Sunday, August 30, 2009

20,000 Acres Up in Smoke

It's almost 1:30AM as I write this. I shot this image standing on Grand yesterday evening -- or maybe it was Arroyo Drive. I'm addle-brained from a day of watching the wildfire triple in size and leap across my beloved San Gabriel mountains like some kind of demon lightening bug doped up on speed and steroids.

The smoke is extremely intense here now, and it is really uncomfortable to breathe outside for any length of time. For the first time since moving into our charming 110 year old house with original fixtures, I actually understand the concept of duo-pane vinyl windows. We have towels rolled up against our drafty door jams, paper towels stuffed into the gaps of our original sash windows, the AC pumping air through a 3M filter and a portable air purifier cranked up to high.

It still feels somewhat like being inside a mesquite barbecue pit.

I can't explain how surreal it felt earlier tonight to actually see flames in the mountains as I turned the corner to my house. We've all seen movies of huge fireballs sweeping across ridges. It's unsettling when it's so close to home.

Click my overflow blog here to see many more of my pictures of this devastating wildfire.

I'll update here with news as it unfolds.

UPDATE: 9:45AM Fire almost doubled in size overnight. Currently burning over 35000 acres moving primarily northwest and east. La Canada threatened. Flames near Kinneloa Mesa area of unincorporated Pasadena. So far, Mount Wilson communications area untouched. More here.

UPDATE: 10:45AM I'm getting email from area residents wondering about exact location of fire. Altadenahiker also mentioned increase in visitors looking to bloggers for up to date information. Here's a link to the current fire zone. I believe it is dynamic and will change as day progresses but if not, at least it gives a snapshot of this morning.

UPDATE: 11:15AM Okay, folks. Current info: South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) has the current air quality, smoke advisories and advice. Inciweb, a multi-agency reported website, updates regularly with wildfire overview, conditions, current evacuation info, weather, outlook, etc.

UPDATE: 5:20PM Depending on the source, the fire is reported to be between 1 and 2 miles of Mount Wilson -- which would mean a devastating possibility of loss of communications systems for media, police and fire deptartments. I'll try to verify this. Media coverage is spotty about these details. Anyone with more information and a source, leave it in comments.

UPDATE: 7:00PM LA County Fire Dept. Mark Savage told reporters as of 5:30 fire "hours away" from Mount Wilson. Latest from Pasadena Star News. Was in Pasadena today, and South Pas is oddly more smoky. I think we're getting channels of the stuff funneled down the Arroyo.

UPDATE: 8:50PM Here's the view from the Mt. Wilson web cam. Yikes. 18 homes lost in fire's path, 2 firefighters perished in vehicle crash. The view from South Pas is less dramatic than last few days, but still unnerving as fire moves toward Acton to the north and Sunland to the west. Smoke is less tonight than last night.

30 comments:

Hilda said...

I've just heard about the fires through other CDP bloggers today. I really hope it gets controlled soon.

Be safe, Laurie. I will be praying for all of you.

Judy Williams said...

GOOD GRIEF!!!I don't know what to say.

Dana said...

Dearest Lurid- We just returned from Red Lodge, Montana, where Doug’s 85-yr-old and 89-yr-old aunt & uncle toured us around the wildfire damage from last year. It came so close they had hoses going all over the house, their most precious belongings were packed in their car, and they slept in their clothes in case they had to flee at night. In the end, their ranch was okay … as I hope you will be, too. We’ll stay tuned. Is Pat okay? I’ll check her blog next …

xox, DANA DOO & crew
(danarobie@comcast.net)

Petrea said...

Eerie is a good word for it. This morning the sun is bright orange, but it doesn't really light the sky, as everything is smoke and more smoke.

I remember the stories from Australia last year and remind myself that this is at least not that bad. But it's the worst I've ever seen.

Sharon said...

Wow, Laurie, that is very scary. Your photos are amazing and chilling at the same time. "Chilling", maybe that isn't the right word for such firey site; maybe fearsome would have been better.

I've seen the stories about the fires on the news, but I hadn't thought of precautions you have to take to protect agains the smoke. I also live in a historic house and since reading your comments, I can easily see that I would have quite a task plugging the gaps around doors and windows if I needed to keep smoke out.

Be safe!!

JM said...

This is awful, but the shot is fantastic! I hope they can control the fires soon! Do take care!
We are having Code Red today, it's too hot and too dry...

Jilly said...

This looks far too close for comfort, Laurie - and I now see it's your title on yesterday's post. I lived thru something similar in Australia so keep safe. It's very scary when it's so close to home and the news just said the fires are getting nearer to LA.

If we can discuss photography, with a topic so personal to you, it is a fabulous photograph. Sure your thoughts tho are hoping the winds drop, it rains and it all goes away. Keeping everything crossed for you and the firefighters.

JAMJARSUPERSTAR said...

Hi Laurie, this is the first I've heard about any wildfires in South Pasadena and the surrounding area! I'm surprised that it hasn't been on the news over here since in Europe we are also experiencing extensive problems with fires - luckily it has not yet affected Britain.

