Firestorm 2003
October 26, 2003 3:04 PM   Subscribe

Santa Ana Speeds the Spread of So Cal Fires
Five separate fires are burning in San Diego County, including several densely populated suburban areas. Dozens of homes have been burned. Marine Corps Air Station Miramar has been affected, including an FAA air traffic control installation. 16,000 people in the South Bay lost electricity when a major distribution line went down. Many San Diego firefighters went up to Camp Pendelton yesterday. (1, 2)
posted by rschram (42 comments total)
The air in central San Diego stinks, and there's a lot of ashfall.
posted by rschram at 3:16 PM on October 26, 2003

When I woke up this morning and looked out the window, the first thing I wondered was if a volcano had erupted. I'm in La Jolla, near UCSD and the ocean – I've only recently moved out of Mira Mesa, which is near the Marine Corps station in Miramar, some ten or fifteen miles due east. From what I hear the fire has just begun to jump across the 15 into Mira Mesa proper, which means dense housing and major commuting routes. I haven't heard of the power outage yet, but people don't really seem to know what's going on at the moment.

Also, I kinda regret opening my window to get a better look at the sky. Bleh.
posted by truex at 3:18 PM on October 26, 2003

CNN has lots of pictures and video. Looks horrific.
posted by dobbs at 3:49 PM on October 26, 2003

Is Der Gropenfuhrer on the scene yet?
posted by CunningLinguist at 3:56 PM on October 26, 2003

I just flew from the Bay Area to PHX, and the view of the fires from the plane was staggering. The scale of this thing... it's almost impossible to imagine. We could see massive flames erupting from the ground... even all the way up at cruising altitude.
posted by ph00dz at 4:00 PM on October 26, 2003

One person's photos from Rancho Cucamonga and my friend's report.

Never have I been so fuckin' glad my family lives in the South Bay, surrounded by so much street and brick and minimall that a brush fire can never get close.
posted by Katemonkey at 4:18 PM on October 26, 2003

This change-of-time thing really gets to me. Got up this morning at 8:00, looked outside and saw that it was still dark. And not just dark, but dark orange.

Really strange lighting effects. Mr. Sun looked pretty bloodshot. And with all the ash and junk in the air, my eyes feel the same way.

And I washed my car yesterday, dammit!

I blame Bush. And Tree. Thank goodness for Dirt.
posted by SPrintF at 4:20 PM on October 26, 2003

"I looked outside my house and I thought I was in the middle of hell."
-- Joe Wronowicz, Rancho Cucamonga resident

You live in Southern California and you're realizing this just today?
posted by raaka at 4:39 PM on October 26, 2003

We were in the path of the fire and had to evacuate. All of the major freeways are shut down bcause the fire is jumping them without slowing down. Houses 1.5 miles east of us (Mira Mesa) are burning, Miramar Air Base is burning (just the brush, not the buildings), a plane lost it in the smoke and crashed into the 163 freeway. All the big fire fighting stuff was engaged in the fires east of LA, not much left to fight fires here.

No shit - The front is 30-40 miles long and advancing on San Diego proper. Suburbs are on fire. Holy shit.

We're holed up in a hotel in La Jolla. All the stuff I could pack in one hour is in my car in the parking lot.
posted by y6y6y6 at 4:42 PM on October 26, 2003

Plus its too windy to effectively use dump water from planes.
posted by rschram at 5:03 PM on October 26, 2003

Plus its too windy to effectively dump water from planes.
posted by rschram at 5:03 PM on October 26, 2003

take care, you guys.
posted by amberglow at 5:10 PM on October 26, 2003

my god, y6 - how horrible! Thinking of you, rschram, and all so Cal mefites - stay safe & keep us posted when you can.
posted by madamjujujive at 5:22 PM on October 26, 2003

Things could be much worse for us - at very worst our apt burns and we lose some stuff. But many homes here have been lost. And the fires are still burning. Apparently we get deemed a disaster area tomorrow. (And I'm sure we'll get a Governator sound byte, even though this is still Davis' watch.)

The planes that have been fighting the fires had to land at sunset. But on the plus side the winds are dying down.

Photos from Rancho Cucamonga really capture what the skies looked like - when everything wasn't obscured by greyish-brownish haze from the smoke. The orange-red sun in the smoke was actually really pretty - and I didn't get even photo, dammit. Too busy running around stuffing things in the car. But y6 took this one this morning.
posted by batgrlHG at 5:25 PM on October 26, 2003

jesus, the fires are as far as Mira Mesa?

I'm Culver City, about 3 miles from Santa Monica Bay, pretty far from the fires east of here. the daylight has been orange-tinged since friday morning, and we've been getting light ashfall also. And you can smell it -- even in an area that gets a fairly constant coastal breeze.

