Saturday, September 5, 2009

Updated Maps, And Things I Learned Today About The Station Fire

Spent some time this morning with the good folks from the Sierra Madre Fire Safe Council. They are currently manning (and womanning) an informational table out by the gateway to Chantry Flats. They are also chasing away anybody crazy enough to want to go into the mountains. I've discovered that you should never be surprised at how little some people know about things. And the SMFSC have a table there for just those folks.

While we were there two gentlemen from the Los Angeles Fire Department stopped by to brief us on the situation. And they dropped off the two maps that you can see here. I snapped pictures of them with my cellphone spy cam and am now able to share them with you. (Click on them and they will enlarge for closer inspection.) And the news is cautiously optimistic. The firemen believe that Sierra Madre and the surrounding foothill cities are going to come through this without any real damage, outside of an occasional case of shattered nerves.

As you can see from the upper left map there are now two distinct lines of defense, with other options available should the ghastly and unthinkable happen. The first line (right up by the fire) is manned by teams of "Hot Shot" fire fighters. Hot Shot teams are the elite firefighters brought in for the specific purpose of getting up close and personal with the fire. Think of them as the Navy Seals of fire fighting. They are the fighters at the front who keep the flames at bay. And these guys come from all over the Golden West. Two of the teams in town that I've seen are the Elko Nevada Hotshots, and the Prescott Arizona Hot Shots. My kids saluted them as they drove by yesterday and they saluted back. They and other elite teams are being choppered into the fire zone as we type. These are tough people who handle extremely difficult situations.

The word today is that these Hot Shot Teams will be burning away a lot of the fuel that the Station Fire would feast upon should it begin to head our way in earnest. This involves setting backfires and other techniques designed to clear away the highly flammable brush this monster feeds on. And because of this we civilians in the village could be seeing quite a bit of smoke on the horizon for the next two days. That nuclear looking picture that I took and used here yesterday was just such a backfire, though at the time it looked pretty apocalyptic to me.

Another thing you can notice in the top map is the lines of "x" marks below the main fire line. These denote the bulldozed defense lines that have been created over the last few days. These are in place should today's efforts not achieve the kinds of results the firemen briefing us seemed confident would happen. You can see that these bulldozed lines create a protective shield that envelops Sierra Madre. If needed all kinds of fire fighting equipment could be driven in to fight the flames. These are known as "control lines," and would be used to defend Sierra Madre, Monrovia, and Duarte if needed. Beyond that things could get dicey.

Why would they go to the expense and trouble of plowing what are basically dirt roads if they are confident the front lines will hold? If those front lines should somehow be breached by this fire, it would be pretty much a straight run down to Sierra Madre and surrounding cities. They are a vital precaution.

The second map (right) shows two differently colored fire borderlines. To the left you can see that the line is black, which means that area is now contained. Currently this fire is now 49% contained. However, the red line, which is currently located to the north of our little town, means that the fire here is not contained. Which is why a good portion of the 5,244 people actively engaged in fighting this fire are now in our neck of the burning woods. The firemen who briefed us today seemed to feel that should the things being done today and for the next two days be successful (and they seemed confident that they will) we'll soon be living in an area that has a black line safely over it.

I didn't reproduce the entire map (the spy cam couldn't handle all of it), but there is something very melancholy shown there. Where this fire is expanding most robustly is in the heart of the forest, and it is moving east. Areas that are pretty much virgin forest that have never burned within human memory. And if you looked eastward on this map you would notice that there is now less unburned forest than burned. While those fighting the fire are doing everything they can to save towns like ours, what they cannot do is save very much of the forest. The Station Fire is moving east and will only stop when it hits the desert. This fire will consume almost the entire Angeles National Forest. And once our safety is assured the extent of this tragedy will begin to sink in. This is a devastating loss to anyone who loves our mountains, forests, and the creatures who live there.

One more thing. While total containment is not predicted until 9/15 or so, it doesn't mean this fire will be gone after that date. It is expected that some parts of the forest will smolder on until the first rains come, which by my reckoning isn't until sometime in October. The firefighters will be with us for some time to come. In many ways their job has just begun


  1. Thanks for the update.

  2. Thanks for this great coverage, Sir Eric. And thanks to the Fire Safe people as well. They do a great job. Civic motivation like that is inspiring.

  3. It is a marvel to see how people can galvanize to resist a horrible fire. It is a marvel to see that they can actually be reasonably effective against such an overwhelming beast as this fire has proven to be. It is heartbreaking to think what has happened and will ultimately be the fate of our lovely forest--our neighbor to the north. Personally, I'm heartbroken. And did I mention arson?

