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San Diego burns
October 22, 2007 4:55 PM   Subscribe

The San Diego area is in grave danger right now from two major fires being fanned by Santa Ana winds. The SD Union Tribune is maintaining a special Google Map in real time showing what's burned, and what's in danger, who's supposed to evacuate, and where they're supposed to go.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste (204 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Not too surprisingly, it's loading a bit slow. Be patient.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 4:57 PM on October 22, 2007


Yeah, it actually doesn't load at all for me.
posted by aubilenon at 5:04 PM on October 22, 2007


I think I'll take a look later. Being in Iowa, the information is of interest to me, but not essential. I'd feel like an ass if I prevented someone who needed it from seeing it.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:04 PM on October 22, 2007


The site doesn't load for me either, unfortunately. Am curious how close my brother's house in Oceanside is to any real danger (he's on voluntary evac right now).
posted by jonson at 5:08 PM on October 22, 2007


It's loading, but slowly.

Here's a quicker map from the LA Times. Same basic idea, Google Map with fire locations. If you click on the individual fires, there's a lot of information, but this map isn't quite as information-rich as the Union Tribune version.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:12 PM on October 22, 2007


Your brother's house should be fine, jonson, depending exactly where in Oceanside. The San Marcos fire is contained (as of 330 pm today), and that was the big one threatening that area.

Unless, of course, your brother lives closer to the rural parts of Fallbrook and the like. Those areas are under a mild threat by the big fire raging up Valley Center way, as well as something called the Rice Canyon fire. It's a little odd that an Oceanside resident would be under voluntary evac though. My family lives in Vista (town contiguous) and that's where the folks who live in Rancho Bernardo are congregating, so it's definitely not currently under evac order.

I suggest flickr + google maps as an alternative DIY to figuring out where the fires are--you put in SD fires in Flickr, take the specific cities and streets mentioned, plug those into Google maps, and presto, fire map.
posted by librarylis at 5:17 PM on October 22, 2007


Its pretty crazy here right now. Much worse than in 2k3. Best newstream i can find is NBC7.

A lot of my reliable news sources are not updating very fast at all.
posted by fillsthepews at 5:21 PM on October 22, 2007


The LOLGAUDYCASTLE | LOLRICHPEOPLES'HOMESAREBURNING thread is also worth following for developments regarding the unfolding tragedy in Southern California.
posted by ericb at 5:22 PM on October 22, 2007


You have my sympathies California. I hope all of our SoCal Mefites are safe.

[the map is useful, thanks SCDB]
posted by quin at 5:25 PM on October 22, 2007


It looks like Poway and Escondido dodged a bullet. The big fire burned west right between them. But Rancho Bernardo looks to have been completely engulfed. I wonder how bad it was.

What's really scary is that about half the area that's been burned was burned in just the last 12 hours or so. It's going to get a lot worse.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 5:26 PM on October 22, 2007


We've been watching that L.A. Times map all day. Every time you refresh, there's another fire. Outside it's towers of smoke in every direction.
posted by eyeballkid at 5:26 PM on October 22, 2007


Sorry, some links.

NBC7 webstream

Watch a family get totally snapped on air by newscasters for allowing their son to be on their roof with a hose, on a cellphone


Newscaster Larry Himmel reports on his own house burning to the ground.
posted by fillsthepews at 5:29 PM on October 22, 2007


Most of my friends in the East County got "reverse 911" calls early this morning, waking them up and starting their evacuations.
posted by snsranch at 5:30 PM on October 22, 2007


I'm in the San Bernardino mountains where there are two additional fires raging. We're currently under a voluntary evacuation order and the tankers are trying to establish a fireline between Rim Forest and Crestline before the cut-off at 6:37 PM. I thought I'd post this here because residents are not able to return to their homes yet (all the highways are closed to upbound traffic - we are still on the mountain) and it's tough finding coverage because the San Diego fires are so devastating.
posted by annathea at 5:35 PM on October 22, 2007


Here's a NOAA satellite photo showing the huge amounts of smoke.
posted by snsranch at 5:36 PM on October 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


Jonson, neither of the two big fires is aimed at Oceanside. The nearest one looks to be aimed at Cardiff-by-the-sea, with an outside chance of going north to Encinitas or south to Solana Beach. Right now I don't see anything that's going to stop it before it gets to the coast, unless there's a miracle and the winds stop blowing. If it keeps moving at the rate it's been going, it'll reach the coast sometime tomorrow.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 5:39 PM on October 22, 2007


So, what do you think about rich people losing their homes in the conflagration?
posted by ericb at 5:39 PM on October 22, 2007


So, what do you think about rich people losing their homes in the conflagration?

That was a question for "kri kri kri, indeed" snsranch.
posted by ericb at 5:40 PM on October 22, 2007


Fires destroy nearly 130 buildings in one town; thousands more threatened.
posted by ericb at 5:42 PM on October 22, 2007


Try this link from the LA times: direct to google maps.
posted by lalochezia at 5:42 PM on October 22, 2007


Be safe kids, I hope you and yours are all ok.
posted by Divine_Wino at 5:43 PM on October 22, 2007


this seems like kind of a double, but damn, this is pretty bad
posted by caddis at 5:43 PM on October 22, 2007


That map is spooky.

And so the water wars begin.
posted by tkchrist at 5:48 PM on October 22, 2007


Apparently our local news folks gave up on making slick graphics and just held up Thomas Guide map pages and pointed to where the fires were.

There was a lot of finger pointing in previous fires, from people who waited until the very last minute to evacuate and were subsequently killed or seriously injured. I think both the public and the public agencies have been more on the ball about evacuating, and as far as I know injuries have been minimal up to now. There are many more hours ahead, though, and more evacuations to come. I hope that residents continue to take the fires seriously, and evacuate in time.
posted by stefanie at 5:51 PM on October 22, 2007


I was in SD for the last fires in 2003. Those were incredibly scary, with the sun blotted out by clouds of ash for miles around. These look to be considerably worse. Yikes.
posted by rouftop at 5:58 PM on October 22, 2007


Good god, that LA Times map is horrifying. From the east coast, this looks like it came out of nowhere pretty suddenly, and it's been confusing trying to make sense of it tonight, not least because there are so many fires. USA Today is reporting that at least one that spread to 8800 acres in Orange County may be arson-related.

So, what do you think about rich people losing their homes in the conflagration?

ericb, would you keep your meltdown to the other, dumber thread, please? Thanks.
posted by mediareport at 5:59 PM on October 22, 2007


this seems like kind of a double, but damn, this is pretty bad

Oh man. Why does my city always have to be on fire, damn it!
posted by Citizen Premier at 6:01 PM on October 22, 2007


I've fought forest fires before, and the destruction is always incredible. I feel bad about what is happening there.

But I don't have a news program on a major news channel.

I think there is a handful of people who hate America. Unfortunately for them, a lot of them are losing their homes in a forest fire today.

Evidently, that is why I feel bad. I'd like to have a show on a major news channel, but I don't know that I am up to that kind of asshattery.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 6:03 PM on October 22, 2007


Two NASA satellite photos showing the spread of the fires between 11:30am and 3pm (from here).
posted by mediareport at 6:05 PM on October 22, 2007


Here's a NOAA satellite photo showing the huge amounts of smoke.

Here's the loop of recent visible satellite imagery from NOAA, too. (Java)
posted by not_on_display at 6:06 PM on October 22, 2007


I think there is a handful of people who hate America. Unfortunately for them, a lot of them are losing their homes in a forest fire today.
--Glenn Beck, on his syndicated radio show, October 22, 2007
posted by Brian B. at 6:09 PM on October 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


I have a sister in Rancho Bernardo.

I desperately hate times like this because my strongest instincts tell me that as a good, hands-on sister, I should be making sure my sibling and her family are safe even if it involves me getting in my car to drive 10 hours down there and pull them out of a burning building.

But alas, then I have to remember. As a last resort to protect my own sanity and well-being I distanced myself from her years ago so I don't even know her phone number. Sigh.

Dysfunctional families profoundly suck.
posted by miss lynnster at 6:12 PM on October 22, 2007


Lots of detail in this AP story, including a report that one of the many blazes "was started by a car fire." Yow. As if downed power lines, arson and flying embers weren't enough.
posted by mediareport at 6:25 PM on October 22, 2007


First person videos and photos of the conflagration.
posted by ericb at 6:25 PM on October 22, 2007


Lots of good links here.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 6:27 PM on October 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


Man, fuck Glenn Beck.
posted by icosahedral at 6:27 PM on October 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


Here's a good Google Map showing current and contained fires.
posted by mathowie at 6:33 PM on October 22, 2007


On that Google Map, the Santiago Canyon fire (by Santa Ana and Irvine) has the line "Believed cause: arson". Is there any reason to take that seriously?
posted by painquale at 6:38 PM on October 22, 2007


It's probably early to be making such judgments, but it's hardly impossible. When I first moved to San Diego there were a series of fires which were arsons. Eventually they caught the guys doing it.

They'd been driving someplace dry, lighting highway flares, and tossing them into the brush.

I can't understand the mind set of someone who'd want to do such a thing, but since several fire fighters died in those blazes, they were tried for murder.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 6:42 PM on October 22, 2007


"Believed cause: arson".

