Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Morning Fire Update

I got a call @ 6:30 AM from my company's emergency notification system not to come in. The air quality is getting worse. My eyes and nose are stinging from the smoke in the air and I'm coughing up stuff in technicolor. Outside, the air is murky, like a miscolored light fog has settled in. Looking south from the front window, I can see the smoke from the Harris fire blowing out to sea.

The good news is that the winds are definitely letting up. Forecasters are saying that they should be back to normal by this evening, though that still leaves temperatures in the 90s and tinder-dry conditions around the county.

Also, it looks like both the Witch and Harris fires have stopped expanding west. The latest SD County burn map shows significant active burn areas along the western edges of the the fires, especially the Harris blaze. Cross referencing the County PDF with the KPBS Google map, there look to be active burns very near the Salt Creek Golf Club and a long fire front due east of Otay Lakes. Jamul and Rancho San Diego are very close to a major active burn and one of the evacuation centers is threatened. In the Witch fire, there are active burns in Rancho Santa Fe - one of the most pricy patches of real estate in the entire US - and a nasty sting of active spots along the north shore of Lake Hodges. There are scattered active burns around the north end of the El Capitan Reservoir.

Very bad news - the Witch fire has turned east and is burning out of control. I said last night that it looked like it was going to merge north with the Poomacha fire and it did just that. The combined fires are over 200,000 acres. SR 67 has been closed and there is a large active burn zone between it Lake Poway and Lake Ramona. Another band of active burn reaches from SR 78 in the south up to Lake Wohlford in the north and then arcs through the area, reaching east but staying above Sutherland Lake. It doesn't quite reach SR 79. Valley Center is being evacuated. Another band of active burns runs from SR 78 due south to the McCoy fire, though that fire has been contained. That has forced the total evacuation of Julian to Borrego Springs.

New fires have expanded on the Camp Pendleton Marine base, closing I-5 temporarily. Southbound traffic has been restored. The Rice Canyon fire is 10% contained, but still forcing evacuations.

With the winds dying down, they can finally use aircraft to dump water, chemicals and other things to slow down the leading fire edges as well as scope out the burns better and stay ahead of the spread. The fire crews are beyond exhausted.


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