California is Burning

Katheryne Helendale

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Just when I was starting to think the fire season was over...

A fire sparked in the mountains above Santa Barbara this afternoon. Dubbed the Cave Fire, it has exploded to 3,300 acres since it was reported at around 4:15 this afternoon along State Route 154. At least one structure has burned, and evacuation orders are in place for the area immediately north of Santa Barbara and Goleta. There is no containment at this time.
 

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Just when I was starting to think the fire season was over...

A fire sparked in the mountains above Santa Barbara this afternoon. Dubbed the Cave Fire, it has exploded to 3,300 acres since it was reported at around 4:15 this afternoon along State Route 154. At least one structure has burned, and evacuation orders are in place for the area immediately north of Santa Barbara and Goleta. There is no containment at this time.
There's heavy rain due to most of coastal California tonight and the rest of the week, including this area, so maybe that will effectively extinguish this one. (fingers crossed).
 

Katheryne Helendale

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There's heavy rain due to most of coastal California tonight and the rest of the week, including this area, so maybe that will effectively extinguish this one. (fingers crossed).
Unfortunately, with those heavy rains expected over the new burn scar area comes heavy mudslides.
 

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Strong winds in advance of the coming storm whipped the Cave Fire burning north of Santa Barbara into a frenzy as the fire grew to 4,330 acres since its start yesterday afternoon. More than 5,000 people have been evacuated, with more than 4,000 more warned to be ready. State Route 154 remains closed through the area. Rain, sometimes heavy, is forecast for the area starting late tonight, which should help with the firefight, but also threatens mudslides. The fire is currently 10 percent contained.
 

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More accurate mapping of the Cave Fire north of Santa Barbara reduced the fire's acreage to 3,126. Thanks to some wet weather in the area, firefighters managed 40 percent containment of the fire today. All evacuation orders for the area have been lifted, though a stretch of Highway 154 remains closed except to local traffic due to damage to infrastructure.
 
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Katheryne Helendale

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Fire crews battling the Cave Fire north of Santa Barbara got a boost from Mother Nature in the form of rain and even snow in the Santa Barbara mountains today. The fire remained at 3,126 acres and is now 70 percent contained.
 

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I told myself I wasn't going to resurrect this thread because this year's fire season in California started explosively and there's just no way I could cover all the fires burning. Pretty much the entire state is on fire or is being affected in some way by the fires.

But as I sit here under smoke-choked brown skies here in the central San Joaquin Valley, I decided to make mention of three of them that are affecting my area - two are monsters, and the newest third is quickly becoming one.

First, there's the fire in the valley side of the coastal mountains near Los Banos dubbed the SCU Lightning Complex Fire. This one started by a dry lightning storm nearly three weeks ago and has burned a total of 396,624 acres, destroying nearly 200 structures in the process. Even though firefighters have the upper hand on this fire with 88 percent containment, it is still spewing large amounts of smoke and ash into the air, contributing heavily to our air quality issues.

Second is the LNU Lightning Complex Fire burning in the Napa Valley and Sacramento Valley areas west of Sacramento, spanning five counties. This one also got started by dry lightning about three weeks ago, and has burned 375,209 acres, destroying or damaging more than 1700 structures. All evacuation orders from this fire have been lifted, but during the life of this fire, the evacuation list was a mile long. This fire is 89 percent contained, but is also spewing large quantities of smoke into the valleys of northern and central California.

The third one is in my neck of the woods. Dubbed the Creek Fire, it started just this last Friday and has already exploded to 45,500 acres of Sierra mountainside area of Shaver Lake east of Fresno and Madera, and is still completely out of control. Thousands of evacuations have been ordered from the lakeside communities as approximately 3,000 structures are threatened. More than 200 campers were trapped in the Mammoth Pool area of Madera County and had to be airlifted out by the National Guard, as their only road out of the area was on fire. Several were hospitalized for moderate burns. There is yet no containment of this fire.


I'm not going to attempt to cover the other fires. I'll post updates to the Creek Fire as they happen though.

If there is any kind of silver lining to this smokey cloud, it's that we didn't reach our forecast temperature of 111F today as smoke blocked out most of the sun. It reached 102 here a couple of hours ago and has since started heading back down. This may well have also averted the rolling blackouts that were expected today up and down the state. There's still tomorrow though.
 

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I think Jopsy lives in San Diego. I was just about to say that that area has somehow managed to avoid any wildfires this year, but I just checked with CalFire, and there's a new fire burning in the mountains east-southeast of El Cajon, oddly called the Valley Fire. It has already blackened 5,350 acres and only has 1 percent containment at the moment. It poses no threat to San Diego, but it's just adding to the smokey air woes.
 