My cousin, who lives in Chatsworth, just got evacuated a few hours ago.

I can only imagine what it's like closer to the fires -- good luck out there!
posted by badzen at 5:49 PM on October 26, 2003

Jesus, the pictures are apocalyptic. Hope yr house makes it Y6.
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:02 PM on October 26, 2003

badzen - Not in Mira Mesa yet, as far as I can tell from the news. But Scripts Ranch burned just to the east, and Miramar just to the east. Terrasanta also burning.

We just watched the mayor's press conference. Ash was falling on him as he spoke. He's trying to get Monday Night Football canceled. It was suppose to be in Qualcom Stadium here tomorrow, but the airport is mostly closed and 5000 people are currently using the stadium as an evac center. He's asked all employers to tell their employees not to come in to work tomorrow.

I wish I'd had time to get more pictures. It crossed the 15 too fast. I'm thinking the fire that burned Scripts Ranch won't have left enough fuel for it to burn the thin strip of trees leading right to my balcony. Sad but true.

I'll go back tomorrow morning and see if I still have a bed. I grabbed the two best computers off the network, all the software and backup folders, the paperwork and all the camera gear. The sweetie was smarter and grabbed some clothes.
posted by y6y6y6 at 6:10 PM on October 26, 2003

christ man, wish i could buy you a drink -- sounds like you need one!
posted by badzen at 6:13 PM on October 26, 2003

"sounds like you need one!"

No way. I'm a hermit. I take pride in being able to put all the stuff I really need in my car, "in case I need to jam."

I'm more cranky about not getting some good pictures than possibly losing all my furniture. I got some great shots of the sun through the smoke with the 600mm lens just before we sped off. You can make out three huge sun spots. I left the medium format printer and all my good pans (grabbed the knives though), but I think I have everything I'd cry over losing.

Life is an adventure. Without that, who gives a rat's ass?

My heart goes out to those who've lost homes, but I'm loving life.
posted by y6y6y6 at 6:24 PM on October 26, 2003

P.S., SD Mayor Dick Murphy has asked all employers to cancel work tomorrow. Presumably for traffic/phone/electricity conservation reasons. I wonder if they know something we don't? Is this thing going to be bigger tomorrow? The news said there are only THREE HUNDRED firefighters in all of San Diego County. They're all up in San Bernardino helping out up there. How can 300 firefighters stop a front that's 50 miles wide!?
posted by afx114 at 6:47 PM on October 26, 2003

My throat is sore and my eyes are red/itchy, and I've been inside ALL DAY. Two of my uncles are about to lose their homes. There's also a fire in southbay (Otay/Chula Vista) that has apparently crossed into Mexico. Mexico has no decent water system, nor a "Fire Department." Pray for our amigos down south as well.

It's been reported that it started from a lost hunter lighting a signal fire so that someone would find him. This fire is so fucking big, Pluto probably found him.
posted by afx114 at 6:47 PM on October 26, 2003

I know there are more than 300 firefighters in all of san diego county - the news is reporting 800 are working on the "cedar" fire alone. 800 doesn't seem to be enough, however.

My girlfriend lives in poway and we had to take the valuables from her apartment today and hope that it doesn't get burned down. The thing that is quite annoying is that since there are so many fires in SD, it's hard to find out specific information about any particular one. Specific information like: has the fire reached my neighborhood?

In addition, i was evacuated from work today due to the fire. I'm not sure if my work will still be standing tomorrow, and by the looks on the general fire maps that are on the TV, things don't look good.

What a day.
posted by escher at 7:10 PM on October 26, 2003

Satellite picture.
posted by homunculus at 7:11 PM on October 26, 2003

My heart's out to all you folks in Southern California. I'm keeping in touch with friends and family down there. Hope they can control this thing fast.
posted by ed at 7:38 PM on October 26, 2003

y6, I live in La Jolla/UTC area, we're still in our house and have been told that, so far, all should be fine here. If you two need anything, feel free to email me. that goes for anyone in the area.
posted by karen at 7:41 PM on October 26, 2003

A similar, larger version of Homunculus' link with even larger satellite photos at the top. I'm in UCSD/La Jolla area, 15 miles west of the front, and ash has been lightly falling all day. My roomate's family lives in El Cajon and he may have to evacuate, as the wind advisory will remain in effect until Wednesday at the earliest. Local channels are reporting that the fires will probably continue at a similar rate for at least 24-48 hours.
posted by spatula at 9:19 PM on October 26, 2003

I'm speechless. SoCal Mefi's, please be careful.
posted by dejah420 at 9:27 PM on October 26, 2003

The NBC station in SD was running a live feed Sunday night until midnight PST.

