Sunday, October 21, 2007

Santa Ana (fires update)

Yuma, AZ has a forecast high temp of 82 today. The part of San Diego where I live has a forecast high of 90. Humidities are projected to be in single digits.

Santa Ana has come to visit. Supposed to be with us 3-4 days.

Nice weather for going to the beach, but Oct 13th is when the infamous Cedar Fire of 2003 started, and it was in conditions much like these, only this Santa Ana is forecast to be significantly more windy that it was then. Do I need to tell you the significance of that?

We had two aerial tankers here as of last week, and the Fire Service just moved in three more. Fire crews are on stand by and firemen are not sleeping. The fuel (plants that have died and dried out, stuff that burns) has built up a lot in four years, and the few hundredths of rain we had recently dried up in half a day of these conditions.

They say that the dry Santa Ana winds causes people to become irritable. That's not the case with me, as I like the heat and the dryness, and I love the clear blue skies. But the fire danger to me and my neighbors makes me nervous.

Update: 10/22/07 8:20 AM

san diego

Just as 2003, a fire started in East County yesterday and we awoke this morning to hear that it had spread into the metropolitan San Diego area. There are now 7 fires in the county, all 0% contained, three of them within the city limits, and evacuations are being ordered all the way to the coast.

This is far worse than the Cedar Fire of 2003, and the winds driving it are predicted to continue for at least two more days. No aerial firefighting can be done until the winds die down.

On the up side, the emergency agencies are talking to each other on radios that all use the same frequency. Fire departments, although unable to fight the fires at the moment due to wind conditions, are able to coordinate positions between departments very well. The "reverse 911" phone system is working well and is making a huge difference in the evacuation process.

So we did learn from that last catastrophe, and made the changes that were needed. Kudos to the agencies and politicians that brought that off.

Update: 10/23/07 9:00 AM

There's an entry on the Huffington Post this morning by one Kristen Reeves (I'm not going to link to that particular piece of drivel) who is upset because the fires in Malibu, where she lives, were supplanted on the news by nine other fires in Southern California, including those in San Diego County. She is one of the reasons that I regard the Huffington Post as mostly nonsense.

Some observations from San Diego, where several fires are ongoing, but where none have come anywhere near as close to my home as did the Cedar Fire of 2003.

It's refreshing how non-political the news conferences have been. The County Supervisor, Mayor and law enforcement officials have come to the podium, made the necessary announcements, and left without the usual stump speeches. There has been one female County Supervisor who had been getting "face time" at first, but someone seems to have talked her into ceasing the practice after the first day. Duncan Hunter has decided his tv presence is essential, and no one can persuade him to desist, of course.

The San Diego citizenry seems to have a great deal of class. Evacuation orders, despite one national news item which hyped to the contrary, have been followed quickly and pretty much totally. The fire officials report that people refusing to leave has been very much the exception rather than the rule. There has not been one single report of looting in evacuated areas. At the evacuation areas there have been times that volunteers outnumber evacuees. Hotels have been making exceptions to their "no pets" policies. It's all really quite heartening.

The tv stations on all channels have been very factual in their coverage. I have not seen a single episode of reporter or anchor presenting the fires in a manner that could be considered even remotely alarmist. On the contrary, they have collectively presented a calm and reassuring presence to the public. Of course, I never tuned in to the FOX channel, so...

I do miss the presence of Fire Chief Bowman, who presided over the Cedar event. He was a master at reassuring the public that he was "in charge" of the situation and he did a fine job of communicating what was being done in terms of on what fronts the fire was being fought. In this event we are getting rather vague technical presentations about "resources" and "events" from several different people in fire uniforms, none of whom are decent speakers.

Where I am, in Mission Valley near downtown, the sky is a clear blue and there is no trace of smoke or ash. Looking north, however, the ghastly brown smoke cloud is not far away and it looks really awful.

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