"The causes of the different fires raging throughout the state were varied, with a fallen power line believed to be the cause of the blaze in Malibu while arson was blamed for a fire in Orange County that torched 1,620 hectares [4,003 acres].

'I'm sad to report this is an arson fire,' said Orange County Fire Authority Chief Chip Prather."*

Arson Fire Threatens Homes In Orange County.
posted by ericb at 6:53 PM on October 22, 2007


signonsandiego seems to be a useful news source. Perhaps Akamai or AT&T would be kind enough to help them out with their mapping/image hosting. heck, something. And maybe we need to quit linking to it. :)

A friend down there has said that the radio stations are all but useless, having been bought out by Clear Channel. One AM station was playing a syndicated host and the FM stations were on with the typical music & commercials.
posted by drstein at 7:01 PM on October 22, 2007


I'm safely in Chicago right now, but I was in San Diego this morning.

Yesterday afternoon I was hiking with some colleagues on Mt Palomar. Driving back we saw a long column of smoke heading west. The driver's wife phoned to report that their home in Del Mar was inundated with smoke.

As we entered the city the sky went dark, the sun turned red, and eventually it was hidden from view. A layer of ash began to coat everything.

This morning we dusted ash off the car and I was delivered to the airport by the same colleague. He then returned home to begin preparing for evacuation. Climbing out from San Diego I saw at least 5 fires, one to the SE with open flame covering a large area.

Basically what I'm saying is: it was less than 24 hours from "Hey lookee that smoke" to "We gotta evacuate". It was so fast.
posted by rlk at 7:05 PM on October 22, 2007


Jonson, neither of the two big fires is aimed at Oceanside. The nearest one looks to be aimed at Cardiff-by-the-sea, with an outside chance of going north to Encinitas or south to Solana Beach.

Well...thats very nice. My parents live in Cardiff by the Sea. Black ash falling. Neighbors evacuating...
posted by vacapinta at 7:13 PM on October 22, 2007


SCDB, some of the links on that page you posted are quite good - this one has some amazing info on maps - charting houses that have been lost by address in Rancho Bernardo.
posted by madamjujujive at 7:14 PM on October 22, 2007


I was amused to hear the local NPR affiliate suggesting that their listeners check for their news updates on Twitter and the Union-Tribune is now using Blogger for updates.

The real interesting question is whether they keep that sort of thing going in the future - I suspect someone's realizing that Google/Twitter's servers are a LOT more reliable than most of the local emergency service sites.

A few other interesting sources: Flickr's also kind of fun - since we're in the odd position of having imminent doom with plenty of bandwidth a ton of pictures are popping up: San Diego-geotagged images since yesterday

(lest I be accused of stealth self-linkage, these photos are mine)
posted by adamsc at 7:14 PM on October 22, 2007


I've been reloading the L.A. Times site all day - and the map there - and I never got around to checking the San Diego papers. Thanks to all for the links.

Be safe.
posted by rtha at 7:21 PM on October 22, 2007


This pic from the site madamjujujive pointed out made me shiver. Just look at those palm trees. Somewhere there's a quote from the LA fire chief saying this would be a serious windstorm even without the fires. That picture really brought home the awfulness of the combination of factors.

Btw, I was trying to figure out what bugged me so much about the link above to the news people attacking the teenager on his roof with a garden hose, and found a rebuttal of sorts from the NYT:

All over, scenes of residents taking matters into their own hands played out as some fires burned for long period without a firefighter in sight. Dozens of men, women and children in Canyon Country north of Los Angeles grabbed shovels and garden hoses and fought flames creeping up a canyon within 50 feet of their homes. About seven children and young teenagers worked in tandem with their parents as the flames approached their back fences.

“That was hot!” said Steven Driedger, 14, as he examined his scratched legs for signs of a burn. “But I’m fine.”

Steven’s mother, Carolyn Dreidger, said the family had been battling the blaze since 4 a.m. along with their neighbors. “Our neighborhood has really come together,” she said, as a firefighting crew finally pulled up in the late morning. “We had to. These are the first official firefighters we’ve seen.’’


The wisdom of the "take matters into your own hands" approach is at least debatable, it seems to me.
posted by mediareport at 7:27 PM on October 22, 2007


Fuck, this is almost beyond belief. What a nightmare.
posted by homunculus at 7:33 PM on October 22, 2007


Oh man. Why does my city always have to be on fire, damn it!
posted by Citizen Premier at 9:01 PM on October 22 [+] [!]


Hell, this really is just a double. Fire in one SOCAL city is just like fire in another. It all comes from the same set of circumstances, and it sucks just as much for all involved. We don't need a separate thread for every city that ignites. We already have an appropriate thread open. The only reason for leaving this one open is that it has more gravitas than the first one which was frankly silly - omg some lame castle burned - which was not very nice to poke fun at even if the whole thing was ostentatious times a thousand.
posted by caddis at 7:35 PM on October 22, 2007


It is long past time that idiot Beck got fired. What an asshole.
posted by homunculus at 7:37 PM on October 22, 2007


i watch a video of cars on a highway driving by a miles-long wall of flames. and they drive on by, like its not even there. we don't talk about the elephant.

i'm not being callous. i know there's lots of volunteers and firefighters and such out there being heroes.

but i think that when a community sees a miles-long WALL OF FIRE, every damn person should be helping in some way, not watching and taking video.
posted by mr_book at 7:38 PM on October 22, 2007


From the SD Trib's fire blog:

Horse stables for 1,700 available in Indio
Posted @ 7:17 PM

Evacuees are invited to stable their horses at a horse farm in the Thermal-Indio area.

A private citizen, recommended by a California Department of Food & Agriculture veterinarian, has volunteered enough property, staff, food, and water resources to care for up to 1,700 horses. For more information, County residents can call (760) 399-2716.


Wow.
posted by rtha at 7:39 PM on October 22, 2007


Raymond Chandler and the Santa Ana winds. And the general warning on this Santa Ana Winds forecast page is a real eye-opener to me, anyway, living in the eastern part of the US:

The Santa Ana Winds cause traffic accidents all across the Southland, and if you are one of our fine truck drivers you are in danger when crossing into the Inland areas from West of the Banning Pass on I-10 or I-60. Also coming down the Cajon and Tejon Pass on I-5 and I-15 into the Los Angeles region and Inland Empire. These winds are no joke and if strong enough they will tip you over.

Holy shit. Now add fire to that.
posted by mediareport at 7:44 PM on October 22, 2007


The wisdom of the "take matters into your own hands" approach is at least debatable, it seems to me.
"Fire officials said crews were unable to fight the fires in some areas because they were busy rescuing residents who refused to leave."*
I suspect that many of us when faced with the possibility of losing our homes believe that we can "tough it out." Think Katrina. Think of what ended up becoming "other disasters" before they became such.

We are all capable of thinking that "Nature" could not be so capricious as to wipe us out.

Our belief and faith -- in the end -- is indeed overpowered by just that -- the capricious nature of "Nature."
posted by ericb at 7:45 PM on October 22, 2007


caddis, I believe that Steven C. Den Beste posted this in the spirit of "let's use this thread in case anyone needs communicate". As a fellow San Diegan, I really appreciate it.

If anyone lives in San Diego's South Bay, a back fire was set to starve the Harris fire of fuel and got out of control. (I don't know why anyone would start a back fire with this wind.) So, if you live in East Lake or Otay Mesa, keep your eyes and ears open. You might soon be evacuated.
posted by snsranch at 7:50 PM on October 22, 2007


Anyone have up-to-date information on the affected area, containment %, and direction of the Guejito fire? My brother lives right at the I-15 and Scripps Poway Parkway / Mercy Road exit (zip code: 92129). Google maps tells me the Guejito fire is about 4-5 miles away (and it looks like the winds have been blowing SW in that area, not promising). My brother, his wife, and and their two kids have been evacuated and are safely on their way to our parents', but my father is out of the country and my mother is internet-illiterate, so it's up to me to keep the family updated. Any information/prognosis would be appreciated.

One of my closest friends does work out in the canyons. She received a radio dispatch at 8:30 yesterday morning, telling her to get the heck out of there ASAP. After packing up camp, it took her an hour and a half to hike back to her vehicle. By the time her SUV got to the mouth of the canyon, an unreported spot fire had burned all the way to the edge of the road, with wind pushing the main body of the fire behind her into the other end of the canyon. She barely got out in time...

Meanwhile, 400 miles away up here in the Bay Area, I had just stepped to light a cigarette after dinner but stopped when I smelled my neighbors barbecuing next door.
posted by DaShiv at 7:57 PM on October 22, 2007


This is incredible. The area burns every goddamn year, but not like this. I'm glad to see this thread going better than the other one. Jerks.

I can't get the link to load either. My brother lives just east of Huntington Beach. - how close to there is the nearest fire?
posted by item at 7:59 PM on October 22, 2007


"Fire officials said crews were unable to fight the fires in some areas because they were busy rescuing residents who refused to leave."

Yeah, I'd seen that quote, too, but it's not clear to me whether the firefighters were 1) standing there arguing with folks who weren't under mandatory evacuation orders, a move I'd call stupid, 2) going back to rescue those folks later, or 3) going back to rescue folks who'd ignored mandatory orders to leave. I think residents in 1) have a right to choose to stay and something of a claim to rescue when they get overwhelmed, but I'd understand if someone argued they're lower priority than folks newly threatened. Folks in category 3 are, and should be, on their own.

