You can tell I have lived out here for a while now, because I seem to be writing posts of late that start “it’s that time of year”. So I guess that’s a spoiler alert, because it is ‘that time of year’.
In this case, I am talking wildfires. It’s that time of the year when the sun is always an odd shade of yellow, my allergies get a whole new set of things to go off about, everything smells like a campfire, and the entire city is thick with smoke.
High on much of the national news this past week are some California fires that are ravaging ares of the state. One called the Camp Fire was harshly brutal up in Northern California where it practically destroyed the hurtfully named town of Paradise. Sadly, the Woosley Fire threatened the town of Thousand Oaks, just hours after a shooting tragically rocked the same city. The only real optimism of the moment is that those two fires are essentially all there are right now. There’s some mountain fires burning 60-70 miles north of Bakersfield, but otherwise there are no reported mass fires going on currently. That all can change quickly, but that’s the status right now.
None of those fires aren’t close to where I live. The closest is the Woosley fire near Thousand Oaks. To get from there to me, the fire would have to stop burning west, jump the thousands of acres it already burned to head east, burn across the entire San Fernando Valley (which is essentially built on flame retardant film studios and lost hope), up over the Verdugo mountains, and back down again to reach me. Honestly, the fire would have a better chance of getting here if it hired a rideshare, take the 101 to the 134 then up over the 2, along the 210, then getting off at La Crescenta … but who would do that in this traffic at this time of day.
The fires happen this time of year because it’s when we are prone to Santa Ana winds. Basically, high pressure systems run up the Gulf of Mexico and dive into the inland deserts, all while creating low pressure systems off the coast. Since air likes to go from where the pressure is high to the pressure is low, we see all of this as high winds riding up over or through the mountains … and we are talking very dry, very warm air that the desert had time bake out. We get these conditions for much of the fall as the spring and summer grass and plants dry out. After a long enough time it just takes a spark, and the fire starts.
Honestly, I am not all that worried about wild fires, for two reasons.
First of all, a fire is not likely to start near me for the near future. Last year, you may remember me talking about the fires that did get close. Well, if you ask any fire expert they will tell you a big thing that is needed is fuel to burn … when much of your surrounded area burns, then there is not much fuel to start a new burn. The Vedugos to the west of me was especially hard hit in what was called the La Tuna Fire, but are relatively clean of any brush now because of it.
Second of all, fire fighters know what they are doing, and they are really cautious. The fire up in Paradise was an outlier to much of the fires you see. That fired up and consumed faster than the heros could react. Paradise is also high up in the hills, and is more embedded into the forest than sitting outside of it. My house and my town is buried within the Urban Jungle. Yes, forests and trees are within a mile of me, walking distance if I wasn’t so lazy, Yes, fires flare up near enough for me to watch out on my front porch. Thing is, when they are fighting a wild fire, those guys will work to draw a line in the sand and let the rest of it burn.
Last year’s La Tuna Fire burned most of the Verdugo Mountain outside of Burbank – but only one building was damaged. Throughout the week they fought that fire, crews dropped retardants and cut fire lines so well that the fire did exactly what they wanted it to do. The whole time they never said the fire was contained, but you wouldn’t call it anything else. Not to mention, they evacuated most of the people that had a hint of a problem. But think about it, nearly 2000 homes were evacuated for the La Tuna fire, but only one building was damaged. That’s a cautious plan.
Really, what it does mean is that the area across all of LA was smokey. You can’t go anywhere and not notice it. There is the smell, the taste, the color … just continued smoke. I was doing my weekly “I’m getting pissed watching the Packer game so I might as well clean the house” moment, and was sweeping out the bathroom for the first time in a couple weeks. The dustpan had so much soot in it, I felt like I was digging out a fireplace.
But that’s what happens. This time of year that’s what we expect.