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A year after the Los Angeles Riots, a wave of wildfires driven by the Santa Ana winds rushed across wide swaths of suburbia. The fires were so severe that I could see the San Gabriel Valley foothills burning from Lincoln Heights. On the streets, hushed rumors were passed around regarding the source and cause of the fires. It was being said all over town (at least in the working class parts of town), that the fires were started by the looters and rioters of South Central as an answer to the critics who said they were stupid for “burning down their own neighborhoods.” I even remember reading in the Los Angeles Times about a guy in South Central who was picked up and questioned about the wildfires. I tried to follow up on the story months afterwards but as is all too common, the stories of class war fueled fires faded away into the dustbin of history.
I mention this because I heard the oddest thing at work today. One of my co-workers mentioned a very strange rumor regarding the current wave of Southern California wildfires. She said her mother’s boss (I think she works for a school and I think both belong to an Evangelist Christian church) said the fires were started by No on Prop 8 folks as revenge for the measure passing. I was flabbergasted! I really doubt the mother’s boss made this rumor up herself and I will bet anything it’s being passed around at the local store front churches.
Interesting questions emerge from these urban legends, have our local seasonal wildfires become the outlet for our urban fears and fantasies? Do the mysterious origins of these fires lend themselves to the projection of our collective dark thoughts? Any other rumors out there?