It's not clear to me what category the teen on the roof falls into.
posted by mediareport at 8:01 PM on October 22, 2007


I realize that it may seem like a good idea to stick around and try to hose down your house, but fire (particularly this kind, with powerful winds and 0% humidity) is fast, unpredictable, and deadly.

Houses can be rebuilt; families can't. It's not worth risking your life or your family over, and too many times we've seen the tragic results of people misjudging these fires. Get off the damn roof, grab a handful of valuables, and get somewhere safe. Your life is what matters; everything else is just stuff.
posted by stefanie at 8:06 PM on October 22, 2007


SNSRanch, I no longer live in San Diego. But I have friends there, and fond memories of the place, and right now I'm worried sick.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 8:09 PM on October 22, 2007


Just had a terse chat with my friends that live down there as they were packing for their evacuation. She just gave birth last Thursday (first kid), which I certain is making the situation all the more stressful. The combination with the fascinating but impersonal satellite photos of the extent of the blaze is a one-two macro/micro level sucker punch to the gut.
posted by lucidprose at 8:14 PM on October 22, 2007


Ugh. Got an update on my family. My sister evacuated when the flames got to their backyard. Sounds like they may have lost their house, but no confirmation yet. They're staying with friends right now. I'm trying to figure out ways I can help. Meanwhile my 21 year old niece is all packed up and waiting to evacuate from her place. Her boyfriend is busy taking photos of his music studio equipment just in case. Apparently she's distracting herself from being scared by eating a tube of cookie dough.

Not a great day in San Diego.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:16 PM on October 22, 2007


It's disturbing to me that, on some level, that over the past few hours I've emotionally detached myself enough from this situation to genuinely appreciate this as "Best of the Web". Looking at this, the way that this technology is being used to communicate information to people in a way that we couldn't have attempted even five years ago, is incredible to me.

It's a shame that it took a disaster of this magnitude for us to discover yet another way in which the internet is changing the way that people learn about and interact with their world.

Best of the Web... It's a fucking shame.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 8:21 PM on October 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


I'm in San Diego - it's pretty smoky. Reminds me of European cities before untreated coal burning was banned.

I like this map - it displays the evacuation zones quite clearly:
KPBS
posted by meehawl at 8:21 PM on October 22, 2007


I was out there on business in 2005. Had a day off and on a lark drove up through Poway, then Ramona, then on up to Julian and down the mountains, across the desert all the way to the Salton Sea. It was a fun drive that I'll never forget. Sad to think a lot of the areas I passed through between Ramona and Julian have now burned up.

On a related and somewhat disconcerting note, it's only rained one time here in DC in the last 36 days. Hmm.
posted by smoothvirus at 8:24 PM on October 22, 2007


About 10pm last night, I told a friend in central/northern SD that there was a fire. 5 hours later, it was evac time. The Witch fire moved fast, and by the looks of things, so did all of the rest.

As drstein pointed out, there's a real dearth of information. Local news is pretty uninformative, radio is worthless, and associated websites are just getting hammered.

This is a pretty bad situation, and the lack of timely information isn't making it any better.
posted by duende at 8:27 PM on October 22, 2007


Six ffs in critical condition.

Shit, I am so sorry for all you folks who are worried about family & friends!
posted by madamjujujive at 8:30 PM on October 22, 2007


Meehawl, according to that map, the area where I used to live (just east of Del Mar) is now in mandatory evacuation.

Parasite Unseen, part of why I made this post was precisely because this really is an example of "Best of the Web". It really is unprecedented. I don't see any contradiction between appreciating that fact and being worried sick about the people who live there.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 8:42 PM on October 22, 2007


Steven, did you live in Rancho? (I went to Torrey Pines High.)
posted by miss lynnster at 8:48 PM on October 22, 2007


Just in case anyone is wondering, the Uptown area (North Park, Hillcrest, Balboa Park, etc.) is fine as of now. I'm not too worried unless the fire comes down the canyons.

Family members in north Escondido have been evacuated, and others in Mira Mesa haven't been yet but are packed in case.

San Diego County Libraries will all be closed tomorrow, but plan to be open Wednesday unless conditions worsen.
posted by exceptinsects at 8:50 PM on October 22, 2007


LA Times has some amazing photos (warning: link may resize your browser)
posted by madamjujujive at 8:51 PM on October 22, 2007


just east of Del Mar) is now in mandatory evacuation.

Yes, Del Mar was in a voluntary evac since the afternoon, but now portions of it have gone mandatory. It seems a little confused as to which portions are either mandatory or advisory:
Del Mar city officials are reporting that the fire has moved into the Fairbanks Ranch area. Residents in Del Mar are being told to evacaute.

I gather the issue with Del Mar is that several canyons run oretty much directly east --> west and Santa Ana could funnel embers a long way.
posted by meehawl at 8:56 PM on October 22, 2007


Oh, here's the official Del Mar site.
posted by meehawl at 8:59 PM on October 22, 2007


I lived in Del Mar Heights, which is part of San Diego. I was just east of I-5 and about a mile north of 56. I moved there when I was 42, so I wouldn't know anything about high schools there.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:02 PM on October 22, 2007


Unfortunately, disastr.org is only prepared to serve links and not to coordinate refugee housing yet. But in case you need to know, here's how to build an insulated single-family shelter in 3 hours for $200.
posted by eritain at 9:12 PM on October 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


Posted @ 9:14 PM

A dispatch from the city of Del Mar's web site: "For your safety, we are strongly advising that all Del Mar residents evacuate." A mandatory evacuation remains in place for eastern Del Mar.

Residents were told to go north to El Toro High School at 25255 Toledo Way, Lake Forest.

Those who need help leaving are told to call 858-704-3694.

In addition, the Del Mar Fairgrounds cannot receive additional clients with special needs as they are at full capacity. The City of Oceanside has opened a shelter at El Camino High School, 400 Rancho Del Oro, Oceanside, for these evacuees.


lynnster: I went to SDHS but lets put aside those differences and come together right now, yes? :)
posted by vacapinta at 9:17 PM on October 22, 2007


Some good info sources I've found (sorry if any are doubles)
- SignOnSanDiego Forums - many boards for specific areas man
- KPBS news twitter
- nateritter twitter - good info
- Using social media services to track the California fires
posted by madamjujujive at 9:40 PM on October 22, 2007


I've been focused on the Malibu fires for most of the day, and didn't realise how truly awful the situation is in San Diego county. I hope everyone down there is keeping safe, and thanks to everyone here who provided links. Best wishes to everyone in SoCal tonight and over the next week. Bad times, these.
posted by maryh at 9:40 PM on October 22, 2007


San Da Ghetto, huh? :)

I'm glad my mom lives in North Park, she seems safe so I'm thankful for that.
posted by miss lynnster at 9:42 PM on October 22, 2007


Thanks for the list, madamjujujive. I'm just (and I mean just) north of the Scripps Ranch evac area. The SignOnSanDiego forums are an excellent resource. It'll be a long night... be safe, all.
posted by blockhead at 9:47 PM on October 22, 2007


San Diegan here (University Heights). Had family evacuated out of Ramona, Poway, and now Chula Vista. Looks like the fire is going to rip through Del Mar/Solana Beach straight to the ocean. This is INSANE. And virtually ZERO national coverage.

I've been reloading these all day:

- Fire & Evac Google map. Not very up-to-date, but a good overview of affected areas.
- Calitics.com - great overviews updated frequently.
- DailyKos Liveblog - great up-to-date info.
- And Still I Persist - custom google maps, including a devastating map showing confirmed burned out houses in Rancho Bernardo.
- My Simple Life - maps of affected areas, don't seem to be updated very often though.
posted by afx114 at 9:50 PM on October 22, 2007


I'm hearing numbers now of HALF A MILLION evacuated...
posted by afx114 at 9:52 PM on October 22, 2007


Oh, great: "Fire officials said at 8:30 p.m. that they don't expect to see winds change direction until late afternoon Thursday."
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:54 PM on October 22, 2007


Just talked to my mother in Julian. Looks like Julian's the only safe place in that area. Town's lost power, but she appears to still have it (about 2 miles outside of town).

My sister, her husband, and her child evac'd from Escondido to Julian.

She was the air is clear and all is looking good for them right now.

I not only used to fight brushfires, but Southern California brushfires. State trained, even. (I used to be lead hook on a crew. Strap hooks rule!)

Manzanita is wicked stuff. Extremely dense which gives it the double whammy of both being very hard to cut and very, very hot burning. Nasty. nasty stuff.

Although you wouldn't catch me dead out on the line, my best wishes go out to not only the individuals and families who have lost their homes, but to those crazy, overly responsible people out on the grade.

