Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Wind Issues

This excerpted from the Union-Trib:
Since Sunday, the Witch Creek and Harris fires already have destroyed more than 700 homes and burned nearly 270,000 acres between them.

The Rice Canyon fire has scorched another 7,500 acres and is threatening an estimated 400 structures in the communities of Del Luz and northern Fallbrook, according to a spokeswoman for Cal Fire.

None of these fires is contained and they continue to threaten homes in both North and East County, as the return of the region's normal onshore airflow may prove to be a mixed blessing.

On the western edges of the fires, things are looking up somewhat, in part because the hot, dry, easterly Santa Ana winds are abating, replaced by the normal westerly wind off the Pacific Ocean.

Evacuation orders have been lifted for the coastal communities of Solana Beach, Olivenhain and Del Mar, as well as the San Diego communities of Del Mar Highlands, Carmel Valley and Otay Mesa. A portion of Rancho Bernardo also is allowing residents to return to their homes.

Further inland, however, those same onshore winds were posing a problem for mountain communities, specifically Palomar Mountain and the historic, evacuated town of Julian.

The fire currently is about six to eight miles from Julian, but that distance is closing, said Rick Hutchinson, Cal Fire's deputy incident commander for the Witch Creek fire.

Once the onshore winds return in force Wednesday afternoon, the fire's push toward Julian could pick up speed, he said. The nearby communities of Wynola and Pine Hills also are under threat, he said.

That same onshore flow is threatening to turn the Harris fire on homes along state Route 94 in Jamul and Jamacha, according to Cal Fire.

Further, those onshore winds could reignite some hotspots in areas already burned over, reviving fires in areas that places that now may look safe, firefighters warned.

Ironically enough, wind from the ocean will decrease air quality becuase it will trap the smoke onshore instead of rushing it out to sea the way the Santa Anas did.


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