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