I just hope everyone gets home safe, and has a home to return to.
posted by Samizdata at 9:56 PM on October 22, 2007


SoCal fires are a strange experience for an east-coaster. I distinctly remember a summer I spent working in the Hollywood Hills watching fires rage across the way and thinking it very odd that my west-coast colleagues didn't seem the least bit phased by the flames in the distance.
posted by shoepal at 9:59 PM on October 22, 2007


San Diego is heavily populated with Eucalyptus as well.. wickedly flammable.
posted by afx114 at 10:02 PM on October 22, 2007


(anyone heard from Lionindex?)
posted by shoepal at 10:07 PM on October 22, 2007


Argh, we're just outside of the evacuation area, but only JUST outside of it. So the car is packed and we're still trying to figure out if we need to head out to the Qualcomm center. I really don't relish sitting in that parking lot with our car and cat for hours - but it looks like our options are diminishing...
posted by batgrlHG at 10:07 PM on October 22, 2007


DaShiv, there's no news about the Guejito (now merged with the Witch fire). The winds and temperatures should hold things for tonight, but tomorrow they are expecting another bad day (dangerously low humidity, strong winds, etc), so it's kind of up in the air.

It's promising that they haven't evacuated the east side of the 15 at Mercy Road, and both Mt. Carmel and Mira Mesa high schools are still open as evacuation centers. They're also being much more conservative about evacuation orders this time around. In years past, evacuation meant the fire was at your heels; this time it's much less of a doomsday scenario if you're evacuated.

It's safe to assume the house will be OK tonight. Probably tomorrow, too, but they're starting to call this one worse than the Cedar fire, so it's tough to say how bad it's going to get before it's over.

For those of you who have family evacuated in SD, I've been hearing that the evacuation centers have been inundated with donated goods, and that things are being handled well. (Yeah, it's small comfort, but it's all I've got for now.
posted by stefanie at 10:09 PM on October 22, 2007


NBC just said FEMA arrives tomorrow...
posted by meehawl at 10:10 PM on October 22, 2007


I went down to Qualcomm to donate some stuff and was very impressed with the organization and planning going on down there. They are saying that there are more volunteers than there are actual evacuees. Lots of food, tents, blankets for everyone. I guess that's one bright spot here...
posted by afx114 at 10:12 PM on October 22, 2007


NBC just said FEMA arrives tomorrow...

*bites tongue*

Best wishes to my PST time zone Southern neighbours.... wish I could send you some of the rain we've been having the last few days.
posted by jokeefe at 10:16 PM on October 22, 2007


Touché, meehawl.
posted by shoepal at 10:17 PM on October 22, 2007


miss lynnster: I'm glad my mom lives in North Park, she seems safe so I'm thankful for that.

I live in North Park too. Right now, we're still far enough south of the Witch fire and far enough west of the Harris fire that we're almost certainly safe overnight. But since they say these winds will keep blowing until Thursday and we can't get the fire any better contained, I don't want to jinx myself by relaxing too soon.

I walked over to Bird Park, in the northeast corner of Balboa Park this afternoon to watch the crazy sunset. Right at 32nd Street and Myrtle looking west, I could see exactly where the Harris fire smoke started rising into the air, and I could watch it blow from there, all the way west to the harbor, south of where I was standing. Here's about a 90 degree panorama from that spot. You can see where the smoke starts, just to the right of the stop sign. Over in Bird Park a few minutes later, I watched the sun set over the park. The smoke was so thick you could look straight at the sun.

I'm reasonably sure my work's going to be cancelled tomorrow, so I got a bunch of supplies and headed up to Qualcomm a bit earlier. They took the supplies but turned me away; as someone else mentioned, right now they've got more volunteers than evacuees right now.

But I'm sure in the weeks to come, we're going to need plenty of help, so thank you to everyone who's sending it. A whole lot more than just gaudy rich-person castles in Malibu is going up in smoke right now.
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 10:29 PM on October 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


i'm not sure if anyone has said this yet... but those LA Times/google maps are straight out of sim city 2000. The fact that these places are burning makes me want to instantly build a bunch of fire stations and send all the units to the blaze, like I could in that game.

That's probably too depressing for me to analyze further.
posted by localhuman at 10:29 PM on October 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


cobra_high, howdy neighbor!! i used to live a block from your shot on 33rd street between upas and thorn. most favorite place i've ever lived.
posted by afx114 at 10:36 PM on October 22, 2007


Howdy to you too, afx! Sounds like you used to live about two blocks from where I live now. I don't know how long ago you lived here, but I gotta say that today, this is the most favorite place I've ever lived too.

All you SDfites: let's get a beer when this is all over with. I think we may need it.
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 10:41 PM on October 22, 2007


FEMA, eh. After Katrina, the new head is an ex-firefighter. Here's to hoping it'll go well.

Nevertheless; consider this the first of many potential "heck of a job, pauly!" moments.
posted by duende at 10:56 PM on October 22, 2007


Thanks for the info, stefanie. I've gotten in touch with my brother now and they're all safely at my parents', well out of harm's way. They had actually been all packed since this morning and were waiting until traffic died down before they left (they were still under voluntary evac, not mandatory yet), and I let them know that their place should be fine through the night. I've passed this thread on to him so that he use the resources posted here to keep track of things tomorrow. Please keep posting info and updates!

As for me, too much excitement for one night -- I'm going back to working on Photoshop.
posted by DaShiv at 11:02 PM on October 22, 2007


Keep posting the links folks - we're still checking the web with our laptops (everything else is packed in the car) - and as usual it's helpful to check MeFi. Local news is giving out websites right and left, only so many of them just don't seem to be loading for me. We're staying here (near Mira Mesa) tonight, and I think we're ok. But I'm gonna be staying up late and checking all forms of media.
I hear you about that drink, cobra_high_tigers!
Stay safe everyone!
posted by batgrlHG at 11:02 PM on October 22, 2007


I'm beginning to wonder if the Harris fire is going to threaten Tijuana. As there weren't enough problems. And I'm not sure, but it looks like Tecate has been hit by the Harris fire already.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:18 PM on October 22, 2007


SCDB - I was wondering where I can find maps that show the fires in Mexico.

I have friends in LA and San Diego, and have not been able to contact any of them. I hope everyone is ok. the extent of the devastation and of the evacuations is beyond anything I can comprehend. To think that it all started just yesterday.
posted by seawallrunner at 11:31 PM on October 22, 2007


Tecate's definitely been threatened from what I've seen. Unfortunately, http://www.firedetect.noaa.gov/ is overwhelmed at the moment but it was looking pretty ominous south of the border the last time I got through.
posted by adamsc at 11:37 PM on October 22, 2007


The map on this page (click the "JPEG Image" link) shows the Harris fire in northern Mexico, but it doesn't get updated all that often. It's based on computer processing of IR satellite data, and there aren't all that many satellites being used.

But as of the last map there, Tecate did get nailed and Tijuana is definitely in peril.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:55 PM on October 22, 2007


NBC just said FEMA arrives tomorrow...

On top of everything else, now this.

Seriously, though, I think it's time for a bit of this in the thread:

.
posted by dhartung at 12:28 AM on October 23, 2007


Man, this is bullshit. So tired of nature trying to make me die in a fire. So far it's just succeeding in totally punishing my lungs for existing.

Unless things stay horribly out of control I'm not worried for my own safety (respiration aside) but I am worried for friends and family in other parts of the county, and just worried about the county in general. Bleh.
posted by Stunt at 12:52 AM on October 23, 2007


Wow. I grew up in Vista, north SD county.

I've been traveling all day and checking in on things and . . . holy crap this is is so far beyond the normal "fire season" that I grew up with (for, let's call it: 30+ years) that it's unbelievable.

My folks are out of the country and I think the house I grew up in will be OK, but man this is a mess.

And I hear the Wild Animal Park is being selectively evaluated: "Sorry Zebra, you're fucked. Condors! Come right this way!"

Ug.
posted by donovan at 1:27 AM on October 23, 2007


For those of you still checking in:

The hot spot right now is Mt. San Miguel (they're calling it a new fire, and not part of the Harris fire). The fire has come over the ridge and moving west. Some residents are getting evacuation orders, but most of the area (Chula Vista, Eastlake, Bonita, Spring Valley, Lemon Grove and Rancho San Diego) is on alert, although they may be doing a reverse 911 in Spring Valley shortly. If you're watching/listening from out of the area and wondering why this Ham-a-shaw road they keep talking about isn't on your map, it's spelled Jamacha.

There's also apparently a new fire and evacuation in the Barona/Wildcat Canyon area, but there's little news about that.

Lots of people are waiting until the fire is literally in their back yard, and the only burn center in San Diego is apparently full, so that'll be a growing problem.

OK, they're for sure evacuating people in the Spring Valley area now, and more houses are going to be lost there. Someone in La Mesa is saying the fire is going along the 125 pretty fast.

Oh, great... the radio/tv/cell transmitters are burning on Mt. San Miguel.

We're expecting aircraft tomorrow, but the winds may keep them out of service until the afternoon.

So, to sum: three new fires since midnight, and Tuesday will bring more shit weather. Hopefully the reinforcements are enough to cover this giant flaming clusterfuck.

The good news is that they're reporting the Wild Animal Park animals are safe in their enclosures, and they've got a good fire break around the park, so the zebras aren't fucked after all.

I hope all of your loved ones are well and safe.
posted by stefanie at 3:58 AM on October 23, 2007


Damn, how awful. Thanks for the updates, Stefanie. I just finished refreshing the SDUT map and the fires they show are at least twice as large as they were last night. My brother-in-law and family evacuated from Encinitas, so that's the fire I looked at in detail, and the map shows it now less than five miles from his house.

