Monday, August 31, 2009

Still Here!

Good Morning Everyone,

Hey the prayers and good wishes must have been heard---we're still here, and actually I'm going to work today as the Freeway appears to be open. There's still plenty of smoke in the sky, but I'm sure the Super Scoopers were flying early this morning. If the winds cooperate, things could turn the corner. I'll try to get some pictures as I drive through Acton, on my way to work. The real test of how much the fire is contained will be this evening after the Sundowner winds come up. I'll be driving home at 8:30 p.m. my time, getting home around 10 p.m. Will update then and whenever I can during the day. Thanks you guys!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Fire Update: 10:00 p.m., 30 August 2009

Sadly, two firefighters died today when their vehicle overturned fighting the monstrous Angeles National Forest fire. They lost their lives defending the LaCanada/Flintridge area. The fire area closest to us, in Acton, is now being called The Station Fire. As awful as the fires are, it's pretty demoralizing to realize that some of them were arson. The authorities do not think the original source of the fire was arson, but at one point today, suspicious spot fires were popping up all over the various routes located alongside freeways leading to areas of the Angeles National Forest. Some of this area has not burned for 60 years, so it's pretty much a tinderbox.

Also, Shambala Preserve, the large cat sanctuary, started by actress Tippi Hedren was threatened a couple hours ago, but heroic efforts by the kind of helicopters you see above saved the Preserve. The entire staff is sleeping there and are ready to evacuate if necessary, an evacuation that would be difficult under good circumstances, never mind a raging fire.

Above you see the last of today's pictures, including the delicious cafe au lait personally made for this roving reporter by her Editor-in-Chief, Karyn, with assistance from freelance photographer, Kimberly.

Here's a recap of where we're at at this hour: The fire has burned 100,000 acres, covering nearly 66 square miles; three people were injured, in addition to the loss of life mentioned above; 18 residence have been destroyed, mostly cabins in the Angeles Forest, but 12,000 homes are currently threatened at various fronts along the 130-mile fireline; the cost of fighting the fire, thus far, is $7.7 Million, and rising; the fire is only 5% contained, but the two Super Scoopers have arrived at Van Nuys Airport in the San Fernando Valeey, and are scheduled to attack the Station Fire (Acton area) at first light.

The skies above us are red/orange, even in the dark, but I think we're good for the night, so over and out and thanks for all your letters and posts.

Fire Update: 5:49 p.m., 30 August 2009

OK, we're fine, but this thing is whipping up something fierce. If you look at the map above, we're located directly across from the Rancho Vista golf course in the nearby foothills--we are to the right of Warwick Park, by about 3 miles. The yellow area is the area within which they are trying to contain the fire. The red area, which is a couple hours old, is where the fire was---it has progressed into a third of the yellow area.

The Mt Wilson area has some bad news: Atop Mt. Wilson is the entire Los Angeles communication center---towers for every television and radio station and much of the telephone transmission centers, as well as the "repeater" transmission towers for the emergency notification system. The fire fighting arsenal has been pulled off the Mt. Wilson lines due to extreme safety hazards to crews. Unless the direction, heat and intensity change, fire officials expect Mt. Wilson to be extensively damaged.

The backyard pictures are from our house, the horse and trailer photo from the Acton foothills (Courtesy KNX).

As dusk is about two hours from now, the Night Shift of the fire fighting efforts is moving into place. That means the pictures we show of the air arsenal are the last of the day shift flights. The larger airplanes cannot fly at night, and the time between now and dusk is largely the purview of water-dropping helicopters and strategically positioned strike teams on the ground. With the speed, heat and wind fueling the bone-dry terrain into small infernos dotting the hillsides and ridges of the nearby mountains, the fire fighting equipment and personnel is definitely inadequate to keep this fire from moving closer to us. We need a major wind shift. Or as they say in Hollywood, some "good" Force Majeure!

