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The Mental Load of Fire Season for Parents

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By: Kelly Brown   |   August 26, 2021

Every winter I hike through the hills of Terra Linda (the name of our neighborhood that literally means “beautiful land”). As red-tail hawks fly overhead and my kids fight over rocks and sticks, we are in awe of this magical place.
However, every summer, as fire season approaches, my gut fills with dread and I spend my nights texting friends Redfin listings of houses in other states and Googling things like, “What’s the quietest air filter?”

We’ve been extremely lucky not to be in a fire evacuation zone these last few years. Every ounce of my being goes out to those who’ve suffered in ways worse than I can imagine. We are in the privileged position of owning a home and being able to purchase things like air filters and yet, the mental load of the fire season is still very real.
First, there’s the physical threat of nearby fires, the smoke in the air that fills your lungs, the scratchy throat, and the ash on your car every morning that acts as a reminder of your neighbors losing their homes and the firefighters working endlessly to save lives.
Second, there’s the exhaustion from preparation and worry.
There’s the full tank of gas and the bag that’s packed with extra diapers, dog food, pajamas, water, and a box of snack bars from Costco. Or the bag that isn’t packed that you’re wondering if you should pack.

Third, there’s the deeper questions that arise. As parents, you think about the long-term implications of climate change, living in a place prone to drought and fires, and wondering if this beautiful land will be a place where your children can and will want to live.
All of these things create an immense mental load that makes it harder to do the basic things and sort through long-term decisions. Will the air quality be good enough for school tomorrow? Will we be able to play outside? Is this place we love and call home our forever home?

During these times of high stress, it’s important to double-down on the basics: rest, water and foods that help your body. But it’s also important to protect yourself emotionally. Call your level-headed friends, read books and watch shows that are light, and take things off your schedule if possible because your mind is very busy.
There aren’t any clear answers about how this fire season or the next one will go and the best you can do is the best you can do. As fire season approaches, I invite you to be kinder to yourself and your neighbors knowing that we’re all in this together and figuring it out as we go along. 


Kelly Brown is a mother of three, Health Coach, and founder of Real Food House. Kelly leads a transformational wellness program called 10x REAL where she guides people in prioritizing their own health and wellness in the midst of parenthood. You can reach Kelly by email - follow her @realfoodhouse or learn more at

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