When I went to bed it was over 10 miles out.
posted by mwhybark at 5:48 AM on October 23, 2007


As one of those who commented negatively about the castle in that other thread, I apologize to all. The scope of the disaster was greater than I was aware. I wish everyone out there the best.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 6:01 AM on October 23, 2007


Standing by here. I probably won't be evacuated unless things really go bad--most of the city would burn before it got to us. I wish my fellow San Diegans the best, and give a shout if there's anything I can help with.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 6:43 AM on October 23, 2007


Once again folks, be safe, be well, don't be brave. Good luck, I'm pulling for ya.
posted by Divine_Wino at 8:07 AM on October 23, 2007


I know I posted it above, but I just want to reiterate that Nate Ritter is providing excellent & frequent updates via Twitter if someone needs a quick news source.

Here's some recent updates:

#sandiegofire Winds are slowing down almost to nothing now. Good news! 10 minutes ago from web
#sandiegofire More than 300,000 people evacuated. 50,000 evacuated during 2003 Cedar fire. Wow. 19 minutes ago from web
#sandiegofire National Guard doing helicopter drops today. 20 minutes ago from web
#sandiegofire Witch Creek fire #1 priority in the state. 22 minutes ago from web
#sandiegofire Rice fire: 6100 acres, 0% contained 23 minutes ago from web
#sandiegofire 20 residents in Harris fire burned. 4 firefighters also burned. 24 minutes ago from web
#sandiegofire I-8 closed from Alpine to Imperial county line 25 minutes ago from web
#sandiegofire Winds are not heavy enough to stop aerial air tankers and helicopters this morning. 27 minutes ago from web
#sandiegofire local pharmacies are out of facemasks (friend confirmed) 28 minutes ago from web
#sandiegofire So, don't use cell phones, don't drive on the freeways and cut back on electricity is all requested direct from the city. 35 minutes ago from web
posted by madamjujujive at 8:10 AM on October 23, 2007


SDUT's Blogspot blog has been good for current information, too.

The latest post (as I write this) is an update on the Witch Creek fire. 164,000 acres, and only 1% contained. Ye Gods.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 8:44 AM on October 23, 2007


It's (mostly) not snark, it's Fark.
posted by meehawl at 8:46 AM on October 23, 2007


This is terrible. My most heartfelt sympathies to those affected and to their loved ones. Stay safe and all the rest will be redone.
posted by carmina at 8:47 AM on October 23, 2007


This is about as bad as it gets. If you're anywhere near this fire, leave. Wild fires can move faster than any human and often faster than vehicles, too - even experienced firefighters sometimes get caught.
posted by tommasz at 9:28 AM on October 23, 2007


How well does an actual city burn? If the Harris fire continues to bear west onto Chula Vista, once it's out of actual brush will it have enough to keep burning?

My mother has a trailer well-stocked for an extended beach campout on the Strand, but I'm still concerned.
posted by darksasami at 9:55 AM on October 23, 2007


Nate Ritter: The Harris Fire is 70, 000 acres and 5% contained. Firefighters are looking for full control of this fire on November 4th. 15 minutes ago from web

November 4! Yikes.
posted by madamjujujive at 10:12 AM on October 23, 2007


If the Harris fire continues to bear west onto Chula Vista, once it's out of actual brush will it have enough to keep burning?

Brush is not necessary in a city, all it takes is a flying ember to land on a rooftop and POOF the house goes up. With the wind as furious as it is, burning embers are being carried hundreds of yards westward. If the fire hits the city, it might slow down, but it certainly won't stop. They are saying that the only thing that will stop this is the ocean.
posted by afx114 at 10:34 AM on October 23, 2007


Holy shit, and I thought I felt heartbroken when Griffith Park was on fire a few months ago.

Be safe, everyone. (DaShiv, I was wondering about your family last night! So glad to hear they're all right.)
posted by scody at 10:37 AM on October 23, 2007


This is a big one. Wow.

Best of luck to you all in the path of this mess. Here's hoping you get out safely and it misses your house anyway.
posted by caddis at 10:39 AM on October 23, 2007


We're still hunkered down at home - we've been lucky in that we're just missing all the evacuation zones which are somewhat near us, but I think most of them are voluntary. Advised not to go anywhere, use cell phones little as possible. We've randomly been glued to media for 24 hrs now. This all may go on for some time - they're talking about Thursday on the news.

One thing that's amazing - the Reverse 911 calls. The city has been calling land lines to alert people when to evacuate and the process seems to be working very well. I actually had no idea that this settup existed, and we don't have a landline anyhow. I only recently signed up for the list via the San Diego website (normally I would not really want them having my info, but hey, now it seems like a good idea), no idea if my name will be on the list in time if they need to call us.

Our local NPR station went down last night thanks to the fire -
"KPBS-FM is now available at the 94.9 frequency. KPBS Radio's signal was interrupted due to the fire on Mt. San Miguel."
They've been a great resource, especially when the tv channels stopped broadcasting news last night.
posted by batgrlHG at 10:41 AM on October 23, 2007


Drat, meant to link that quote to Twitter.
posted by batgrlHG at 10:42 AM on October 23, 2007


To reiterate another link, the SignonSanDiego forums are full of first-hand accounts for very specific areas.
posted by vacapinta at 10:57 AM on October 23, 2007


Wow. At least 1,200 structures burned; smaller blazes merging into larger fires.
posted by ericb at 11:13 AM on October 23, 2007


They just announced on MSNBC that all citizens of San Diego county should be prepared to evacuate. Already 346,000 homes have been evacuated.
posted by ericb at 11:34 AM on October 23, 2007


the Uptown area (North Park, Hillcrest, Balboa Park, etc.) is fine as of now

According to this, the evac zone for the Harris Fire now has a northward extension that is only five-ish miles east of North Park and extends up to 8.
posted by meehawl at 11:41 AM on October 23, 2007


The Union-Tribune now has he big fire incorporating the animal park but held along Del Dios Hwy - maybe they'll be able to keep it out of Encinitas.
posted by mwhybark at 11:49 AM on October 23, 2007


This map seems more accurate, it's run by the Union Tribune and the evac areas have been closely following what I've been hearing on TV.
posted by afx114 at 11:50 AM on October 23, 2007


sorry, that's the Union-Tribune map.
posted by mwhybark at 11:51 AM on October 23, 2007


I just heard a copter report that fire services were allowing a burn from Harris "down to the 125 toll road", which does not seem to be reflected on the Union Tribune map.
posted by meehawl at 12:00 PM on October 23, 2007


From Fark, here's a stream of emergency services radio chat.
posted by meehawl at 12:06 PM on October 23, 2007


all it takes is a flying ember to land on a rooftop and POOF the house goes up.

Not quite. Building code in the Southern California area requires terra cotta tile roofs, precisely to prevent houses going poof that way.

It's not fireproof you understand, but it's much more fire resistant than you might think.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 12:24 PM on October 23, 2007


Not quite. Building code in the Southern California area requires terra cotta tile roofs, precisely to prevent houses going poof that way. It's not fireproof you understand, but it's much more fire resistant than you might think.

True, but the majority of houses they are showing getting burned on TV have the tile roofs. They are by no means failsafe. Once an ember gets up underneath the overhang and into the attic, it's gone.
posted by afx114 at 12:37 PM on October 23, 2007


More scanners.

Realtime webcams (check Lyon's Peak).

These are from Fark, also.
posted by meehawl at 12:46 PM on October 23, 2007


Also the tile building code is relatively recent.. maybe 10-15 years? There are a lot houses much older than that in the areas the fire is headed.
posted by afx114 at 12:47 PM on October 23, 2007


Finally, finally we're starting to get a trickle of good news.

Parts of Poway are no longer considered unsafe.
Firefighters from northern California are beginning to deploy.
With reduced winds, firefighters are beginning to gain control over the Witch Fire, especially on the west end.
The evacuation order for parts of Del Mar has been lifted.

I think this is kind of a cool story:
K-T Donuts on Paradise Valley Road was emptied of donuts when the shop opened at 5 a.m.

Proprietor Hay Taing said someone was waiting when she opened and bought up all 50 dozen donuts she had, saying they were going to give them to firefighters and evacuees in the Spring Valley area.

Needless to say, her regular customers were showing up and found nothing for them this morning.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 12:57 PM on October 23, 2007


Building code in the Southern California area requires terra cotta tile roofs, precisely to prevent houses going poof that way.

That only applies to new construction since 2004, when that code went into effect. And even slate and tile roofs are vulnerable to embers blowing up into the eaves and igniting fires (which is why you'll probably hear people talking about wanting to require "boxed eaves" again).

