Woke up early this morning and noticed a disturbing brownish yellow glow coming through the windows. Went outside and the sky was filled with smoke, with ashes snowing everywhere. Turned on the news right away and found out there's actually two fires. They aren't very close to us, maybe 15-20 miles at the nearest point so far. But one of the fires is approaching our son's house in Santee and they've been asked to evacuate!!
This is a pretty fast moving fire, it's burned 10,000 acres in about three hours. Several houses have already been destroyed.
Yesterday, we thought the area around us was on fire, but other than the Pendleton fire (which is burning AWAY from us), there's nothing within
50 miles. Apparently, the combination of the fire plumes and the Santa Ana winds caused all of the ash to go in a huge updraft, which then came down in the south Orange County area. For most of the day, we had very limited visibility, and heavy ash falling in the area, even though 50 miles away! Also eyes burning, difficulty breathing, etc. Very bizarre.
By the way, it points out how dismal information availability is for such a fire. We've had several close fires in past years, so when I saw so much smoke and ash, I tried to find out WHERE (exactly) the fires were. Couldn't do it. The local TV news would only cover in general, and the same with radio. NOTHING was available on the internet that was remotely up to date as far as the fires, and it was difficult to even 'google' to find limited information. This is a REAL problem. I was one of the first to report the Laguna Beach fire 10 years ago, and it was essentially ignored for several hours because they thought that another fire many miles away was more important. I also had experience with a fire 25 years ago where the hillside behind my house was burning (from dropped embers from 5 miles away), and I couldn't even get the fire department to understand that I was trying to report a NEW fire (this was pre the 911 call system).
You would think that one of the things that 'homeland security' would be handling would be having some method of keeping folks updated on where the fires are, where one needs to evacuate, give a clear picture of road closures and detours, etc. Again, this becomes critical in an emergency--I had to lead some friends out of Big Bear during the quake there in 1992, because there was only one open road, and it wasn't one most people knew (side note--as much as one may feel they know earthquakes in southern California, you know NOTHING until you've been at the epicenter of one).
The fires are still raging. The nearest is about 5 or 6 miles east of us. The wind here is whipping, and the smoke makes it hard to breath. The 52 freeway is closed from our house all the way east to Santee. Interstate 15 is also closed going past Miramar.
Some of the folks in our local club who live in Santee have been told they may have to evactuate. Our son and daughter-in-law took the kids and pets to her parents' house and are standing by to see if they need to start moving valuables too.
We just met a woman at the store who had to evacuate her house in Ramona at
5:00 this morning and still doesn't know if it's been burned or not.
I went up to the Edwards AFB airshow on Saturday, heading up the I-15 route. It was about 6:30am as we (my uncle and I) were driving straight at a giant column of smoke glowing orange, truly incredible. Up at Edwards itself, you could look south and see the mountains off on the horizon with a towering wall of smoke growing out of them.
We came home about 6:00-6:30pm, with the sun still out. As we came through the mountain pass down I-15 and into the city, the sky was pitch black as if it were midnight. Just about the only light was from the orange flames on the hillside off to my right. It's an odd thing, looking behind you to see a dull blue sky, and looking in front of you at the dead of night. It's quite miserable right now. It's snowing ash, the air is brown, the sun is red at noon, and there is very low visibility. I live in Westminster (think Huntington Beach area) and it's pretty bad here. The high desert was nice, at least, since it's upwind of all this. Tomorrow I get to head up to Cal Poly Pomona (aerospace engineering major, FWIW). I'm not looking forward to the air up there...
-Tony P.S. - Some people expressed interest about the Edwards show and particularly the N-9M. I'll try to get pictures and possibly videos up soon.
The fires have come to within about 2 miles of our house, but unless the weather changes dramatically we should be safe. The winds have dies down here so the fire's not moving very much. Even when the wind was blowing it was taking the fire southeast of our location, moving in a southwest direction.
However, it has certainly taken a toll in other areas. I don't know what the wind is like elsewhere. At least 150 homes burned in the Scripps Ranch area (we have friends who live in that area), 10 in Tierrasanta, and more in other areas. Fires caused by embers were flaring up in the commercial/industrial area of Kearny Mesa. The rest of Kearny Mesa is like a ghost town, all the stores and businesses are closed, many of the streets blocked by police. Another small fire popped up along the 805 freeway in Claremont Mesa. I think most of the freeways in the entire county are closed at some point. Interstate 8 is closed out near Alpine. Two people were killed in a fire near Escondido. Apparently there is another fire in the Chula Vista/Bonita area now that is threatening homes.
Our son and daughter-in-law's place still is endangered and in fact they have now evacuated their home.
Well, we made it through the night. The fire two miles east of us flared up a bit late last night but didn't come our way and was put out pretty quickly. Steven and Shannon's home is also ok, but they still have no electricity -- the power lines to that area were burned. The fire came within a quarter mile of their place on two sides. One of their friends lives in Crest, which was really hit bad but his house is one of the few left standing in that area. We still haven't heard from our friends who live in Scripps Ranch, another area that was hit especially hard by this fire.
Last night there were about 4000 people camped at the stadium, and thousands more in emergency shelters around the county. Today nearly the entire county is shrouded in hazy smoke and ash. Shannon is having a lot of trouble with asthma because of the smoke, and many people are wearing masks. Most of the schools are closed, government offices are closed except for essential operations, and many businesses are closed. I just heard a report that 585 homes have been lost so far. The fires are still raging in several areas but the winds are minimal today which will help immensely.
Looks like you guys are getting hit as badly as we did last season when the Canberra fires took a sizeable chunk out of our national capital. Best of luck and I hope the damage and loss of life can be kept to a minimum!
Ray Glad to hear you and your family made it through, OK and sorry to hear about all the others. And I've been complaining about the rain and the 35 to 45 degree temps, here in the North East:-). Guess things could be worse. Good luck to you and your's!