Monday, September 26, 2011

Fire Season in Southern California

Fire which started only a few miles from my home in 2009
This one was thanks to our firefighters, was extinguished within a few hours.
Today's Plinky prompt asked what we are looking forward to this fall.  Well, while I look forward to hopefully slightly cooler weather, I have lived in southern California for fifty-six years, thereby I am familiar with fire seasons here, both from a distance, when I lived in Orange County, and for the past twenty-seven years from living right in an area which gives me a much closer vantage point of many wildfires.

I think I will list what will likely be happening this fall where I live instead of some things I may be looking forward to. Where I live, we usually have lots of fires during hot, dry weather. For some reason, in the area in which I live, we did not have nearly as many fires as usual for the summer. However, just last evening on the news, it was announced that we are likely to have many wildfires this fall. You see, just because it's the fall of the year, unlike in many parts of the country, we seldom get rain in sufficient amounts to really soak the land enough to forestall fires, whether natural or manmade. There are mountains all over the area, and many are ripe for another burn-off. Now that so many homes have been constructed, infringing more and more into the otherwise natural scenery, they are also more likely to be surrounded by any "wildfires" which may start. The would of inland southern California is rather arid, for the most part, and are also places where many off-road enthusiasts are riding their off road vehicles, including off-road motorcycles, ATVs and what not. Campers and sometimes squatters who may actually be living or camping in such areas will at times, accidentally or otherwise start a fire. Then, if it happened to be accidental, they find they are unable to control or douse the fire, and flee the area. Sometimes. they themselves are killed in the fire, while otherwise, such as arson fires, they attempt to escape the fire they set.

Several years ago, a wildfire that started more than one hundred miles south of this area, actually did hundreds of acres of destruction in my local area, coming to within about a quarter of a mile of my sister's home.  She was out relocating livestock of others already affected just a few miles away.  My brother-in-law and I were moving things from their home into their vehicles, and preparing to remove their horses and dogs.  It was the worst fire I have seen in this area.  
Glow of a distant fire at night as seen from my driveway
Note: If you look closely, you can even see a few
stars shining through the glow of the fire..

There have been several local firefighters who have been killed some twenty-five to thirty years ago from this area, when they were caught in a firestorm and were unable to escape.  Our local firefighters have learned a lot about doing right and wrong things is such cases, and the loss of life since that time has been very greatly reduced,  and they have also learned a lot about how to more quickly extinguish fires before they get to be uncontrollable.

A fire in the local area no longer has to be very large before they call in air support, as with several lakes in our area, they water dropping choppers can refill and dump more loads much faster, while they await the planes which will be bringing in fire retardant materials to also drop on the fires.  With the area being surrounded by mountains which are covered in heavy brush and many oak trees, when fires get out of control, they can become horribly out of control.  In the afternoon, we get winds coming in from the sea, and while they may have more humidity, they also whip of the fires, and the moisture quickly dissipates and with the fire whipped up, it could quickly head directly into the lower elevation of the inland valley in which I live.  My niece and her family, and my youngest daughter and her family live right at the base of one of those mountains, and have had to evacuate more than once when fire threatened their homes.  They have evacuation plans in effect, and many things are packed and ready to go should they have to leave home in case of fires again.  

In any case, these fires can be devastating to the area, and more-so in the case where hundreds or even thousands of home are destroyed, often with loss of human life as well. In cases where people have many pets, whether as livestock, or pets, there is not always time or a way to transport their animals away from the fire affected area. So, that can also contribute to many lives being lost. The laws in these areas now require that homes have tile roofs, and that brush around homes be cleared, and that trees are not so close to homes, that they could actually be the cause of a home burning. Even vents under the eaves are to be covered with fire resistant materials, with air openings, small enough to prevent burning embers from entering the attic of the home, giving people more safety, with their home much less likely to ignite. Some homes are constructed nowadays from fire retardant materials, from floor to roof, so they will be more likely to remain unburned should a fire develop in the area. From recent reports, these homes are surviving fires which have occurred in the areas in which they were constructed of modified to such standards.

There have actually been fires in southern California when fires that started a few miles inland from the ocean and burned clear to the very edge of the ocean, destroying hundreds of homes, and businesses alike.

In any case, while no one here is looking forward to fires this fall, they certainly are preparing for such events. I do look forward to hopefully somewhat cooler weather, though that may not necessarily be the case in inland southern California. We tend to have more fires later in the year, possible due to already dry brush being practically brittle from lack of water by this time of the year. 

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