People (Duncan Hunter is first and loudest so far) are already complaining about the red tape and permits that are required for them to rebuild. Slate roofs, sprinkler systems, and other fire-retardant features are expensive, and they'll get fought tooth and nail, the same way they fought against banning cedar shake roofs (which caught fire time and time again, but looked just so pretty that nobody wanted to give them up).
posted by stefanie at 1:15 PM on October 23, 2007


It may be that tile roofs have only been mandatory since 2004, but a lot of houses and apartments built before then have tile roofs.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 1:17 PM on October 23, 2007


Crap. They're evacuating Harmony Grove now.
posted by stefanie at 1:19 PM on October 23, 2007


My god. My thoughts and prayers to all of you and your families that are there. Wish I could do something to help.
posted by Peecabu at 1:23 PM on October 23, 2007


Palomar Mountain is burning. I wonder if it'll get the observatory.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 1:36 PM on October 23, 2007


North of Harmony Grove and you start getting to the CSUSM area.. I wonder if the fire that they contained up there might stop this from moving further? Hopefully the canyons are already all burned out from the last fire.
posted by afx114 at 1:37 PM on October 23, 2007


Parts of Poway are no longer considered unsafe.

Steven, thank you for that good news. We've been waiting for word from close friends in Poway who evacuated last night with the Witch fire bearing down on fast from less than a mile away. At least they're safe. Their neighborhood is the one that has apparently just been reopened. Hopefully that means they're right now finding that the animals and house are safe as well.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 1:42 PM on October 23, 2007


Here's the score so far:
San Diego County authorities said 1,250 homes have been destroyed and 241,000 acres have burned around the county as of noon today.
The fire on Palomar Mountain is currently being called the "Poomacha" fire. It's reached 20,000 acres and is expected to merge with the Witch fire later today.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 2:04 PM on October 23, 2007


It may be that tile roofs have only been mandatory since 2004, but a lot of houses and apartments built before then have tile roofs.

Thankfully, that's true. I'm just torqued that there could be many more buildings with tile roofs right now, if only San Diego didn't have such a hard-on for cedar shake.

(And did anybody else see "Poomacha" and immediately think Pollomacho?)
posted by stefanie at 2:12 PM on October 23, 2007


The score keeps climbing.
"By day three, more than a dozen wildfires had burned more than 1,300 homes and businesses and set more than 583 square miles ablaze — an area larger than New York City."
posted by ericb at 2:34 PM on October 23, 2007


Another cool story:
"Media mogul David Geffen owns the Malibu Beach Inn. As a result of the fires, Geffen has opened its doors to evacuees and firefighters alike, free of charge. Eighty firefighters have been sleeping at the property in shifts, as they fight the blaze....'We’re feeding [the firefighters]. They’re coming in, in like batches for six hours, and then they leave and another crew comes in immediately, they go out and another crew comes in. It’s been that way since Saturday morning.'"
Geffen hasn't always been so hospitable.

Also -- "... a local supermarket established a special no-charge checkout lane for firefighters and other emergency personnel."
posted by ericb at 2:41 PM on October 23, 2007


Hi kids, I'm okay, and pretty much everyone I know is okay.

Just to clarify SCDB's point, codes don't necessarily require terra cotta tile, just class A non-flammable stuff, so you can use good asphaltic or cementitious tiles as well as clay. But that was only instituted on new construction and remodels since 2004, and a lot of the homes in the places that are burning now are archetypical ranch homes, complete with shake roofs from before the cedar fires.
posted by LionIndex at 2:45 PM on October 23, 2007


From space.
posted by eyeballkid at 3:23 PM on October 23, 2007


Technology helps firefighters on land, in air -- "Modern technologies are giving Southern California firefighters a leg up on the 16 wildfires ravaging 425 square miles from north of Los Angeles to southeast of San Diego since the weekend."
posted by ericb at 3:36 PM on October 23, 2007


If this picture is to be believed, most of the danger to the west of the Witch Fire is now past. (Color code: red means "last 12 hours", orange means "last 24 hours", yellow means "more than 24 hours".) It looks like the danger to Encinitas and Solana Beach is past -- unless the wind changes again. I think there was intensive effort in that area to stop the fire.

The Witch fire group is mostly moving to the NE now, which means towards the Indian reservations and National Forests and away from most of the cities. However, one part looks like it's a serious threat to Escondido, SW of it and moving north-east. Presumably there will be a concentration of firefighters near the city limits to try to create and defend a firebreak there.

There's a finger from the Harris Fire that looks like it's trying to reach Spring Valley, but most of the new burn on it is likewise moving NE, towards a whole lot of nothing-very-important. (It's the "Cleveland National Forest", but despite the name there ain't a lot of trees there.)

All in all, things look to be improved over yesterday. A combination of shifting wind plus the fact that the fire is destroying its own fuel supply is helping matters.

It's still a hell of a mess, though. But I'm not as worried as I was.

(More good news from that picture: it looks like Tecate was successfully defended. I wonder if the fence along the border acted as a firebreak? Ironic, wouldn't it be? That the fence prevented an unwanted invader from the US getting into Mexico?)
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 3:41 PM on October 23, 2007


It looks like the danger to Encinitas and Solana Beach is past -- unless the wind changes again. I think there was intensive effort in that area to stop the fire.

Here's a first-hand account from Encinitas. Thanks for the updates, SCDB.
posted by vacapinta at 4:38 PM on October 23, 2007


Del Mar, Carlsbad, and Encinitas have all lifted evacuation orders. I think the worst is over.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 6:41 PM on October 23, 2007


Well, at least the worst at the west end of the Witch fire. Looks like the Harris fire has broken into a pocket right next to the Sweetwater Reservoir and is threatening east Chula Vista to the south and Spring Valley to the north west. And it looks like the Witch fire may not be through threatening Escondido and Poway.

Man, I don't envy the guys who are trying to command the defense in this battle.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 6:50 PM on October 23, 2007


‘We can’t stop it’ -- "Officials all but concede defeat to wildfires as estimated 1 million evacuate."
posted by ericb at 8:24 PM on October 23, 2007


Now that it's nighttime, you can see the flames more clearly at Lyon's Peak, Red Mountain, and North Peak
posted by meehawl at 8:31 PM on October 23, 2007


EricB: The quote was from yesterday when the winds were blowing at gale force from the east. Today the winds are much slower and blowing from the SW.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:10 PM on October 23, 2007


Wiki.
posted by meehawl at 9:15 PM on October 23, 2007


How well does an actual city burn? If the Harris fire continues to bear west onto Chula Vista, once it's out of actual brush will it have enough to keep burning?

Stick frame houses burn really good. You don't even need the embers others have commented on. The intense heat from a nearby fire can shatter the window glass and then flash ignite the interior of the home even if the exterior is stucco and metal or other fire proof materials. The house burns from the inside out and the fire is stoked by the updraft induced wind of a massive fire (or in this case the prevailing winds). I've seen video of a fire jumping from house to house where windows in one house line up with the neighbours. It's one of the reasons Canadian code has restrictions on window placement, especially those near to property lines.
posted by Mitheral at 9:40 PM on October 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


Based on the latest satellite recon, the worst is over.

The fire SW of Escondido which was threatening it is mostly out. The branch of the Harris fire which was threatening Spring Valley is also almost out. The active parts of the Harris fire and the Witch fire are mostly headed to the NE, which is pretty much empty. Not totally, and homes will still be lost, I'm afraid, but it's away from the dense areas.

The fire that's attacking Palomar Mountain is going strong, and there's a new and rather large fire in the middle of Camp Pendleton, but for the moment neither of those represents a threat to any dense areas.

The firefighters have still got their work cut out for them, what with a fire threatening Fallbrook and one threatening Mission Viejo and one going after San Bernardino, but at least in San Diego county it looks like disaster was averted. It's really fortunate that the wind shifted today. If it had been blowing today like it was yesterday the devastation would have been horrifying.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 12:52 AM on October 24, 2007


Well, I managed to get through to my mom who lives in Julian tonight.

(Apparently my geek fu is still strong, as she was amazed I got her on the first call, as the cell net is tanked out there.)

Luckily they (my mom, one of my little sisters, her husband, and their pre-year old daughter) got lucky and scored space at a friend's house down in the desert.

She said things weren't looking too bad, but they're not sure.

Unfortunately, if I learned one thing on the grade, it's that fire does what it wants and goes where it wants. The news that some firefighters have had to deploy their protective tents (we used to sarcastically refer to them as "shake'n'bake bags") is never a good sign.

Once again, all I can do is send my best wishes and prayers to everyone involved.

Yes, even the rich people too.
posted by Samizdata at 1:07 AM on October 24, 2007


Oh, and sadly to say, there are so many densely packed communities out there that it would be so easy for fire to hop from house to house.

I always used to joke that, in some neighborhoods, if you sat down at your kitchen table and had a good stretch, you'd end up hitting your neighbor in the jaw.

Unfortunately, I never thought of the population density in any other way until this started.
posted by Samizdata at 1:10 AM on October 24, 2007


It's one of the reasons Canadian code has restrictions on window placement, especially those near to property lines.

The old Uniform Building Code (UBC) and International Building Code that's now being used also both have restrictions on window locations near property lines for the same reason, and they're what's used in most parts of the US. Windows are not allowed, period, within 5 feet of a property line. They must be protected, using wire glass or some other means, within 10 feet of a property line. Please don't start thinking Canadian code is incredibly superior to US code. In fact, the codes were probably both written by the same authority.

And sure, wood frame houses burn really well, but not as well as densely packed chapparal that hasn't seen water in a year. Urban neigborhoods generally will have watered vegitation that's not as easy to ignite as natural brush, and there's basically a firebreak every couple houses with the streets, so firemen have a lot easier time making defensive stands than they would in rural areas.
posted by LionIndex at 7:39 AM on October 24, 2007


Urban neigborhoods generally will have watered vegitation that's not as easy to ignite as natural brush...