Katheryne Helendale

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Along with the fires I mentioned, there's another large one burning in the Santa Cruz mountains affecting one of us. The CZU Lightning Complex Fire has burned 86,509 acres of rugged terrain north-northwest of Santa Cruz. There is a large evacuation list, though most of it has been downgraded to an evacuation warning. The fire has destroyed nearly 1,500 structures and damaged 140 more. It is currently 72 percent contained.
 
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Jopsy Pendragon

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I think Jopsy lives in San Diego. I was just about to say that that area has somehow managed to avoid any wildfires this year, but I just checked with CalFire, and there's a new fire burning in the mountains east-southeast of El Cajon, oddly called the Valley Fire. It has already blackened 5,350 acres and only has 1 percent containment at the moment. It poses no threat to San Diego, but it's just adding to the smokey air woes.
Yep, San Diego. I'm hoping we'll escape smoke from our 'Valley Fire'. Today is the last day of our current heatwave/Santa-Anna Winds. Seems like the prevailing eastwards breeze has already resumed, which is now blowing the smoke/fire east, away from the city.

I live near enough some woody canyons to worry about wildfires knocking at my door. Fortunately the city seems to be taking fire response seriously. My neighborhood has a new, modern, larger (and stylish!) fire station that replaced the dinky public-works-era eye-sore that was there previously. :)
 

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Just out of curiousity, knowing nothing about it, it seems the eco system in south CA is entirely too fragile. Has there been any conderation in replanting burn areas with non-native hardier plants which are more fire resistant, and planting grasses and shrubs which have longer root systems to hold soil in place? I could also see drainage tiles and planned marshy areas like we have in the midwest to manage water runoff, but in areas with housing developments.
 
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Just out of curiousity, knowing nothing about it, it seems the eco system in south CA is entirely too fragile. Has there been any conderation in replanting burn areas with non-native hardier plants which are more fire resistant, and planting grasses and shrubs which have longer root systems to hold soil in place? I could also see drainage tiles and planned marshy areas like we have in the midwest to manage water runoff, but in areas with housing developments.
Wasn't the almighty solution raking together the leaves?

/me runs hard.
 

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Just out of curiousity, knowing nothing about it, it seems the eco system in south CA is entirely too fragile.
It's "too fragile" because of humans, who have severely disrupted the entire region with overpopulation, overdevelopment, and overuse of resources. But you can say that for the entire planet, too, so there's no effective remedy that we're willing to undertake.
 

Casey Pelous

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Just out of curiousity, knowing nothing about it, it seems the eco system in south CA is entirely too fragile. Has there been any conderation in replanting burn areas with non-native hardier plants which are more fire resistant, and planting grasses and shrubs which have longer root systems to hold soil in place? I could also see drainage tiles and planned marshy areas like we have in the midwest to manage water runoff, but in areas with housing developments.
The San Diego natural ecosystem is quite diverse and robust. It has been surviving fire for longer than there have been people stomping around there. Long ago I used to live in Jopsy's neighborhood in a place overlooking one of the canyons he mentioned. Mind you, this was only a couple of miles from a thoroughly urban downtown, but that canyon was semi-wild, with all sorts of wildlife (including, unfortunately, a madly squawking flock of escaped/released parrots and cockatoos ...) and a mix of palms and low scrubby forest. Other parts are very much Southwest desert. Not far out of town to the east are some pretty tall mountains, which I think is where the Valley fire is going.

The real problem in SoCal isn't so much the fuel part of the fire triangle, it is the oxygen -- powerful Santa Ana winds get compressed through the canyons then pop back out hotter and drier than you thought air could be. Mix that with some fire and you have nature's equivalent of a blowtorch. I don't think you'll find many grasses or shrubs that won't turn into fine white ash in that heat. The plant life there has already adapted with deep root systems and other strategies.

As for the landslides -- the cure would be for knuckleheads not to build on steep hillsides! Good luck with that, though -- that's where the sexy views are.
 

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It's "too fragile" because of humans, who have severely disrupted the entire region with overpopulation, overdevelopment, and overuse of resources.
And introducing Sydney redgums and other eucalypts, which are basically prepackaged Australian bushfires.
 

Katheryne Helendale

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And introducing Sydney redgums and other eucalypts, which are basically prepackaged Australian bushfires.
I love the smell of eucalyptus on a cool morning. But, yeah, those things are flammable as hell.
 
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