California is Burning

Discussion in 'BBS Hangout' started by rocketsjudoka, Oct 10, 2017.

  1. rocketsjudoka

    rocketsjudoka Contributing Member

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  2. rocketsjudoka

    rocketsjudoka Contributing Member

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    On a personal note the father of one of my oldest friends and an important figure in Texas politics has been doubly affected by Harvey and the CA wildfires.
    http://abc13.com/harvey-victim-loses-2nd-home-to-california-wildfire/2517265/
     
  3. B-Bob

    B-Bob Contributing Member

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    It's surreal out here.
    Some of the Santa Rosa neighborhoods look like they were firebombed a la WW2.

    Quite possibly arson, mind you.
     
  4. rimrocker

    rimrocker Contributing Member

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    Red Flag Warning Wed through Thursday for a good chunk of NorCal.
     
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  5. CometsWin

    CometsWin Contributing Member

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    Do you still work putting out fires? I seem to recall that.
     
  6. rocketsjudoka

    rocketsjudoka Contributing Member

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    I remember hearing that this might be the case. Very sick if true. I know a couple of months ago one of the big fires in Oregon was caused by some teens throwing firecrackers into a valley.
     
  7. B-Bob

    B-Bob Contributing Member

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    Yesterday, a young white male was spotted running from a newly lit fire in Marin county, but that's the only lead I've heard so far. Some of the fires could have been started w'out a sicko, but I have to think at least a couple (of the 15 or so) were started by a disturbed person.

    This is one reason we really don't know when or how this will end. We have a lot of warm, dry days left in October.
     
  8. Snow Villiers

    Snow Villiers Member

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    Some areas look like something out of Mad Max.
     
  9. B-Bob

    B-Bob Contributing Member

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    Indeed. Keep in mind that about 200 are people have been reported missing. I'm afraid the death toll will go up, a lot, once people can go through the wreckage. The fire hit some neighborhoods so fast, in the middle of Sunday night, that you have to imagine a lot of folks didn't get out in time.
     
  10. Duncan McDonuts

    Duncan McDonuts Contributing Member

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    Scary situation. I read that brush fires in the area are a natural seasonally occurring event, but there hasn't been one lately so a lot of the brush has built up and that's why the fires are burning so wildly. Any truth to that? If so, should there be controlled burns similar to controlled avalanches?
     
  11. B-Bob

    B-Bob Contributing Member

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    There is some truth to that, I believe. A lot of smart ecology types are now criticizing our long-standing conservation policy of vigilantly fighting all fires. When we should just let a bunch of them burn every year, as long as they aren't a danger to human dwellings. Maybe part of the problem is we have dwellings all over the damned place now.

    Would love @rimrocker 's take.
     
    #11 B-Bob, Oct 11, 2017
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2017
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  12. JuanValdez

    JuanValdez Contributing Member

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    Lol, @rimrocker posted in this thread. Is he on your ignore list?
     
  13. B-Bob

    B-Bob Contributing Member

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    No, I am just a big dumbass who doesn't always read very carefully.
     
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  14. rocketsjudoka

    rocketsjudoka Contributing Member

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    One issue that I've heard is that CA had two wet years that pretty much wiped out the drought. It also allowed a lot of undergrowth to grow that now with a dry season has dried out and added a lot fuel.
     
  15. rimrocker

    rimrocker Contributing Member

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    Been a screwy year and yet another data point for there not being any normal anymore. Across the West, we had fires--and big ones-- where they should not have been given the abundant winter and spring precip. Most of the folks I know are kind of in shock over this. 2015 was the worst fire year in recent memory for the NW, but it came at the end of a three year drought and we knew it was coming. This was the second worst year in the NW and it surprised us all. Crater Lake was still plowing snow in July yet we had 8 major fires on the PCT between OR and WA by mid-August. That should not have happened as the higher elevation veg and soils should have been moist. Same story in the Northern Rockies of ID and MT, and of course, in NorCal.