I was struck by some of the images on the news last night that showed a street where nearly all the houses had burned down to concrete pads....but the lawns were still green. It was kind of surreal.
posted by rtha at 8:45 AM on October 24, 2007


Fox News: Al Qaeda is causing the CA wildires.
posted by ericb at 8:46 AM on October 24, 2007


Oh, so they HAVEN'T ruled out terrorism yet....
posted by Floydd at 11:14 AM on October 24, 2007


CA Guard Warned Of ‘Less Effective Response’ To Fires Due To Equipment Shortages Caused By Iraq
posted by homunculus at 11:34 AM on October 24, 2007


You gotta love Fox News. The moment questions come up about the National Guard being misused in Iraq, BAM!! It's Bin Laden attacking us as home!

Get some of those Blackwater mercenaries on the job! They'll fight fire with fire, like real men! That 'pour water on it' solution is for the little girls in the Democrat Party.
posted by maryh at 11:49 AM on October 24, 2007


These two time-lapse movies show pretty clearly the nonlinear sparking nature of brush fire propagation when driven by strong winds:
1 2
posted by meehawl at 12:46 PM on October 24, 2007


"I was struck by some of the images on the news last night that showed a street where nearly all the houses had burned down to concrete pads....but the lawns were still green. It was kind of surreal."

I agree - It's also weird for those of us who saw these same sort of images in the fires years ago - right down to the fires burning one house and then leaving others untouched in the same row of homes. It's very scary to see this again.

Maybe other San Diego folk can help me with this question - what options do local homeowners have when it comes to nearby brush areas? I remember during the last fire homeowners talking about keeping nearby brush cut back from their homes - but mentioning that it wasn't their land, and they were doing it just to be safe. Seeing as there are many neighborhoods sandwiched between valleys and hills covered with native brush - well, it seems that many homeowners are somewhat helpless to make their areas firesafe. Not that I'm proposing mowing down all the native brush. And then it's not that even keeping it trimmed back would help too much considering that the winds are bringing in the fires and burning embers anyhow. Just wondering.
posted by batgrlHG at 12:54 PM on October 24, 2007


Well, one recommendation is that builders stop building in fire areas. San Diego is unfortunately a case of development gone wild.
posted by vacapinta at 1:02 PM on October 24, 2007


Vacapinta: all of southern California is a "fire area". The only places that aren't are places like the center of the dry lake bed at Edwards Air Force Base, which don't burn because nothing can live there.

BatGrlHG, a reasonable firebreak would have to be 15-20 yards wide, and even that wouldn't be perfect. Burning brush throws burning embers in the air, and the wind can carry those for an amazing distance. So even if you did cut back nearby brush, it wouldn't really increase your safety against fire.

It isn't possible to be "firesafe" in that area. But there are threats which cannot be defended against everywhere on earth. Here in the Tualatin Valley of Oregon we don't get fires, but we have been known to have problems with volcanoes on occasion. New England doesn't have brush fires or volcanoes but they do get hit by hurricanes. No hurricanes in Oklahoma, but they get brush fires, and the odd tornado or two. Buffalo is safe from all those things, but they get killer blizzards. No matter where you live, there's some sort of hazard which will eventually come for you, for which the only real solution is to flee.

In San Diego, it's brush fires.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 1:11 PM on October 24, 2007


In San Diego, it's brush fires.

And earthquakes, but you can't really flee those.
posted by LionIndex at 1:20 PM on October 24, 2007


what options do local homeowners have when it comes to nearby brush areas?

Back in 2003, John Lucas gained notice for his comprehensive (and expensive and time-consuming) pre-fire preparations. He was also an ex-fireman so he had some inside knowledge of what was needed.

He spent $26,000 on a powerful water pump, hundreds of feet of fire hose, and two 5,500-gallon storage tanks devoted strictly to fighting fires. He also had trees stricken by bark beetles on his two-acre property cut down and removed, at a cost of $40,000, because of the "fuel buildup" in the area. Lucas, a contractor who worked as a firefighter while in college, also foamed everything with a special firefighting substance. He had five separate stretches of hose going to edges of his property which were set on "splitters," that held up the ends of hoses with sprayers attached. Lucas planned ahead and his foresight saved his house.

There is a moral hazard in subsidizing collectivised insurance schemes and lax development policies that rebuild homes in risky environments while not mandating adequate protective regimes.
posted by meehawl at 1:22 PM on October 24, 2007


BatGrl, fire breaks are now pretty much handled by individual communities. The government doesn't really have the resources to take care of that, and people have figured out that pitching in to help their neighbors increases their collective fire safety.

You can increase your safety, but not by clearing just the few yards of brush near your back yard. We have lots of brush fires that aren't accompanied by erratic and powerful Santa Ana winds; those are the fires where a fire break can really make a difference, and it's worth getting together with your neighbors and making it happen.
posted by stefanie at 2:39 PM on October 24, 2007


Actually, San Diego is far enough away from the San Andreas fault so that earthquakes aren't as much of a problem. It's not like San Francisco, where the fault runs right through the middle of the city.

We had a Richter 8.2 while I was living there. It was an interesting experience, hearing my house creaking and watching a suspended light fixture swinging back and forth, but nothing was damaged. The epicenter was too far away.

That's not to say there's no danger, but there's a lot less than in LA or SF.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 4:17 PM on October 24, 2007


SCDB, thanks for your informed commentary and links throughout this thread.

This guy shot some terrifying yet awesome footage in the Santa Clarita and Stevens Ranch area.
posted by madamjujujive at 4:30 PM on October 24, 2007


San Diego is far enough away from the San Andreas fault so that earthquakes aren't as much of a problem.

Loma Prieta was San Andrean, whereas Northridge was not San Andrean and previously unknown. Probably the strongest quake in US history (outside of Alaska) was the New Madrid, in Missouri. It's the unpredictable ones that are worst.

SD has a few known faults to call its own.
posted by meehawl at 5:21 PM on October 24, 2007


Latest satellite recon: The Witch fire is nearly out. The Poomacha fire is going strong, but it's burning in a sparsely settled area. (Reports that the two had merged were wrong.)

The Harris fire still is burning but it's headed away from all dense areas. The parts of it that threatened San Diego are now out.

There's a healthy fire that's split into two, burning up and down the coast in Camp Pendleton, but it'll have to go a long way before it reaches any city.

So there's a lot of fire fighting still to be done, but the crisis is pretty much past.

Other news: a least one of the fires (up near LA) appears to have been arson. (Appalled pause)

The Harris fire severed a major electrical line carrying power in to San Diego, but it's been repaired and is back in service.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 7:35 PM on October 24, 2007


I just heard some rumors that people in the afflicted areas have been requested not to use cell phones. I know I have been unable to reach my mother since earlier today, with any call attempt dropping straight to voice mail.

Any confirmation from the onsite MeFi's?

(Still sending all the good mojo I have straight to the left coast...)
posted by Samizdata at 8:26 PM on October 24, 2007


In these kinds of situations, cell phone systems are always massively overloaded. The cell phone companies spend money to build infrastructure and make money by selling use of that infrastructure, and for obvious reasons they're at their most profitable when their infrastructure is fully utilized most of the time.

It wouldn't make any sense economically for them to install a lot of excess capacity that wasn't routinely used. So in emergency situations like this, when suddenly everyone wants to use their phones -- well, they can't. So yes, there was a request that people limit cell phone use as much as possible.

I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that the local carriers had made their systems send all incoming calls to voice mail, as part of that process of trying to preserve capacity for critical uses.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 8:57 PM on October 24, 2007


LionIndex writes "They must be protected, using wire glass or some other means, within 10 feet of a property line. Please don't start thinking Canadian code is incredibly superior to US code. In fact, the codes were probably both written by the same authority."

In hindsight I can see where my comment might have been read as slagging the US codes but it wasn't intended that way. I was just replying to the enquiry about houses burning and throwing a little "appeal to authority" as back up for the argument that stick frame houses burn good. I know the residential portion of the Canadian code quite well but have little knowledge of the American codes (except where they are gloriously permissive like with circular staircases).

And if the codes truely don't allow windows within 5' of property lines they are actually more restrictive than the Canadian equivalent.
posted by Mitheral at 9:13 PM on October 24, 2007


Steven -

I already explained infrastructure panning and impact to some coworkers earlier.

I was really wondering if the authorities had just actually made an official announcement yet. (grin)

And, as I was too much a boor to say anything earlier, thanks for getting this rolling. It's been a real blessing for those of us with friends and family back there so we can try to see what's happening.

Greedily to say, I am glad to see it doesn't appear to be blowing back towards Julian. My family lost our stepfather in Julian, which was a pretty shattering blow to all of us. I'm afraid, that if the house gets lost, it very well might be the final blow for my mother. There's just too many good memories in that space for her to be able to lose in such close proximity...
posted by Samizdata at 9:27 PM on October 24, 2007


Ummmm, infrastructure planning, even.
posted by Samizdata at 9:30 PM on October 24, 2007


San Onofre Nuclear (Waste) Generating Station is being threatened by the Horno Fire on Camp Pendleton. It sits along the thin strip of land which lies between the I-5 Interstate highway, which is just a stone's throw from the nuclear power plant, and the Ocean into which it pours its tritium, krypton, argon, xenon, and more than 100 other radioactive elements, even on a good day (let alone after an accident).

