Friday, October 26, 2007

Fire Season

Even with the drought, it's decidedly not fire weather here.  It's been colder and wet, raining for 3 days.  I remember my two summers living in Goleta, a suburb of Santa Barbara.  I would depart both years in time for school to re-start at the University of Maryland.  I'd leave at the end of the summer season and just before fire season would begin there, the forests turning "snapping" branches dry when we'd hike in the lower mountains.  A colorful autumn season would begin here, full and vibrant hikes here.  Moisture.  It's much more moist here, all summer long, all year long, even with our droughts and brown corn stalks that hadn't any real chance again this year.

I look over the various maps of southern California, with the red flaming symbols indicate where a fire has been, or a fire is ongoing NOW.  (Only one map shows the two fires from the Santa Barbara area.)  I have two cousins and extended family living in the areas of some of the fires.  Sean and his two sisters attended Long Beach High School many years ago (I think).  His late father (my Uncle Dan) married his second and third wife in the greater Los Angelos area, and I'd visit them in El Segundo sometimes.  Sean wrote me back yesterday that they are all safe, that they are in the area of the fires, that it's hmmm, what was his definitive word, well, basically chaotic and scary and a bit unreal.  "Thanks for thinking of us."  Well, of course.

Of course I think of them.  Each one.  I think of my friends I've lost touch with.  How are their lives now, right now?  I think of Brian, much further north, and the wildlife he monitors and cares for.  What will be the longer-term environmental effects?  Good, bad, both?  It will be different, anyway; even Chuck says the sky further north near him was a bit yellow earlier this week.  (Some trees and some forest systems actually rely upon fire to get them to their next level of natural sucession and all of that.  This is why some national parks / forests set controlled fires.  Yes I am being serious here (just not intending to have this entry be a teaching science entry).  The earth itself heals, it seems, and sometimes makes good use of fire.  Time will tell for this series of fires.  The fragile lives and ecosystems hmmm more at risk, obviously.)

The air quality of L.A. got me sick every single time I would visit there (in the early 80's).  I cannot imagine it right now.  A neighbor has a niece in greater San Diego, with a 3-month old baby.  What about the ones most susceptible to poor air quality, like that baby, like the elderly, like the asthmatics, like the animals and birds with small lungs.  What debris is floating overhead to land in the Pacific Ocean?  I heard on the radio that people there know to be prepared for an emergency such as a fire, things were set in place.  One result (this was a pet psychologist speaking) is that all horse stables keep their trailers facing out, and there are places set up even for horses to go to, in theory.  If gotten free in time.  If not evacuated.

A "colleague" from M's school and her husband perished in a fire in their home late last night.  I am not clear yet if it was from one of these southern California fires or what.  If so, obviously they didn't get free in time.  Their two daughters were with their grandparents, where they remain for now.  I wait to hear more.  (I don't really know them yet, of course, find myself a bit speechless, this isn't here, it's raining here, how can someone from here, go and be hurt?)

So much tragedy. 

Homes lost, pets lost (or dead), people lost, injured, or dead.   This could be, partially, arson.  This could have been a partially-bungled response I'm hearing (i.e., those who wanted and trained for and willing to go pilot the planes and such to drop water, were kept grounded argh argh argh).

Firefighters (in the air and definitely those on land) have a hard job.  There are different techniques and training involved for forest fires over a comparatively simple house fire.  Long hard, very hot, stressful hours.

Controlled burns for well-thought out forestry management?  Yes, good things.  Raging wildfires out of control resulting in lives lost, and all of this?  No.  This is tragic.

To see some great photos, please visit  (I like the one of the burning bicycle, photographically gripping wise.):  Southern California Wildfires

UPDATE:  YES, Guido (Pharmolo) "gets" it! 

(Other update, the tragic loss of the couple I mention above was not due to these fires but another situation that is horribly sad, leaving behind two orphaned girls, who have loving, extended family and other support, but not their parents.)


  1. Robin, I pray for all the fire victims asnd for those brave firemen fighting the fires, Hugs Lisa

  2. We are having lots of rain here in North Carolina as well. It is much needed and although it has been pretty steady for three days, it will take much more than this to recover from the severe drought. I am grateful for the rainfall. I have two good friends in LA. They are fine but they tell me that the air is filled with smoke and they've kept the windows closed and tried to stay inside as much as possible. Thanks for the link to the photos.--Sheria

  3. Fires are a fact of life in California, or so I gather. Some are started by lightning, others deliberately. The Santa Ana winds (up to 110 mph) was all it took to send it totally out of control. The environmental impact is likely to be beneficial in the long run, as the fire destroys the weak to leave the strong to regenerate. I am sorry about the loss of property and life, though.

  4. My thoughts and prayers go out to all who are effected by this tragedy....June

  5. It turns out that some of the fires were in fact deliberately set and others were of natural or semi-natural causes. They caught 2 arsonists so far, 1 in custody and 1 shot dead by the police. Another fire was caused by a house fire, not yet known if that was incendiary or accidental. The fires could have been much worse than they are, but they're fairly awful nonetheless. As far as the rejuvenating aspects of fire, in more ordinary circumstances that would be true, but some of these fires have such high fuel loads that they reach temperatures that sterilize the soils and kill everything, even the hidden seeds. The argument is for either more frequent fires of smaller size and duration, or thinning of the fuel load (brush, small trees, duff, etc) that lowers the subsequent temperatures and duration of fires.

    As far as the air quality here got, it was a little worse on as more of the San Bernardino fire burned and more smoke got over the Tehachapis. We got to where we could smell the smoke some, until they got more of the upper hand on the fires. Last night's sudden thunderstorms took care of that, though. We had a real boomer here with the overhead light show, hail, rain and 30+ knot winds. And I loved every minute of it!!!!