.
"The entire area is completely under smoke and heavy ash. It is completely dark up here. We can't even see the sun," one reporter said.
An entire shopping complex (I passed it all the time) was ravaged by one of the Corona fires. And many million-dollar homes were reduced to frames and foundation.
According to reports, in Sylmar and Granada Hills, 8,000 acres burned, 541 homes were destroyed or damaged and 10 commercial buildings were lost.
Palos Verdes lost 10 acres and in Brea, 200 acres burned and two schools were damaged, but no homes were lost. Corona, Yorba Linda and Anaheim Hills suffered 5,800 scorched acres and 106 damaged or destroyed houses and apartments.
When we were near the fire zones, on the 10 Freeway, situated near the 57 and 71 freeways near Yorba Linda and Corona, we didn't have that much smoke or ash, but when we got closer to home and farther away from the fires, we became enveloped with smoke and ash and consumed by poor air quality.
This morning, because of strong winds, the cars are covered with ash, the sky is dull and there's a reddish orange haze in the atmosphere, yet, we're located anywhere from 30 minutes to one hour either way from Sylmar to the west and Orange County to the east.
What's disturbing is that as of this posting the causes for the fires were unknown.
Yesterday, Sis. LaWanda Muhammad and I recalled that with each of the major fire storms that swept across Southern California counties, at least one of the fires were set on purpose and we were praying that none of these were.