San Onofre is a disaster waiting to happen.
posted by nickyskye at 11:48 PM on October 24, 2007


Actually, San Diego is far enough away from the San Andreas fault so that earthquakes aren't as much of a problem. It's not like San Francisco, where the fault runs right through the middle of the city.

Seconding what meehawl says about us having *plenty* of our own faults. At the building department here, there's a large geological map that shows all the faults running through the county--it's a little frightening to look at. We don't have anything capable of the kind of damage that San Andreas can inflict, but the Rose Canyon fault could kick in with something at about 7 on the Richter scale, IIRC.

LA and SD are in what's called a "fracture zone", which, instead of having one nice cleave of a fault along the plate boundary, is riddled with little faults of lesser ability.

I'm an SD native, Steven; and my work involves getting a decent acquaintance with the geological layout of the city.
posted by LionIndex at 7:40 AM on October 25, 2007


I'm just now getting to this thread (just got home yesterday afternoon), so I'm a little late to the game, but here's my experience (living in south east Rancho Bernardo).

We got some smoke on Sunday afternoon. I told my roommate not to worry until our friend in Ramona got evacuated and they stopped using Poway HS as an evacuation center (the school being in between us and the fire). At about 9:30, Ramona got evacuated. Later that night, they moved the evacuees to Mira Mesa HS (which is to the west of us). We left RB at 6:30 the next morning (with the friend from Ramona, who had made it to our place at about 3AM) and drove down to La Jolla to stay with his also evacuated family. We got back home yesterday afternoon to a completely intact apartment -- we were never actually in the burn area, though the fires were about 2 miles away on a couple of sides. We're still waiting to hear about the friend's house in Ramona...

I'm having a hard time organizing my thoughts in any sort of interesting way, so I'll just say this:

The outpouring of donations and volunteers was incredible. The fact that the evacuation center at Qualcomm had to turn stuff away really bolsters my faith in people.

It was also interesting to me as a computer person to watch how the media embraced technology as a way to communicate with people. On Sunday night, NBC had a Google map of the area on their green screen and one of the newcasters was trying to show the progress of the fire. It was a satellite view, so there were no landmarks, but I was impressed that they were trying -- another station was using a Thomas Guide! The next day, PBS had a custom Google map up, Sign On San Diego had moved to Blogger, and a couple of different stations were using Twitter. I heard that the officials were encouraging text messaging as a way to keep the cell lines clear (now, if only I thought my mom could have figured it out).

Also, CBS was the only station we could get, and they played that Larry Himmel video several times. The last time, I just had to get up and leave. All the field reporters were doing an incredible job -- some of them put themselves in serious danger getting us the news AND helping to save homes. I distinctly remember one guy with a microphone in one hand and a fire hose in another.
posted by natabat at 9:01 AM on October 25, 2007


Fark's up to thread #10.

This article says new land use zoning successfully protected some developments from incineration in the midst of Witch Creek.
posted by meehawl at 9:07 AM on October 25, 2007


Again, for convenience, link to the Google map of San Diego County Fires with info about damage, evacuation etc.
posted by nickyskye at 10:02 AM on October 25, 2007


"I just heard some rumors that people in the afflicted areas have been requested not to use cell phones. I know I have been unable to reach my mother since earlier today, with any call attempt dropping straight to voice mail.
Any confirmation from the onsite MeFi's?"


We were told by all media - television, radio, websites - to "limit" cell phone use. There were reports (also in all 3 of these media) that some people were unable to contact others via cell phone due to high use of system. We use Sprint and had no problem calling out to our family.
Have not had anything other than just random user reports - no one from phone companies were intereviewed - or that I saw/heard/read. Also I haven't heard anything more about cell phone useage in past 24hrs - haven't been following coverage as avidly since things have calmed down a bit for our immediate area.

We're also seeing some reports by the power company asking people to limit power use so as not to put a strain on the system. However, post-Enron it's very hard to know whether to believe anything the power company says, even in the middle of this disaster.
posted by batgrlHG at 12:04 PM on October 25, 2007


"another station was using a Thomas Guide!"

I bet we were watching the same station! You really have to worry when they take a map book and hold it up to the camera - but I note that it actually took a long time before all the news channels had decent map graphics to show. You'd have thought that it would have been something they'd have on file from past shows - a local map graphic. But then, I suppose I can assume there were few staff that would have been available to put such a graphic together. And of course things were chaning so quicly that by the time a map graphic was posted odds were high that the fire had moved.

It really would have helped to at least have had maps shown marking the evaculation areas - just for those of us trying to remember exactly where each area was located and how far away it was from our location. No one did that on the television channels we watched - and few maps were shown until the second day of the fires.
posted by batgrlHG at 12:12 PM on October 25, 2007


The lack of maps was a big frustration for me on Sunday night and Monday. I had managed to find this one on Sunday night that some random guy in Mira Mesa was updating, so I was using that for reference the whole time. Up until yesterday, even the PBS map was only showing points, not areas.
posted by natabat at 1:22 PM on October 25, 2007


What to Save From a Fire article.
posted by nickyskye at 2:54 PM on October 26, 2007


Latest satellite recon: The Witch Fire is under control. The actively burning part of the Harris fire is very small, and it isn't near anything important. The fire in Camp Pendleton is nearly under control, and the part that's burning isn't anywhere near the nuclear plant that the hysterical guy above was worried about.

The Poomacha fire is going strong; it's probably the biggest remaining threat in San Diego County. And the Ammo fire, up next to Mission Viejo, is still a major problem. But neither of them is burning near any major built-up areas. I suspect that they're still big partly because they're in areas which are difficult to access, and partly because they were neglected in favor of much more dangerous fires like Witch and Harris. (Which would have been the right decision when fire-fighting resources were overstretched.)

It might well be another week before all the fires are out, but none of the fires that are still burning represent catastrophic hazards to population centers.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 7:35 PM on October 26, 2007


Hey Steven C., I really appreciate this thread and all of the updates. From what I've been hearing all of the evacuated areas are being "re-populated", except, of course those who lost their homes to the fires or are awating insurance co. approval. And that number is way up in the thousands.

I have to say that I'm very proud of and thankful to all of the folks in Southern California who gave so much, volunteered and followed evacuation orders.

There is a heated debate among some here in San Diego regarding whether to stay and fight fires to save property versus following evacuation orders.

I understand that it is very difficult to suck it up and move on, leaving others to take care of your business/property, but in this case it worked to everyone's benefit.
posted by snsranch at 8:52 PM on October 26, 2007


In the "completely off the deep end" category, we have Randi Rhodes, who says that the fires were started by Blackwater.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:30 PM on October 26, 2007


SNSRanch, it could have been a hell of a lot worse, but it was plenty bad. I've seen reports of more than 3000 buildings being destroyed in SoCal. Most of those were homes.

But the death toll was astoundingly low. At this point I'm guessing it's going to be about 20 dead and about 100 injured, which is really miraculous.

Considering how utterly dire the situation seemed to be at some points, and how amazingly well California's emergency services responded to the crisis and managed it, I am filled with nothing but disgust with all the people who are stepping forward and trying to use this catastrophe to advance their narrow political interests. We're going to see a lot of this, probably from all parts of the political spectrum, and I'll be disgusted with the lot.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:38 PM on October 26, 2007


According to this, 1300 homes destroyed in San Diego County. More than a thousand of those were destroyed by the Witch Fire.

I think that 1300 number may be low. It doesn't agree with the numbers on this list.

Palomar Observatory survived. (For science geeks like me, that's good news, even though it's no longer in the first rank of observatories due to light pollution.)

A sign of normalcy: The Chargers will play at Qualcomm Stadium on Sunday. All remaining evacuees who had been staying there have either returned home or moved to other, better facilities.

The total burned area is 493,000 acres so far, and still rising. That's 770 square miles.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:53 PM on October 26, 2007


AT&T Asks CA Wildfire Victims If They Remembered To Pick Up Satellite Receiver As They Fled Their Burning House and if they didn't and the house is destroyed by fire, is billing the house owner for $300.
posted by nickyskye at 10:53 AM on October 27, 2007


Latest satellite recon: Part of the Santiago fire, near Mission Viejo, is still burning strongly, but it looks like everything else is under control now. Huge sigh of relief.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 4:00 PM on October 27, 2007


This is much farther north of where I am, but thought I'd add it here for the amazing photo/story:

Firefighters hold their ground in Lake Forest
Los Angeles Times, October 23, 2007
"Twelve firefighters are trapped atop a ridge off Santiago Canyon Road in Orange County after flames jumped the road. The blaze roared up the hillside and prompted the crew members to deploy their fire shelters. They were surrounded by burning brush, but they made it out alive."

And this is why we love the firefighters.
posted by batgrlHG at 3:19 PM on October 31, 2007


LOS ANGELES (AP) — Officials blamed a wildfire that consumed more than 38000 acres and destroyed 21 homes last week on a boy playing with matches.
posted by nickyskye at 3:41 PM on October 31, 2007


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