    Yes, it's conventional wisdom that a long history of suppression has contributed to the current conditions, but what we're seeing goes way beyond that. Fire season has effectively lengthened by about two months since the 1970's, hotter and drier weather are more usual, and of course, there are more people out and about in the woods and they often do stupid things. (If you have more people living in the woods, they hate for you to smoke out a nice spring or fall weekend doing prescribed fires--the social anxiety with smoke is a real issue that we are having trouble solving.) Also, there's some discussion about whether lightning has increased as well, but there's just not enough historical data to make a definitive statement.

    So, what I'm saying is there is no doubt climate change has altered our conditions. It has necessitated major revisions in basic strategy and tactics. So much so that if we fought wildland fires now the way we did even in the 1980's--well, we'd have a lot more dead firefighters. We have Republicans and Democrats and hippies and vets and native Americans in wildland fire. I've encountered none that would dispute the previous points. None. And it's going to get worse. Some scientists say we'll burn off 60% of Western US forests by 2050. Even half of that would be catastrophic to local economies and watersheds. (Another interesting thing we are seeing is major re-burns of fires that aren't even a decade old. You used to be able to bank on a burn scar holding the spread for 15-20 years. No more.)

    As to the North Bay area in CA, the fuels are not dense forests, but more grassy/brushy in places with stringers and slopes of timber. That allows the fuels to dry out quickly and be susceptible to both ignition and rapid spread, particularly when a dry, east wind is blowing. When the timber goes up, you get longer range spotting from embers and fire brands which allow the fires to leapfrog across the landscape. Anywhere fuels, topography and wind line up, you will have active fire behavior. The dry Mediterranean climate that's good for grapes is also good for fire movement.

    Looking at this photo from Santa Rosa suggests a few things. There was no flaming front that wiped this place out. You can tell by the mostly green trees in the yards. Instead, this was embers setting a few homes on fire and because of the closeness of the structures, radiant heat and perhaps some direct flame contact allowed the fire to march down the streets from house to house. If the structures had been further apart, some would have burned, but not the whole neighborhood. The fire merely changed fuel types from shrubby woodlands to houses and we conveniently put that fuel there in a way that maximized fire spread.

    [​IMG]

    Tomorrow brings more red flags to NorCal and Santa Ana winds to the south. Hold on.
     
  16. rocketsjudoka

    rocketsjudoka Contributing Member

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    Thanks for the report Rimrocker. One thing I've been hearing is that the Santa Rosa fire might've been started by faulty PG&E power lines. Do you or anyone else in the Bay Area know more about that?
     
  17. rimrocker

    rimrocker Contributing Member

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    I'm not in the Bay Area, but it is not unusual for winds or a falling tree to snap live lines. I can think of at least four fires I've worked where that has happened. It's the primary reason most utility corridors are kept ugly and barren of vegetation.
     
  18. B-Bob

    B-Bob Contributing Member

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    Hi @rocketsjudoka (and many thanks, @rimrocker !) -- there is a lot of Bay Area reporting about this. Though we can't yet prove CAUSE, the correlation with downed power lines and the start of so many fires is startling.
    http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/10/10/pge-power-lines-linked-to-wine-country-fires/

    And more interesting reporting: governor vetoed a bipartisan unanimous bill to address weak above-ground electrical infrastructure in the fire zone.
    http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/10/...016-bill-aimed-at-power-line-wildfire-safety/

    PG&E, our privatized utility company, is way too cozy with their supposed regulators at CPUC. This came into the light with a deadly gas explosion south of San Francisco a few years ago, as PG&E had basically let some old pipes rot away. In the current case, it really looks like the company had dozens power lines that couldn't even withstand 40 mph gusts. That's okay when it's raining in an El Nino storm. Less good when you have a lot of dry grass everywhere.

    At least, I guess, for now it doesn't look like a madman was running around setting these fires. Cold comfort, but at least it seems this may have been entirely preventable.
     
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  19. Nook

    Nook Member

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    Hmm... small world, I didn't know that you knew Richard Murray. He has been very good to me since I was a teenager contemplating a life of crime, and played a huge part in having me choose a different course.
     
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  20. Invisible Fan

    Invisible Fan Contributing Member

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    That bodes unwell for a lot of California homes.
     
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