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Discussion: California fires

in: Orienteering; General

Nov 10, 2018 10:33 PM # 
Wishing LAOC members are staying safe through all the fires in the area, and that no maps and events are being affected. Statements like 100,000 acres being affected by are mind-boggling and scary...
Nov 10, 2018 11:43 PM # 
From the NOAA website at 6pm Saturday night:

....combination of very low humidity, dry vegetation, and strong winds will bring dangerous fire weather conditions to portions of California through at least Tuesday. Extreme fire weather is forecast in southern California on Sunday...

Indeed, it is tragic to see the devastation ripping through these populated areas with jammed access roads. Perhaps a good time to have some forest-running experience!
Nov 11, 2018 2:29 AM # 
I know of two families who have evacuated. They are safe but their houses may not be.
Nov 11, 2018 11:46 AM # 
A Southern California videographer (and self-admitted 'pyro-enthsiast) working as 564Fire is posting some live videos from the heart of the firefight at the Woolsey fire. The linked video is from Hillcrest Dr near Westlake in the heart of Thousand Oaks.

Amazing to see the confusion, the strong winds, and the rapid advance of the flames through completely evacuated posh neighborhoods. He also has some excellent work posted on Instagram and Twitter.
Nov 11, 2018 7:11 PM # 
This is an excellent article.
Professor Pyne knows wildfire science. Trump knows f*** all.
Nov 12, 2018 2:28 PM # 
I like that Professor Pyne suggests putting in more golf form natural fire breaks in the forest canopy!

A post-mortem article this morning in the NYTimes tells of the violent manner many folks were burned to death in their cars, caught in tangles of abandoned vehicles on narrow and remote roads:

...Lauri Kester said it had taken an hour to drive three miles as the firestorm ripped through [Paradise]. “There were cars behind, cars in front and fire on both sides,” Ms. Kester said. A police officer running past her told her to abandon her Subaru. So Ms. Kester, 52, ran down the road with her dog in her arms....

....Thomas and Gloria Selby, a couple in their 80s, rushed to pack up their prized belongings, including Mrs. Selby’s sewing machine. Yet as soon as they left their home, they found gridlock. The traffic continued as they made their way through Paradise. At times, they stalled in traffic as flames menaced and other motorists panicked and abandoned their vehicles to try to escape on foot. Propane tanks exploding around them added to the atmosphere of doom....

Many orienteers I know also live on remote country roads. The town of Paradise apparently recognized its vulnerability, and practiced evacuation by neighborhood. But last Thursday the whole plan fell apart, the roads jammed, and people died.

For those that live in a remote location, it might be interesting to speculate on your escape plan, in the event of a serious fire during drought conditions, if you were ordered to evacuate.
Nov 13, 2018 2:03 AM # 
We have draft for military.
I propose mandatory firefighter draft for all fire prone areas.
If 10,000 evacuate, should produce minimum 1000 conscript firefighters.
All adults 21-40 must register.
Medical exemption by doctor permitted.
If your area ordered evacuated, must report for service.
Must serve 60 on-duty hours.
May fill duty in advance by volunteer service, then exempt from future draft.
May obtain substitute to fill your service.
Possibly may buy out your service, $10,000?
May defer service if prove that you were out of city/county when evacuation ordered.
Nov 13, 2018 2:12 AM # 
More boots on the ground isn't going to solve the Paradise problem though - from a long distance away, it looks like a combination of bad infrastructure planning (one route out of a fire-prone area is always going to end badly), bad warning systems (or people not obeying warnings) and the usual unplannable - humans doing stupid shit at the last minute.

"At times, they stalled in traffic as flames menaced" - if you're stuck in traffic *in an active fire zone*, you've left it way too late.
Nov 13, 2018 3:28 AM # 
From what I've seen, it's not really a case of people doing the wrong thing on the day, rather that in such a fast-developing situation, the geography of the area makes it essentially impossible to evacuate totally at short notice - road capacity per hour is finite, even under ideal conditions. We had a similar scenario (although with smaller communities) in 2009 around Melbourne - indeed, someone in my club attempted to evacuate, was blocked by fallen trees, returned to their home and survived there (although many of their neighbours didn't).

I haven't seen any reports of the speed of movement of the Californian fires, but have seen Australian fires move at more than 10 km/h (and generating spot fires up to 10 km ahead of the main fire) under comparable conditions. From my experience, almost all the cases of heavy loss of life in wildfires globally since I've been in the business of documenting extreme climate events have involved fires moving very rapidly in high winds, in most cases with most/all of the deaths occurring within a few hours of the fire starting.

