Tag Archives: wildfire

Next, in Southern Coastal California

https://www.independent.com/news/2018/jan/09/mudslides-engulf-montecito-carpinteria-shut-down-f/

Last night I came awake to the sound of violent lashing rain coming in strong brief pulses. I lay and listened and considered all the work we had done last afternoon to put gullies into the orchard so that the runoff from up the road would settle deep into our heavy soil. Wondering if we had done enough.

The ground has felt like concrete, despite our continual adding of organics, our thick mulching and deep watering, so we are thirsty for rain in a way that feels more acute than it has ever been before. Consider this– we had none of our usual fall rains– even in a bad drought year we’ve always had a few inches in the fall. This year, we felt a sprinkling of drops but nothing measurable. The reservoirs were frighteningly bare, and the native vegetation, crisp.

Then, as the news has tracked, we had the Thomas Fire with all its tragic losses, and the heroic labors of firefighters. Such a dry land, that the fire often persisted in burning against the wind. How do you fight that? By hand, by shoveling dirt on every kindling patch, by the brutal courageous personal labor of good women and men on the front lines and extraordinary canny planning by the planners and strategists. We had a war here and our people rose to every call.

Now the rains came, late. Now they enact another price. The stripped land cannot hold when waterlogged on these steep slopes and in the canyons, and that’s why you read in today’s news of our massive landslides taking out yet more homes, killing people, and destroying roadways. I hear helicopters pulsing overhead as stranded, sometimes injured folk are air-lifted to safety, a few at a time.

The county sent out warnings, issued mandatory evacuation orders and voluntary evacuation warnings in different threatened zones. Many citizens last night chose to stay in place. Understandably sick of the disruption to their lives after weeks of fire evacuations, they didn’t want to leave yet again, especially if they lived in areas where a mere evacuation  warning had been issued, not an evacuation order. As I understand at this  time, these evacuation warning areas are where some fatalities took place last night.

For the record, I’m a chicken. Give me a voluntary evacuation warning, and I plan to be out of here. I think it’s fair saying that the county officials are no prophets, they can only estimate and guess how the natural disaster potential may be expressed, so I will err on the side of caution. Hey, even when we weren’t in the voluntary evacuation warning area for the Thomas Fire and it was still eight miles away from our place, I was packed to leave, the cat carriers were down, water bottles filled.

It’s worth thinking over what your personal limits and triggers are before the issue arrives. How would you feel?

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Filed under experiences, flood, natural history, warning, wildfire

Whittier Fire Continues

Santa Barbara fire map with recent fires_1499724149968_7424712_ver1.0

The day has a color to it and a faint taste.  The Whittier Fire has burned over 10,800 acres so far, and the sky is hazed by a strange warm hue. From the detail map it seems that a fierce defense of the two peaks which carry most of our communications may have been successful, but as I noted before if any of you find it difficult to reach family or friends in this area of Southern California, don’t panic– communications may be challenged.

I can only salute the extraordinary fire respondents in all roles, who put themselves in harm’s way to protect the rest of us who go about our daily lives with little more than a feeling of anxiety, refreshed every so often by a look at the alien sky. I think this will be a long fight.

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updates and smoke in the air

Splendid day with John and Carmen who arrived at nine AM. We talked so much it was hard to get us out the door to hike in to one of our old sites. Upper Dutch Diggins yielded a fine day of fossils, leaves and fruits and seeds all original organic material, and a renewal of a delightful friendship between families. Sun and sweat and discoveries are the finest of things to share. We were so sorry to say goodbye after dinner and watch John and Carmen head off home, a good couple of hours drive for them. John said he might be back in a couple of days but we weren’t quite sure how long we’d stay, with our own work calling us home.

Kid woke us at 3AM. “Sorry,” she said, looming out of the black night with her headlamp in hand, “but I had to wake you. Don’t you smell smoke?”

A great wake-up. Nothing like the jolt of adrenaline to get you going in the dark.

Yep. Not a little smoke, but when we went out walking about the bunkhouse, smoke you could see against the tall trees, fuzzing their outlines. Husband deliberated, so did I. He realized the wind direction was the issue, and I noted that although the smoke was present, we saw no glow and there were no ashes falling.

However we did go up the long rutted road and unlocked the gate to the mine, dragged it open, so that if an evacuation was in order it would be easier for the locals to see we were in residence and alert us, and so that our departure could be efficient and fast. We’ve felt fires closer than this and been spared evacuation. One more point, there wasn’t any traffic on the main highway up above the bunkhouse, and if the fire were drawing near there would be. Went back to bed. Can’t say it was a great sleep but we woke to a smoggy-looking morning.

Another day of fossil prospecting in the area with variable results, but we made sure to check in at the LaPorte Store, where scant news was available. Some reassurance that the fire wasn’t an immediate threat to our area. Despite the oppression of a long day filled with smoke from the Chip Fire, we saw it begin to rise at the end as the wind shifted again and we could see some blue sky by evening.

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