Fire Update: 12:43 p.m., 30 August 2009

You can see the tips of the fleur de lis of our wrought iron driveway gate and the hill straight ahead, facing South. It's getting very hot here, around 103 degrees, the winds are up, to about 35 m.p.h., but so is air firepower and the fleet is working hard. Still, in evacuated Acton, the fire is only two miles from homes, with flames leaping to a height of 200 feet. Several schools (including Highland High School) and park areas (including Tierra Subida) in the Antelope Valley have now been declared as Evacuation Centers for people, horses and other farm and ranch livestock.

A new concern is the electrical power transmission lines that criss-cross some of the mountain ridges and valleys. (Another argument in favor of below ground power lines and other kinds of power generation and transmission!)

A total of 35,000 acres have burned in this La Canada/Flintridge-named fire since Wednesday night when the fire began. There have been three injuries (reportedly to folks who refused to evacuate) and a dozen structures burned, some of them houses.

We're fine, but very watchful!

Fire Update: 11:05 a.m., 30 August 2009

As you can see, winds throughout the night cleared out some of the darkest of the smoke clouds. The shot above was taken a few minutes ago, from our driveway, looking South toward Acton. Unfortunately, that is new smoke from the rapidly growing Acton fire, which is moving North, in our direction. It's still 12 miles away, and there's hours of dense brush that would have to burn before the fire reaches us, as well as several fairly high mountains (3000-4200-foot elevations) to cross. Our house sits at an elevation of about 2800 feet.

Until about a half hour ago, there were no airplanes in the air around Action and the head of Delta Rescue, one of the largest dog and cat rescue organizations, located in Acton, was on a local radio station bitterly complaining about the lack of air power. The super scoopers are not due to arrive from Northern California until tomorrow. In the past few minutes, though, I have seen and heard smaller fire-fighting air power headed in the direction of the fire. At I write, Governor Arnold is holding a press conference, and the questions from the residents are testy---they need information. A fire official tried to shine the people on with jargon-speak, and Gov. Arnold interrupted and said: "Let's give these people the name of someone here, right now, so they aren't lacking information." He's pretty cool, and suddenly several specific names materialized.

Yesterday the fire was able to travel over 10 miles in 8 hours in many sections of this massive fire, which stretches across a total line of nearly 125 miles. The concern at the moment is the mid-morning winds, which are blowing about 25 m.p.h; the higher risk, however, are the Sundowners, which come up around 5 p.m., and can blow upwards of 40 m.p.h. The winds that the fire itself kick up often reach speeds of upwards of 80 m.p.h.

Thanks to everyone for their well wishes! Robin, yes, I just remembered to email the book to myself---I have been off for several days while Kimberly, Karyn's sister visits, and while the sisters caught up on all the news, I wrote nearly 35 more pages, so I didn't have a backup of the new stuff until this morning. But I double insured by emailing it to myself, as Robin suggested. We're OK Ann, and yes, A-Lady, it's alarmingly close.

I will update briefly throughout the day.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

This is Not a Sunset; It's Smoke

No fire within 16 miles of us, but look at the skies around 2 p.m. this afternoon! Most of the smoke is coming from the huge Angeles National Forest fire, also known as the La Canada/Flintridge fire, which is only five per cent contained. Evacuations have reached nearly 3000, and tens of thousands of homes are threatened. Then, shortly after 5 p.m., a fire broke out in the Agua Dulce area (which had such a bad burn last year), closing down the Antelope Valley Freeway in both directions.

The latest report (10:05 p.m.) on the largest fire closest to us is that the LaCanada/Flintridge fire is moving rapidly toward the horse and hill country of Acton, an attractive rural community about 12 miles from us. We don't want the Agua Dulce fire and the LaCanada/Flintridge fires to merge. Acton is located midway between where we are and the Agua Dulce fire. Here's some pictures...very dramatic. The silhouette shot is of Karyn's sister, Kimberly, visiting for the weekend, and she's the woman in the straw hat near the pool. She and I took these photos. The regal pampas grass in our front yard stands guard at the gate!

But fear not, if we have to leave, we're ready: dogs, people, documents, survival duffel bag, two iMacs, a couple dozen irreplaceable pictures, and water, coffee and snacks. Check. Oh, and dog food and Teddy Valentine's blankie, known as Priscilla. Check.

10:17 p.m. Update: And my damn manuscripts and the backup discs!!! Good grief, CHECK!