Working in the line of a California wildfire, 11/15/18

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Traveler Spotlight: Kelli N., HT(ASCP)

Nearly one month after arriving for an assignment in California, one of our seasoned histology contractors found herself working about a mile from the deadly “Woolsey Fire”. The fire broke out November 8, 2018 in Ventura and Los Angeles Counties, and, at press time a week later, was only 57 percent contained and had killed three people.

“When I went to work on Friday morning,” said Kelli N., “I was like, ‘I don’t remember all these lights being up on that mountain’. And then I realized they were orange, and it wasn’t lights at all — it was flames.”

Kelli N., HT(ASCP) and her pup Stella
Kelli N., HT(ASCP) and her pup Stella

She said the devastating fire started very close to her laboratory eventually bringing the flames within a mile.

“Anytime anyone would go on break they would come back in and report what was going on. We’d all go out and take a picture then come back in and show everybody how close the fire was [getting].”

Work parking lot, break, Friday, Nov. 9, 2018, 6:00 AM
Work parking lot, lunch, Friday, Nov. 9, 2018, 9:30 AM
End of the work day, Friday, Nov. 9, 2018, 1:30 PM
Looking toward Malibu, still in flames, Tuesday, Nov. 13

Despite the proximity of the fire on Friday, the immediate area where the laboratory was located was not under evacuation orders. That all changed the following day: “We couldn’t go to work Saturday because of the flames. The supervisor went to work that day to save the specimens. He said the whole mountainside was on fire.”

Kelli said she could smell the smoke at home eight miles away due to a change in direction of the Santa Ana winds, which are defined by the National Weather Service as “strong, hot, dust-bearing winds [that] descend to the Pacific Coast around Los Angeles from inland desert regions”.

“It literally smelled like a campfire. Me being here in my fifth wheel made me feel like I really was camping here in LA.” She said she could have called someone to haul it to a safer place, but if worse came to worse, “Me and the dog would have left. I’ve got insurance. I can replace everything else.”

Despite the tragic fire, Kelli really likes being in California’s San Fernando Valley. In fact, given the opportunity, she would extend her contract. She feels perfectly safe where she is, mainly because of the numerous street-side fire hydrants.

There are currently two other fires burning in California, the “Camp Fire” in Butte County, which is reported to be 35 percent contained, and the “Hill Fire” in Ventura County that is 92 percent contained. The cause of the fires is still being investigated.

The Santa Ana winds continually blow, Friday, Nov. 9, 2018 9:30 AM

The fire and the Santa Ana winds, Friday, Nov. 9, 2018 1:30 PM

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Author: Karen DiDonato

Karen, our digital content strategist, has worked with HCI since 2004. She holds a Bachelor of Science with a concentration in communications. In her free time she enjoys baking, reading, and gardening.

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