I don't know how long the above link will be valid, but the video of the destruction there is amazing.

Up here in the Bay Area, this was a 2 or 3 minute story. . .
posted by gjjohnson at 9:40 PM on October 26, 2003

Live Feed from San Diego

Sorry about missing the link. . .
posted by gjjohnson at 9:43 PM on October 26, 2003

tomorrow's classes at my school have been cancelled. everything had a yellowish tinge today. ashes were coming down like snowflakes...
posted by joedan at 9:48 PM on October 26, 2003

Be safe all of you in southern California. Jeez. It looks like a volcano erupted!

I lost everything a long time ago in an apartment fire. The smell, ugh. What was worse? The next day I went to see what I could salvage and found that someone stole my records and stereo. Now that pissed me off!

Take what you really want to keep, because if the fire doesn't get it, someone taking advantage of it might.

Breathing that air will kill you. Sure, depending on the concentration, but.... Wear a full face respirator, preferably the one with an eye shield or at least a water soaked bandanna.

Be aware that the smoke will make you pass out and die before any fire burns you. It's the smoke that kills. That's creosote burning from the trees and roof shingles and you're breathing it.
posted by alicesshoe at 10:13 PM on October 26, 2003

i inhaled pure marlboro red for 33 years, a little wildfire don't scare me. if it get's this far we'll throw one of our lakes at it. erie, probably. it's kinda skanky.
posted by quonsar at 12:18 AM on October 27, 2003

Yeah quonsar, but were you chain smoking for those 33 years? No? Wuss.

California could use some of those flood waters of British Columbia's Kelowna.
posted by alicesshoe at 7:48 AM on October 27, 2003

afx114: I think a hunter would have had a hard time starting 5 separate fires all far apart from each other! I'm surprised no one brought up terrorism in the thread. I'm not an expert on forest-fires, so this could completely possibly be a natural occurence, but I seem to remember FBI warnings about terrorists causing fires and to have so many large, separate fires of this magnitude in an urban area is very suspicious.
posted by PigAlien at 7:59 AM on October 27, 2003

afx114: Well, on further research, I did see an article that said a hunter had been arrested and they are thinking of bringing charges... But what about the other fires? The first fire couldn't have jumped that far, could it? The fires on the satellite map appear to be separated by many MILES. I did a google search on 'wildfires' and 'terrorism' on googlenews and only came across a couple of articles that discussed the possiblity of terrorism. Guess I'm just some paranoid chasing a conspiracy...
posted by PigAlien at 8:25 AM on October 27, 2003

Burn Hollywood Burn!
posted by inpHilltr8r at 12:49 PM on October 27, 2003

climate change's a bitch
posted by muckster at 2:12 PM on October 27, 2003

Actually, it's not climate change.

See, most of the places that are on fire right now, they're chaparral. Lots of sun, little rain, plenty of dry grass and trees.

Naturally, the chaparral is supposed to burn. It burns out, the ash fertilizes the ground, all the dead wood is cleared out, and it all grows nice and green again.

But because of the eventual suburban encroachment onto the chaparral, they don't burn on a regular basis. The dry brush builds and builds and builds and the people keep on building and building and building and then -- bang -- one bad spark, one vicious wind, and the next thing you know, you have this.

Mike Davis had an entire chapter on the chaparral and suburban burnings in Ecology Of Fear -- a version of which is here on the Radical Urban Theory site (and which, actually, has a heck of a lot of articles on suburban sprawl and the ecology of fire).

And if you're in LA, you can see the Chaparral exhibit at the Natural History Museum, which has sounds, sights, and even the faint whiff of smoke all over the place. Lord knows seeing that on a regular basis as a kid kept me from ever wanting to move out from the sweet sweet chaparral-free South Bay...
posted by Katemonkey at 2:42 PM on October 27, 2003

Holy crap.
posted by gwint at 8:40 PM on October 27, 2003

Blogging the fire: (Clint Kearn, who runs the Wrightwood, CA local web sites)

Joe Urbaszewski covers the mountain resort communities. (mountain community local web site)

The scanner community has hooked up a scanner to the Internet.
posted by calwatch at 11:02 PM on October 27, 2003

And here is a vidcap of the sketch of the suspect (self-link)
posted by calwatch at 11:37 PM on October 27, 2003

It seems like the fog we usually get from the marine layer has merged with the smoke and soot that's settling out of the sky – the world is a soupy yellow and brown, and it hurts to be outside. A Sparklett's representative is going door to door in our neighborhood, wearing a face mask and trying to sell water. I wonder how much he's getting paid to breathe air this thick.
posted by truex at 2:45 PM on October 28, 2003

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