California Burns

Yesterday afternoon the Santa Ana winds kicked up in Southern California. For those of us who live here that means one thing: Fires. As of late last night, I was only aware of one fire in Malibu which is typical when these winds kick up. Malubu is in one of the worst possible places due to natural geography.

This morning, I awoke to news of 7 counties being declared in a state of emergency and word of several fires which have been burning through the night. The last estimates on acres burned was somewhere around 35,000 but the early morning news reports tell a much more grim story. From the sound of it, the stats are probably going to rise sharply once the sun comes up and they have a chance to survey the burn from the air.

The winds this morning are especially vicious. Driving into Orange County was somewhat unnerving given the smell of smoke and the thick dust in the air. There's also numerous pieces of trees laying all over the roads, including the 57 freeway. The force of the wind is high enough that folks need to watch out for semis that might get blown over. Not to mention being beaned by flying limbs or something. The air is also bone dry, hovering around 10% humidity. There's also lots of brush that grew and didn't burn last year. It's pretty much the perfect storm for fires. Gusts are expected as high as 105mph in some areas.

As of right now, we have wildfires burning in the following areas:

Malibu, San Diego County near Tecate Mexico, Ramona ( Northern San Diego County ), Irvine, Castaic, and Canyon Country ( Ventura County ).

The Tecate fire has apparently proved fatal for at least one person, as well as injuring 10 firefighters. The Malibu fire has destroyed 4 homes and 2 commercial buildings, both of which were considered historical landmarks. The Irvine fire was burning near the 241 toll road and may have jumped it by now given that the winds in that area are known to gust into the 90s. Word has it this morning that the Castaic and Canyon Country fires have merged and are burning into the hills.

KFI and KABC are both reporting on one particular fire in Carbon Canyon - this isn't the one in Chino Hills. Apparently there's a second Carbon Canyon out in Ventura County near the Topanga area. I wasn't aware of this at first and got nervous when they mentioned it since I was about to drive into Carbon Canyon until I realized where they were talking about. People should really avoid naming two places in the same general area the same thing.

None of the fires burning have any containment yet. Firefighters are simply doing what they can to protect homes in the areas, and residents have been ordered to evacuate. We're expecting winds to stay at these levels until at least Tuesday afternoon, so it's likely to get a lot worse before it gets better.
"It is pointless to resist, my son." -- Darth Vader
"Resistance is futile." -- The Borg
"Mother's coming for me in the dragon ships. I don't like these itchy clothes, but I have to wear them or it frightens the fish." -- Thurindil

Well. I guess that's that then.

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Posted on Oct 22, 2007 8:48 am by Samson in: | 15 comment(s) [Closed]
Wow, Samson, that sounds really rough, stay safe as best you can, 'k?

On a positive note, the picture you choose for this one is really kind of pretty in it's way...

It's gotten a whole lot worse since I posted that this morning. The picture here of a house burning down has become the norm for several of the fire areas that were burning this morning, and now we have several new ones which have cropped up.

We're in a pretty safe area down here in the city so we're not going to get chased out of our homes, but due to the new fires burning in the Lake Arrowhead area in the mountains northeast of us, we're sitting under an ugly dark cloud of smoke that's been raining ash out here all day long. From reports we've gotten from up there, 140 homes have burned to the ground and pretty much everyone is evacuated from the area. The Big Bear/Arrowhead is an especially dangerous place when fires break out because a bunch of environmentalist wackjobs wouldn't let the forest service people go in and thin out the trees. So the forest grew, and grew really thick. Then the bark beetles came and decimated more than half the trees. Now there's a seriously large amount of dead, dry wood standing in amongst the rest of the trees and all it would take is a flying ember or two from a nearby fire to torch 500,000 acres in short order.

250,000 people have been evacuated in San Diego County, many of whom ended up at the Chargers' stadium downtown. Apparently the area where that fire is burning hasn't done so in many years.

The smoke, dust, and severely high winds have caused a few dozen flights to get diverted from Ontario International over to LAX. There were also other pilots who had to abort landings and circled back to try again. The airport was built right in the path the winds take every time they kick up. Doesn't seem like the brightest idea.

This here gives you some idea of the scope of it all:
The animation loop pretty clearly shows the smoke and you can see new fires cropping up in the northwest quadrant.

The winds aren't expected to die down until late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning so it's all anyone's guess until then.

Incredible.. sounds like you're getting a small sampling of what life was like for those who lived around Mt. St. Helens when she blew. :(

It looks as though the firefighters have finally caught a break. The winds died down yesterday which allowed them to begin doing heavy water drops on several of the fires. Many are now contained or close to contained.

At the peak yesterday, San Diego County had over 1 million people evacuated from their homes. At least 3 towns have been completely deserted, with Julian currently being threated with complete destruction if the fire advances that direction.

Right now the following fires are the major concerns:

The Witch Fire in northern San Diego County. Still out of control and has burned nearly 200,000 acres. At last word it was only 5% contained and wasn't expected to be until sometime next week. Over 500 homes have been destroyed.

The Harris Fire in southern San Diego County, also only about 5% contained. This fire has apparently also burned over the border into Mexico. Fortunately no homes or commercial buildings have been damaged or destroyed but the fire is threatening several hundred along the western flank.

The Grass Valley Fire up in Lake Arrowhead. This fire has destroyed over 175 homes and is still burning out of control, moving west toward Running Springs.

The Buckweed Fire up in the canyons near Magic Mountain. This fire has destroyed more than 50 homes so far and is threatening 55,000 more - no, this isn't a typo. With the winds down though they should be able to get a handle on it. At last report it was 27% contained.

