Monday, July 29, 2013

Not Large Fires, but MUCH Closer to Home!

How much closer? I took these photos from my bedroom window in June. That is very darn close!

We live half way between Los Angeles and San Diego, but not close enough to be considered a suburb either. When they built my town in the mid-1980's, they reserved 40% of the area as permanent open space. In addition, it is surrounded by hills, mountains, huge wilderness areas and the ocean.  They also created many "greenbelts." Greenbelts not only look good, they also don't burn well. All that other stuff does burn well, and burn it does. Regularly...

We live on the eastern ridge line of a fair sized valley (or canyon). On the valley floor is a lake and a lot of wilderness that goes on for miles. This fire was two months ago and was directly downhill from our house. 

There is more room between these trees and houses than it appears, but it's still not very far away. If it had been windy, I might have invoked a personally mandated evacuation order. Of course, I'd evacuate as close to the fire as I could get.

 Two water dropping helicopters and bunch of fire trucks on the job

The helicopter is over the lake and is going to refill with water. Just beyond the helicopter is the amazing Aliso and Woods Canyon Wilderness area. 


The next two photos were taken last year on July 4th. The location is less than half a mile to the south of the fire above. Fireworks are a huge no-no around here. Want the police at your house in a hurry. Just light up a couple of sparklers. The couldn't get the helicopters out because it was too dark. They were scrambling to keep this one out of the adjacent residential area.

I took these photos at another fire in May. Same canyon as the last two fires, but about a half mile north of the first one. All of these were taken with the camera in my phone and are a bit grainy. We were about 75 feet from the helicopter. We were eating a sandwich at Togo's. When my wife spotted smoke coming from the canyon across the street. She was the first one to call it in. I wasn't sharing her happiness though, I was too busy kicking myself for NOT having a "real" camera with me! 

 The helicopter and firetrucks got there so quickly that they hadn't even stopped traffic yet.

 It only took me a few minutes to forget about the fire and start concentrating on the sky! I know what you're thinking and yes, I am wildly A.D.D.

 Fire? What fire? All I saw was the light reflecting off of the windscreen. If I had my CAMERA, I would have had a great look at the pilot's face!

 Okay, I am becoming seriously impressed with the camera in my phone!

I know the sun is blinding behind that smoke, but this is still my favorite photo of the whole thing.

We've had a several more fires in the area while we've lived here, but it's late and I'm so tired!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Mountain Fire - Riverside County

The Chariot Fire (subject of my last post) was declared out on July 15th at 0600.
Less than 8 hours later, the Mountain Fire started about 50 miles away. As of this moment, the fire is almost five times larger than the Chariot Fire. Thankfully, there has been some rain the last two days (more on the way) and officials with (Cal Fire) believe they will have the fire out by Wednesday. Of course all this rain is a mixed blessing because now there is concern about mudslides and flash floods. Wild fires and mudslides! All we need now is an earthquake to complete the California trifecta. 

In my last post I showed you photos from the Chariot fire. It was south-east from where we were camped. In almost the exact opposite direction (north-west), this is what we saw the same day the Chariot Fire was extinguished.

This photo was taken from our campsite and is 40 to 50 miles away (as the crow flies). It was late in the afternoon and the smoke was almost due west of where I was standing, so I decided to stay there to see what sunset might do to this scene.

Right on cue, the wind died. Rather than spreading out downwind, the smoke just sat there building up into this massive and scary looking cloud. Don't get me wrong, I know the area where this fire was raging and it sickened me, but I still couldn't help feeling a little bit excited about what this monster might look like at sunset, if the wind stays calm. Does anybody else see an evil face in this thing?


The next evening at about the same time. Maybe it's the residual LSD from my formative years, but doesn't the smoke look like a large creature's bulbous head and face laying on it's side?


