OT:Living with the forest fire

I haven't been posting or reading for nearly two weeks now. I do have a reason. The following is a short reminiscence on my family’s experiences with the recent forest fires in Southern California. We do live in interesting times.
The Forests
The forests here are not unlike those abutting other communities in other parts of the country. They have too many trees towering above thick undergrowth; in short, fuel. Add to this a bark beetle infestation that has been killing off drought weakened pines.
No one wants his home to burn down, so fire suppression is the rule of the day. Fast moving cool fires taking out sparse undergrowth have been replaced with very hot, more disastrous fires. Flares moving through the tops of the trees send out embers to start fires in the undergrowth, sometimes miles away.
The Weather
This area boasts of a weather phenomenon known as the Santa Ana winds. These winds are formed when a high pressure area forms to the north and east over Nevada and Utah. As the air sinks, it is forced down the slope of California's coastal mountains, gathering speed as it shoots through narrow canyon passes and rising in temperature as it compresses. Fall days with temperatures in the 90s and humidity in single digits are not uncommon.
In Raymond Chandler's "Red Wind," he describes the Santa Anas as winds that "curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husband’s necks. Anything can happen."
And when a lost hunter shoots off a flare to invite rescue, or when a burning cigarette is thrown from a car, or when someone throws an incendiary device into dry brush, it happens.
The Fire
For us, it all started sometime in the middle of the week of 19 October. Forecasts of rising temperatures, low humidity, and high winds, put everybody’s nerves on edge. We start to pack photo albums into boxes and to move these and a small file of papers into the garage. On Saturday, we attend the Breeder’s Cup horse races at Santa Anita in Arcadia. There is one fire (the “Grand Prix” fire) burning. It has burned to the edge of the road and has turned day into night with smoke. But since it is many miles away from our home, no problem.
On the way back, a second fire (the “Old” fire) has been started by an arsonist and is spreading rapidly. The highway to our town is open only to residents. By Sunday, our car and pickup truck are packed with keepsakes and impedimentia. Late Sunday, we have decided that nothing will happen tonight and Margaret goes to bed. A knock on the door, and a quiet evening is put aside. Coffee is brewed, the cats are rounded up and put into their carrying cases, a few last minute items are saved, good-byes are said to the neighbors, and we are off to our youngest daughter’s house (cats are welcome there). An hour and a half trip is doubled due to the route we must take to avoid flames. We arrive safely and bed down for the night.
Family and friends are really wonderful at a time like this. All the kids and siblings were willing to have us (most did not want the cats). Friends tried to reach us by phone and email to see how we were and if we needed anything. It is a great feeling not to feel alone.
Finding information on the fire is easy. Finding valid and detailed information is difficult. Television news loves shots of flames soaring into the heavens, interviews with exhausted fire fighters, and predictions of doom and gloom. We head for the internet and settle on http://www.rimoftheworld.net/ as our best overall source of what is really happening. We read and post on the Green Valley Lake bulletin board, study the burn map, and avidly read what Ranger Al (a genuine folk hero) has to say. If you will now turn to the burn map (http://www.rimoftheworld.net/features/burn ), look at the right hand side for the hamlet of Running Springs. Just above that is a road leading seemingly to nowhere. At the end of that road is (honest) Green Valley Lake.
As the week went on, the Santa Anas faded and were replace by an on-shore flow. The temperatures cooled, humidity went up, but the direction changed, and the fires stopped ravaging the foothill communities and focused instead on the mountains. Highway 18, which runs along the top of the mountain range became the “battleground”. Rimforest, Skyforest, and parts of Crestline burned. These communities were still to the west of us. Then finally fuel and wind and the fire jumped the highway and headed for Lake Arrowhead and environs. The Cedar Glen area and other canyon communities were heavily damaged. The fires headed north and east towards Running Springs to the south of us and into the Deep Creek drainage basin to the west. Nervous time.
Then towards the end of the week, it snowed. Hallelujah. The temperature dropped 60 degF in a few days and moisture fell. The fires were slowed but not out. Arrival of more firefighters and equipment from other states allowed more resources to be applied to the local fires. One by one, the news crews were pulled from the Los Angeles and Ventura county fires. Soon only a few were left and were covering our plight.
At last! On Monday, November 3, the mandatory evacuation order Green Valley Lake was lifted. On Tuesday, Margaret and I, the cats, and a newly purchased gasoline powered generator headed home. It was as we had left it. We unpacked and hooked up the generator to the essentials: the furnace, a lamp, and the television. It being an absolutely gorgeous fall day, we walked to “downtown” and chatted with a few other locals who had made it back. It’s good to be home. Thanks be to God, we were spared. One thing I learned is that being away from home voluntarily is much different than being forced out.
The heavy rains forecast for this weekend have been revised to scattered showers. This could have led to mud slides and an even greater disaster.
Santa Ana winds are forecast for Wednesday.
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Thank you sir. That was inspirational. I have copied it and will be giving it to a few frinds. This is a lovely story and we do appreciate the time you took to tell us about it. Far superior to anything I have senn on television.
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John, I am so glad to hear you were spared. I found myself holding my breath as I read your post, afraid that the ending would not be so good.
My family so far has not had any relative, friend, or even acquaintance that lost anything significant to the fire. Even so, the destruction is all around us.
As a fellow SoCal'r, I wish you continued good fortune through the mudslide season.
-- Bill Pounds http://www.bill.pounds.net/woodshop

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John,
when fighting bushfires here in Australia, I have seen a fireball roll up a ridge and launch itself over 1 mile to an adjacent ridge (Bright bushfires 1983). The valley it crossed was where we were just about to fly in our chopper with 5 firemen on board. That spectacle was sobering (to say the least) and, when I read your actions, I could only think - here is someone smart enough not to try to be 'brave', and chose to leave on his terms, following a plan.
I'm glad that your house and property were spared, though you had already evacuated all the truly important possessions.
Greg

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snipped-for-privacy@earthlink.net says... ... snip

very happy to hear that. Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers to those who weren't so blessed.
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I'm glad to hear that all turned out well for you, too. I also was evacuated by the sheriff's department at about midnight, and it is a scary feeling. Thank God my home, too, was spared. Four people I work with lost their homes, and my old neighborhood (I lived in San Bernardino some five years back) was almost totally destroyed. It was awful.
Glen

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When are youu folks going to wake up and kick the greenies in the teeth? The TELL YOU what YOU will do. So, you lost your house. Tough. Vote them out. Even better, run them! When I can't put a bulldozer in a place to make a fire line, cut a new trail, leave "old" homeplaces, etc. and you expecty people to care? Do you know that in wilderness areas that you can't use machines? Jeeps, bulldozers, skidders, etc..I'm truly sorry your friends lost their house but CA has their priorities SO out of line that they can only pay the price. CA values looks over practicalities; doesn't always work. What IS SO impressive is that people will still fight to help you. You let the foresters do a little thinning (which also helps the forest by the way), cut some fire lanes, do a little burning (sorry, it will ALWAYS look bad), clear out some patches that can't be handles and we will save you houses. But Greenies rule in CA so tough. Vote, vote, vote!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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You, sir, are an ass.
Glen

a
been
undergrowth,
and
compresses.
October.
smoke.
only
saved,
safely
soaring
Green
essentials:
scattered
disaster.
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Informed, however.
It's that ounce of prevention that counts.

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But he does make a good argument for restoring a literacy test as a prerequisite for voter registration...
--

FF

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snipped-for-privacy@spamcop.net (Fred the Red Shirt) wrote:

Civics and current-events tests might be a good idea, too.
-- Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
How come we choose from just two people to run for president and 50 for Miss America?
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