The Santiago Fire in Orange County is still burning out of control and threatening 3,000 homes. Yesterday afternoon 12 firefighters were out battling the blaze when the flames overtook their engine. They survived by using their aluminium emergency fire shelters. Apparently these shelters can hold 2 people and more or less allow them to seal themselves inside while the fire passes. There has also been some serious concerns raised by the Orange County fire command that they are not getting the resources they need to fight the fire. Fortunately it seems to have been heard and late yesterday afternoon the aerial assault began.

A new fire broke out this morning at Camp Pendleton which has closed interstate 5 between San Clemente and Oceanside. Needless to say this is going to cause a major problem for folks needing to get in and out of the area since it's the primary transportation corridor between Orange and San Diego Counties. Everyone is being diverted over to interstate 15 and being asked to use the 91 freeway as an alternate into Orange County. It's also technically possible to use highway 74 - Ortega highway - but that's a thin 2 lane mountain road and it's going to get incredibly crowded in there.

Of course, with any disaster there's always a dark side. Looters have been caught and arrested in Ramona and Julian following the evacuations in the area. So police are now aggressively checking ID on anyone they find in the area, and that includes the press reporting on the fires. Yesterday afternoon, helicopters patrolling the north side of the mountains outside of Arrowhead caught an arsonist in the act of trying to set the hills on fire near Hesperia. You have to be a sick and twisted individual to do that.

The weather reports are looking good for today. The winds are supposed to die off and the temperatures are supposed to be about 10 degrees cooler. With any luck that means we'll be able to send up more water dropping helicopters, planes, and the superscoopers.

Just incredible, Samson. If nothing else you'd think people would want to be somewhere safe instead of trying to loot while the fires are still going. Some of those numbers are pretty staggering and given the frequency of these wild fires out there, you'd think the fire departments would come up with better ways to catch some of them earlier or something, wouldn't you? :(

There's really not a great deal that can be done about it once these winds pick up and you've got gusts running as high as 100mph. While the wind is up, they generally concentrate what they can on saving lives and property. They'll let the fires burn through uninhabited brush. When the wind dies, they can send the air support up and drop water on it to bring it to a halt, or guide it out into open land and let it burn itself out.

The looters come out when nobody is around because they can't get away with it if there's witnesses. Of course now they'll be risking getting shot by the National Guard.

I suppose that's true enough, but it really seems like there ought to be some way they could prevent the fires from getting ot of control so badly. :(

I guess that it just amazes me that folks would risk their lives even during a major fire like this for the sake of looting, and now there's more reason for additional personnel to have to risk their lives over preventing these idiots from looting. :(

Looters are the scum of the earth. Hopefully after a few have been put down they will think twice about it.

too bad it didnt burn yuor house down then we wouldnt have to read your shit anymore.

Hell of an attitude there Lazerus, but I suppose I shouldn't expect anything less from people like you. There's a disclaimer down below: "If you don't like what we have to say, you can leave now." Might want to take the advice. This site doesn't exist to pander to anyone, nor does it shy away from controversy. If you're so closed minded you can't handle a right-wing viewpoint then maybe we should be hoping YOUR house burns down so fascists like you won't take over.

Now that I've got that out of the way, from all appearances we've got a handle on all of the major fire areas. There was some rain that came through yesterday that I figure helped things out quite a bit and allowed them to get containment lines around everything. Let's just hope they can get the fires brought under full control before the winds pick back up again as we know they will.

It's great to hear that you guys finally got some rain to help out and that the firefighters have finally got these blazes under control. I'd been hearing in the news what sounds like folks already trying to cast blame on the helicopter crews for not being ready in time and such, it's almost as discouraging towards my faith in people in general as the horrible post above by Lazerous. I rather hope that was enough to merit banning of him here, it certainly would be at any of my sites were he not already banned from them. It's a shame too because he's the only non-spammer I've ever actually fully banned from all of my sites and kept the ban on ..well, I may still have Kyndig banned too... :(

There's been some concern that some National Guard resources were sitting idle on the ground for 2 days. The media tried their best to pin blame on them for it but the Guard managed to get the facts out there. California has some ridiculous rule about needing fire spotters to fly with anyone going up. Well the Guard and other military assets were ready to fly - but the spotters didn't report for duty until 2 days later. So they were never allowed to go up. Congressman Bilbray from the San Diego area had to rush to make an emergency deal to get the state to waive the requirement so those guys could get airborne. It's just another fine example of politics getting in the way of people doing their jobs. That first 48 hours turned out to be extremely critical, because come Tuesday the winds had increased to a point where it was no longer safe to fly. We lost out on a huge opportunity to knock the fires down early.

As far as Lazerus, screw him. If that's how he wants to spend his time, let him. If he keeps it up, I suppose I'll ban him. But one stupid ass comment out of the blue isn't enough for me to worry about. At least he had the guts to use the comment form this time instead of hiding behind an anonymous email.

That certainly sounds like a case of a rule that was instituted with safety in mind but not really thought out well enough. I have to wonder if they couldn't have avoided a lot of the damages though if they'd been able to start the fire those 48 hours earlier though. :(

I'd agree that one stupid comment shouldn't be enough by itself, though that was an extremely stupid comment.. but I rather thought this was far from the first such remark he'd made, even if this was the first one he had the guts to actually post where we could all see it.

That's hilarious. Someone posts saying something like "then we won't have to read your shit anymore." Why the hell is he reading it in the first place if he dislikes it that much? Man people are fun.

What would I do to entertain myself with right wing "focus" if Samson's house burned down??!

You'd have to settle for the boring moderates or the lunatic left :P

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