Monday, July 15, 2013

Chariot Fire - San Diego County

I mentioned in my last post that we were going to our favorite get away spot for a couple of weeks. I also mentioned that there was a large fire in the area and we might have trouble getting there (if at all). Thanks to a change in wind direction we had no problem.

Friday morning we took a chance to see if we could get on the road through the fire area. When we got there, the barricade had just been opened. The scenery was still beautiful for several miles. We decided to make our first stop (to get a view) at a place I did a post on about a year ago. 

Many of these photos were taken in the same spots for both posts. Pre and Post fire...
There was a fireman posted at this spot and he told us that we were the first civilians he had seen there in several days. They were still mopping up the fire and dealing with hot spots and we should be careful. My camera was sending me telepathic messages to get busy. We didn't see another civilian until we had driven all the way through the fire area. We stopped at the little store in Mt. Laguna and on our return trip we saw several civilians, but still not as many as we expected. This is the longest post I've ever done. I apologize in advance for that...

We had just driven through the little town of Julian and our path took us directly towards the fire. The fire was nine miles outside of town. Our campground is about half way there.

A bit closer! I'm surprised the dead bugs on our windshield didn't show up in these two photos.

We made it to our destination and although there was lots of smoke, the fire was now hidden from us.

Here is the just opened turn off through the fire area. We think the guy in the truck just opened the barricades. This took place three days after we arrived in the area.

Beautiful Sunrise Highway (Ca S-1) to Mt. Laguna. No fire damage yet.

One of the "Helispots" for the fire was on a ranch located in this beautiful valley. It was probably the closest place to safely conduct helicopter operations.

Several miles into the drive we saw this. It is almost the exact view from where our RV is parked, but from a different angle.

This is what is left of the old road which was re-routed to the other side of the hills to the right.  On the left side you can see the same monuments in the post from last year. There are plaques on and around it dedicated to hang gliders, some who died there. This path is now part of the Pacific Crest Trail (Mexico to Canada).

They think the fire originated at the bottom of this ravine. I stuck my foot out so you could see just how steep it is.

Just because I liked it

A major rock slide on the old road

The fight goes on in the distance

One of the many Hand Crews we saw in the area.

Another "just because I liked it"

A fireman told me that they believe the fire started where that burnt ground ends in the middle of the photo. It comes to a single point. The prevailing wind blows towards where i was standing, so that is the likely spot.

I took this photo from the Pacific Crest Trail. You can see where it cuts around the top of the burnt mountain top. I'm going to follow the trail for a while.

This is the spot where the trail disappears around the mountain in the previous photo

Around the corner it looks the same and there are more turns to make

Another turn coming up. My goal is to be able to see where we are camped. It's only a few miles and the Pacific Crest Trail goes very close to it.

Starting to see a lot of rock on the trail. I think the heat made some of the rocks crack and fall off.

The trail is now covered with ash and burnt material. I know that it isn't healthy to breath this stuff so, I called it a day. Besides, my wife and granddaughter are probably starting to wonder if I've fallen off of the mountain

Heading back down the trail

Just so you can see the scale of it all. It's a long long way down. I'm no daredevil and don't like heights, but this is becoming a tradition, right?

And again...

Back on the road

A very common sight on our drive

One of the main goals for the firefighters was to keep the fire from jumping the road. Most of the structure damage occurred when it did jump the road, from left to right. 

There were 149 structures destroyed in the fire. Many of them in this area.

I have the utmost respect for Firefighters. Especially those who work wildfires. It is brutal, exhausting and extremely dangerous.

This spot is is several miles down the road from where we first stopped. The Pacific Crest Trail is just on the other side of these trees. I don't know what to make of all these fire hoses. Maybe damaged?

Another little hot spot right off the road
The good news is that nobody was seriously injured in this fire!

Last May I did some hiking in this area looking for the remains of an old gold mine town. I didn't know that what was left of it disappeared in an previous fire. I found the place, but not much was left. I did manage to get myself lost though! These things will be the subject of a future post.