  4. This arson was an evil act. And the person who committed this
    act is an evil person. I can't imagine what goes on in the mind
    of such an individual.

  5. Thanks, for the update, Sir Eric,
    I can see fire coming across the ridge to the east of me, looks like Arcadia.
    Let's pray they stop it before it gets to any homes......the other natural loss is devastating enough.
    Like Dr. S. says "I'm heartbroken".

  6. Old Kentucky - The fires we're seeing today are supposed to be intentionally set by the fire crews to burn off the brush. Hopefully that is what you are seeing.

  7. Any news on the fire condition of Big Santa Anita Canyon??

  8. Thanks, 3:53. That's reassuring.
    I get nervous seeing smoke in that direction, as it moved our way a few years back.
    Our firefighters are doing a hell of a job.
    God Bless all of them and bring them home safe.

  9. May I suggest that you go over to the Chantry gate and talk to the good folks there and hear first hand what is going on...there are no fires in Arcadia...Big Santa Anita Canyon is ok for now...Pack Station is ok for now... cabins are ok for now, operative words here are...for now...any major shift in wind direction means new ball game, cheers!!

  10. More Chantry Gate reports!

  11. The moon is bright and clear tonight, and the temperature is below 70. Looks like we're going to make it after all.

  12. Symbols appear in many ways and interpretations. Mother nature is saying something about how we conduct ourselves and the consequences of that behavior. There is only so much to go around and when its depleted the world becomes ugly. Lets hope we figure a way to protect the diminishing natural resources and still allow room for personal growth. One last word. The internet is a resource. I have never seen such garbage and outright lies that cross the "blogs" as streams of fact. What ever happened to truth?

  13. At least 50% of internet blogs are false.
    The Tattler is an exception.....Sir Eric researches very well, and nothing is more important to the man than the truth, as it is to most of our posters on this blog.

  14. 9:50 - can you supply any specifics on your "outright lies" ad hominem? Are you referring to this blog in particular? There are so many in this world, MSNBC, Pasadena Star News, NY Times, LA Times, Mountain Views News, they all conduct blogs. Is that what you are discussing here? We've seen this kind of thing before, and usually upon investigation we've discovered that the source was a person with a political axe to grind, someone more interested in suppressing information than having it discussed in an open and free way.

    A little more detail,please. Otherwise you come off sounding like someone we know very well here in Sierra Madre.

  15. Uh oh, must be a new Mountain Views News out. Is "Old
    Faithful" off on one of her monthly rampages again?

  16. This is what Senator Dianne Feinstein said in regards to the terrible hillside fires of Oct.2007 in San Diego county:

    "I spent 18 years in local government – nine as a county supervisor and nine as a mayor. And there's one thing I know, and that is local governments control zoning. And I think the local governments have to begin to look at their zoning – about the siting of new housing developments in floodplains in the northern part of the state around levees and the siting of large subdivisions in the path of Santa Ana winds in parched, dry areas of the state where these winds blow hard and hot".

    Former Gov. Pete Wilson made a similar comment during the terrible fires in the 90's in Altadena Hillsides.

    City Councils and Boards of Supervisors need to legislate SAFETY FIRST.....not DEVELOPERS FIRST!

  17. SB 375 and RHNA takes away local control, thanks to Sacramento

  18. Maybe not, 12:35

    The people are fighting back....Berkeley....see Sir Eric's blog on the people's fight for a Measure V like ballot initiative.

    More good news, the people just qualified a petition to recall Anthony Adams......who always votes for development....voted for SB375 and the tax budget.

    People are starting to single out these corrupt so called labels mean nothing, it's up to the people to know who they are voting for in these State elections....if they are for over-development.....get rid of them.

    Stay alert, Sierra Madre. I'm sure Sir Eric will give you all the facts on this soon.

  19. Eric, No I was not refering to this blog. Staying largely on local isssues it has more fact than most. Go to almost any AOL News content where the right and left wing ideologs spew profanity and "agendas" on a 3rd grade level and it should have been obvious what I ment. Sorry to have insulted you. I will not do it again

  20. Ahh, don't worry about it. We get the random attack on the blog's integrity around here, which is the reason for the tetchy response.

  21. One of the Anonymous' asks, "What ever happenend to Truth?"
    I think too many people don't believe in Truth, with a capital T anymore - unwisely. Truth nowadays is whatever is true or good, or expedient for the individual. I wonder how many in the legal profession still believe in a capital T Truth.

    BTW, good stuff on your blog! Pray for BSAC canyon and all the history it contains.