I hope the town will be okay, I wouldn't want anything to happen to you or I wouldn't have a glimpse into Pasadena life and your beautiful photography.

Despite the destruction, this is a compelling photo.

Hope this is sorted soon!!

Scarlet xxx

Judy Williams said...

Just heard friends in La Canada need to evacuate and the husband is refusing. Cars are packed and ready if it becomes a forced evacuation. Sh*t!!!!

Petrea said...

Oh Judy, so emotional! He's refusing? What does one do in that situation? My heart just splits for them.

Snapper said...

What a terrifying image. I hope you and yours stay out of harms way.

Mister Earl said...

The fire has expanded to 35,000 acres, but you wouldn't know it by looking. Smoke is everywhere today. I just put some photos of what's visible today on my blog.

www.misterearlmusing.blogspot.com

Mister Earl said...

Wow. Check out these time-lapse videos of the smoke and the fire.

http://vimeo.com/6335740

Cafe Observer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cafe Observer said...

The worse wildfires in recent memory, as if I have any other, were the Malibu fires which just torched the hills above PCH. Countless homes were lit up. Wind wasn't an ally. Only the ocean stopped it going further south & west.

Judy Williams said...

CRAP, Mr. Earl. That really makes me feel queazy. Please be safe, you guys!!!!

Mister Earl said...

Judy - About your friend who doesn't want to evacuate...Lots of people believe that they can save their homes by staying there and watering their roof and yard. It really depends on the conditions, but many people have saved their homes in these fires by defending them. Because it's not windy, they will have time to leave if they absolutely need to.

Laurie said...

I haven't gone outside yet, but it's so smoky inside the house it's weird. The sky looks really weird, too.

It was next to impossible to sleep because the smell of smoke was so prevalent, and that smell makes you want to run outside to get away from it, except that outside it really was like being in a large BBQ smoker barrel.

I was in Venice during those Malibu fires in the 90s and it was nothing like this. I still can't believe that I could see flames from our street last night.

Yakpate said...

Yesterday in the Burbank Vons market parking lot, I noticed dozens of people snapping shots with their cell phones.

When I turned around to see what the attraction was, I saw the most gigantic, towering plumes of smoke I have seen in all the 30-odd years I've lived in California.

But those FLAMES... I had no idea the fire is so close to Pasadena.

Mister Earl said...

Watching the fire on TV news from South Pasadena today is like having Smell-a-Vision!

Eki Qushay Akhwan said...

That looks and sounds terrible, Laurie. I like the way you describe it though ... I can almost feel what you feel with your words. You're a master writer, Laurie.

I hope the fire will end soon.

Natalie DeJohn said...

Thanks for the pictures. I cannot believe some of the photos I've seen from local bloggers. I think it's about time to call this the Pasadena fire and not just the La Canada fire.

pasadenaadjacent said...

KPFK is saying that the fire is a mile from Mount Wilson

sickening

USelaine said...

It's dreadful to not be able to escape the smoke. You seem to be doing all the right things, though, so hang in there!

Cafe Observer said...

Right, malibu was worse in terms of no of structures & homes lost. Let's try to keep it that way. If Mt Wilson goes, along with the Chantry pack station, then this sadly may take it.

Virginia said...

Oh L,
I was feeling better but now I'm not. I hope you all are safe and taking every precaution. Smoke is so insidious. It pereates everything. Yes, I'm thinking back to the Australian fires. I guess every part of our world has its own special natural disasters. Blessings to you and your family and your community.
V

Laurie said...

Hi everybody,

What a day. I never expected to receive so much email from readers -- most of them looking for up to date information about this fire in the absence of TV coverage. One of the stories of this story may end up being the fact that it was barely covered by TV news. The wonderful blog LAObserved reported Former Los Angeles news anchor John Beard's comment on Twitter asking if TV stations might not be doing fire coverage "because they spent so much on excessive Michael Jackson coverage?"

Needless to say, I've been amazed at the power of the blogosphere, and my fellow bloggers' images and words, word-of-mouth info and gathered news stories.

Things have quieted down in our neck of the woods as the fire keeps moving onward to terrorize other areas. It's not nearly as smoky as it was last night. Still waiting to see when it hits Mount Wilson. (Authorities say it is inevitable.)

Thank you for all of your comments and email. Until tomorrow.

Jilly said...

Am really glad to hear it's passing you, Laurie and so sad to read of the death of two fire fighters in a crash. Keep us posted. You are doing a brilliant job and yes, you are so right, the power of the blogosphere is incredible.

Petrea said...

I've found the best coverage at the LA Times. http://www.latimes.com/

It could be too hard to get the copters in there to do any overhead shots of the fire--next to impossible would be my guess; I've seen so many low-flying jets swooping in like the cavalry to drop flame retardant chemicals. No one's flying right now--it's too smoky to see anything.

But as for ground coverage, I couldn't tell you. A lot of the great stuff in the LA Times has been filed by AP reporters.

Ken Mac said...

horrific incredible photo