Saturday, November 15, 2008

And Another Wildfire Breaks Out

Another major fire has broken out, this one in the foothills above the San Fernando Valley near Los Angeles and 10,000 people are under evacuation orders. Dubbed the Sayre fire, it is also referred to as the Sylmar fire for the town it is burning down. Here is a page with live video of the fire. This is a more heavily populated area than Montecito, where the Tea fire continues to burn. That fire is 40% contained, according to this news report from the LA Times.

The problem of the winds is illustrated by the below photo:
See the palm tree torches behind the house? As they burn, the winds whip embers off them and carry the embers dozens, even hundreds, of yards away. In this case, they are all falling on the roof of the nearby house. If you watch some of the videos linked above, you will see how strong the winds are and how they get a "rain" of embers going. This allows the fires to jump over fire breaks, wide roads, even major freeways, and spread quickly and erratically. The Sayre fire jumped over Interstate 5 just north of Sylmar, which I believe is an 8 lane freeway at that spot. (Maps of the burn areas are embedded in the news articles I linked above.) Update - and here is a picture of I-5:
It is extremely hot and dry in San Diego County right now, and I'm near the coast where conditions are most mild. We are experiencing record high temperatures for this time of year, with inland temperatures in the 90s. What we are not experiencing at the moment are very high winds, which is what turns localized fires into fast spreading wildfires, though the entire county is under red flag warning for extreme fire danger. The big problem in this area is the new growth in the portions of the county where most of the building for the housing boom took place. There are many suburbs built near mountain foothills and canyons filled with dry vegetation. A number are built on the ridges and slopes, and they are directly in the usual paths of wildfires. When winds increase, a small fire can quickly become huge and these widely dispersed developments are surrounded by acres of tinder.

In California, your house can both be underwater and on fire.


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