Official advice in Australia these days is to leave vulnerable areas on the most extreme fire days whether or not there are currently any active fires, but I'm yet to be convinced how this will work in practice (the highest fire danger category has not yet been reached in the Melbourne area since the current rating scale was introduced in 2010, so we haven't yet seen the system put to the test).
Nov 15, 2018 5:56 AM # 
Sitting here in the smokey San Francisco Bay Area it is evident that our fire problems are not gong to be solved by better forest management, more firefighters, better emergency planning or better infrastructure. The decade long drought has left weakened and/or dying forests throughout the state. We all are vulnerable wherever we live here. It hasn’t rained since April and there is no rain predicted for the foreseeable future.
Nov 15, 2018 3:51 PM # 
PurpleAir map of air quality in the East Bay
Nov 16, 2018 7:16 PM # 
Some good news: Nik Weber of Gold Country Orienteers, has a house and veterinary clinic in Magalia, just north or Paradise. NIk and his family evacuated as the flames approached. On Facebook, Nik just reported that their house and clinic have survived.
Nov 16, 2018 7:38 PM # 

Nov 16, 2018 10:47 PM # 
It looks like one giant chemtrail
Nov 17, 2018 3:44 AM # 
The BAOC event on Sunday at Presidio National Park in San Francisco has been cancelled. The air quality index in SF today was 239, which is the Hazardous level.
Nov 17, 2018 4:18 AM # 
Good to hear news about Nik and his family. I was concerned about them.
Nov 18, 2018 5:16 PM # 
Nov 18, 2018 11:45 PM # 
To international viewers, the name "Camp Fire" is misleading. I have seen on a few German forums questions as to how Americans can be so careless and not extinguish their camp fires, given the recent years' history of wild fires....
Nov 19, 2018 12:39 AM # 
Andrea, I must admit that was my first thought as well (for about 5 seconds)...
Nov 19, 2018 5:34 AM # 
I understand it's named after the road where it broke out. That is also standard practice in Australia, which has led to some oddly named fires, although I did notice they declined to follow it a few years back when a fire broke out near Nudist Camp Track.
Nov 19, 2018 9:23 PM # 

I guess for a similar reason Nuts, candy bars by Nestle, are banned in the US
Nov 20, 2018 8:18 PM # 
Down here in LAOC land the only map that burned in the Woolsey fire was Malibu Creek State Park. We haven't actually used that map in a number of years, but were hoping to get back into there. We'll have to delay that a few years now.

I grew up in Thousand Oaks and know a lot of people who evacuated. My parents were not in the evacuation zone, but chose to stay with my sister in Ventura anyway. She had similarly stayed with them last year during the Thomas fire.

Right now we have two maps that have at least some restricted areas due to burns in the last year or two - Irvine Regional Park and Ventura. This was our first year of getting back into burnt areas of the Barton Flats map. It's pretty standard that something burns here every year. That's just the chaparral cycle.
Nov 21, 2018 11:03 AM # 
Smittyo: why are you banned from an area after a burn? In some areas of Florida the best time - sometimes the only time - to go orienteering off trail in a park is in the year or two immediately after a prescribed burn. (Florida's version of raking). After that the scrub oak and palmetto get too thick.
Nov 21, 2018 4:06 PM # 
An extension of that concept occurs in the Northern Territory, where it's not unknown for the organisers to be asked to burn the area before they use it.

(Standard land management practice in the Northern Territory is to burn off the wet-season grass growth early in the dry season, while the grass still has some moisture content, to prevent high-intensity fires from occurring in the late dry season when the grass is completely dried out. Something like 30-40% of the Top End is burnt in an average year).
Nov 21, 2018 4:23 PM # 
I expect the ban in California has to do with the high probability of landslides following a burn.
Nov 21, 2018 5:05 PM # 
If they were prescribed/controlled burns it wouldn't be a problem. But that's not what these are. They typically want to make sure that some vegetation gets reestablished before they have people running around causing extra erosion and possibly hurting the revegetation efforts.

Most of the areas here are chaparral or forest on steep slopes.
Dec 1, 2018 11:12 AM # 
A very sobering NYTimes article yesterday about the cleanup. Turns out Paradise, and the whole Camp Fire area is a watershed for the rest of the state. And every burned home had an amazing assortment of chemicals and heavy metals that now have been released into the soil...and potentially into the water: the charred footprint of each home lurks an invisible and dangerous legacy: toxic chemicals released by the blaze. There may be radioactive isotopes from burned-up antique crockware, cupboards of incinerated household cleaners, and asbestos from old siding. Heavy metals, chemicals and biological contaminants left behind demand a cleanup of extraordinary scale...

....Paradise sits in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, where cities as far away as Los Angeles get their water. “That is the landscape that provides high-quality drinking water for the rest of the state,” Professor Webster said....

This discussion thread is closed.