Re: Fires


Orange morning; I've been figuring out how to keep my phone from color correcting it away.

Yesterday it was orange and sunless but not this deep orange, and not as dark as it is now (90 minutes past sunrise). Also yesterday the air quality was surprisingly good; we were informed strong winds in the Bay were keeping the smoke aloft at over 5,000 feet. I guess that died down.

At least no new fires started near us over the weekend heat wave, only down in Fresno and further south.

Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 09- 9-20 8:14 AM
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Oh, and the private air quality tracking site everyone uses isn't loading any data. I suspect it's in high demand.

Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 09- 9-20 8:16 AM
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Yeah, near Fresno the Campfire was started with a gender reveal party's fireworks... yay! The winds and dry forest grew the fire immensely over the weekend, with a number of hikers rescued by helicopter and towns under evacuation. Both Yosemite and Sequoia are closed; Yosemite purely as a precaution, but the fire is basically in Sequoia. The scary part is that it's still 0% contained as of this morning; fortunately, it's a long way from significant population centers, but given the swift spread, the evacuations are having to cover large chunks of land.

It's the fall, so there's no rain predicted for the next week. It successfully hopped Highway 168; I'd hoped that it'd make a good containment point with the easier access of fire trucks, etc., but I think the fire front is just too long. The fire extends something like 10 miles along that highway, and that's just one edge.

Posted by: Mooseking | Link to this comment | 09- 9-20 8:52 AM
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Stupid question- how often can a particular area burn? If there's a big fire somewhere is it safe for a few years so that other areas at risk can be managed more easily, or is every year a new chance to burn?

Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 09- 9-20 8:56 AM
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4: From my understanding, in most locations you're pretty safe for a few years after; there are still stands you drive through in Yosemite from a 2014 fire that are still ashen and without a lot of growth yet.

The bark beetle that's been mentioned is a huge contributor; there are a lot of dead and seasoned trees just waiting for a fire these days. A lot of the native trees successfully endure occasional wildfires (the Sequoia's thick bark is very impressive), and some incorporate fire into their reproductive cycle -- but the extra fuel from the dead trees means that the pine cones that normally open and disperse their seeds in the wake of a normal fire may not be able to survive the more intense heat.

Posted by: Mooseking | Link to this comment | 09- 9-20 9:12 AM
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I'm not an expert, but I think brush and grass grows back fast, and then dries up fast. I checked where the fires were near the Bay two years ago, and there's significant overlap between the boundaries of the County Fire (2018) and of the current LNU Lightning Complex.

Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 09- 9-20 9:18 AM
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The Bay Area is now in nuclear winter. The pictures going around don't convey how little illumination there is - 9:30 am and it's pretty much the middle of the night, faint orange in the sky but no light coming down. Windows turn into mirrors if you switch the light on. It's messing with me as other things haven't so far.

Posted by: lourdes kayak | Link to this comment | 09- 9-20 9:37 AM
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6: Damnit, really? My folks rebuilt after losing their house in the Tubbs Fire in 2017 and I'd been hoping they'd be safe for a while. The fire that got them last time was coming off a valley that hadn't burned in 60 years and I'm sure a few years of brush regrowth can't kick up anything so bad, but any spatial overlap so soon is a scary thing.

Posted by: Kymyz Mustache | Link to this comment | 09- 9-20 9:44 AM
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5 IANAS, but my understanding is that there is some controversy about the fire danger posed by beetle kill. There's maybe a trade-off when the fire is burning trees without sap, or something like that. Did I say I wasn't a scientist? I'm really not a scientist.

Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09- 9-20 9:48 AM
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9: I am also not a scientist -- I just grew up in the area, so got routine lectures from park rangers, etc.

CALFire is still contently blaming the bark beetle, but I'd believe that the science has advanced. CALFire's bark beetle info page is here --

Driving up into the mountains, you'll often see crews pulling down beetle killed trees; I suspect that they're logged, but it's clearly selective rather than aggressive thinning or harvest.

Posted by: Mooseking | Link to this comment | 09- 9-20 9:54 AM
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Looking at the satellite images, what is really striking is just how much east wind there is in California and Oregon. That's not going to continue for all that long -- whatever system it is that is driving that is going to break up, and we'll be back to getting that Oregon smoke, rather than the cities along the Willamette.

Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09- 9-20 9:59 AM
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8: It's possible I'm being misleading. I'm no expert, Mooseking seems to know more. There appears to be a blank space in the LNU map that was maybe the core of County Fire (middle east shore of Lake Berryessa). But I still see overlap on the maps at least.

Here's a true-to-color photo, but lourdes is right that even that overstates the light level.

Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 09- 9-20 10:26 AM
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Photo truer to light level.

Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 09- 9-20 10:28 AM
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There was a ProPublica article that was borderline clickbait titled - "We know how to control forest fires, we just won't do it!!" - and then the answer was "because it requires a massive amount of dedication to controlled fires and look, we can't even get people to stop shooting off fireworks, let alone begin to solve it, and plus a lot of people are profiting off the status quo".

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 9-20 10:49 AM
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I suspect a reason even that article doesn't talk about is exurban sprawl => too many people in fire zones needing strict protection during controlled burns.

Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 09- 9-20 10:52 AM
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The Bay Area fogpocalypse is apparently due to another massive fire near the 2018 Camp Fire/Paradise site in the Sierra, the Bear Fire. I learned that there are "pyrocumulonimbus clouds" from this thread, not a word I remember from my childhood cloud research. (From same thread: "So... overnight it expanded by about the size of some of the largest fires ever in California? As in just what got added overnight would be among the top 5?" Not quite, but it's rocketing up the list.)

Trying to find updates from Medford OR, which is arguably the worst story right now. Maybe here?

Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 09- 9-20 10:53 AM
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Here's the article.

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 9-20 10:55 AM
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Pyrocumulonimbus near bodies of water lead to sharkfirenadoes.

Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 09- 9-20 10:58 AM
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Not to be confused with shrekfurtomatoes.

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 9-20 11:11 AM
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I just typed "where is the" into Google and the first two autocompletes were "fire" and "smoke coming from today".

Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 09- 9-20 11:29 AM
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Summary thread via Anne Helen Petersen.

Almost every western state has red flag warnings today [yesterday], wind switches in both California and Washington have contributed to enormous growth of both human and lightning caused fires, and entire towns have been burned over in eastern Washington and Oregon. . . . Amidst it all are numerous vehicle burnovers and shelter deployments--18 in the last four days, which is more than the last five summers combined--and injuries amongst those working on the line. . . . Our path out of this is going to necessarily require more summers like this. It's going to be a massive transition. It's going to take decades. There's zero easy fix for it. We can't rake, cut, log, graze or burn our way out of this.

Washington/Oregon peeps, lurkers included, how is it where you are? Is the smoke cover having any cooling effect?

Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 09- 9-20 11:34 AM
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We had a very mild fire season up here, so most of our crews are down there helping out.

Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09- 9-20 12:05 PM
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It does seem to be cooling us off here.

Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 09- 9-20 12:37 PM
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Hard to say if the smoke is having a cooling effect in Seattle when we only have smoke from Eastern Washington when the winds are unusually east-to-west. The normal cool water breezes would be cooler than this shade.

But hey, there's a fire at Mount Lena near Brinnon in the usually-cool Olympic Peninsula, so we can get smoke either way. A few years ago there was a terrible inaccessible fire in the green woods that turned out to have been started by two burl thieves who not only stole public maples for the guitar trade, but got them by burning not cutting, and couldn't control the burning.

Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 09- 9-20 4:46 PM
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I got laid off this morning and maybe it's literal doom and gloom outside, but I am wondering if there's a way for me to get back into journalism after 13 years, but somehow avoid all the creepy trolls and stalkers this time. It feel like a good time to take a deep but sustained dive into public oversight of state and local government.

Posted by: Sabeli | Link to this comment | 09- 9-20 5:15 PM
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I had meant to spend all of Sept and Oct at my father's cabin on Highway 190, but the collection of cabins was evacuated a couple days before we left. So we went to LA instead. Now we're watching the SQF Complex fire online, waiting to see if the cabin burns. (Wouldn't be all bad if it did; it has been a source of conflicted emotions in our family.)

It has been four years since the mountainsides have been 70%-80% standing dead trees. My previous rule was that I don't go to the mountains between the end of June and the first rain. I decided to ignore that this year, on the grounds that I was more afraid of what screentime was doing to us than I was scared of fire. But it looks like I was right the first time.

Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 09- 9-20 5:16 PM
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25: Hooray for meaningful transitions? I hope good parts of this outweigh the uncertainty and any negativity of being laid off.

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 9-20 5:30 PM
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25: I'm sorry out the job situation. Best wishes looking for the next step.

Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 9-20 5:32 PM
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+ ab

Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 9-20 5:36 PM
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stole public maples for the guitar trade

Name names!

25: people here would probably subscribe to your newsletter. What kind of funding do you need for what you want to write?

Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 09- 9-20 7:18 PM
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Thank you HG & MH.
That does seem like a good rule, Megan.

Posted by: Saheli | Link to this comment | 09- 9-20 7:49 PM
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5, 9 --

Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09- 9-20 9:54 PM
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24: side issue but can you explain how this works? "two burl thieves who not only stole public maples for the guitar trade, but got them by burning not cutting, and couldn't control the burning."

I'm not actually a tree thief but surely you steal a tree by cutting it down and taking it away. Where does the burning come in?

Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09-10-20 1:01 AM
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24, 33: I'm not a tree theft expert but I understand that instead of using a (loud) Homelight or Stihl saw, you make multiple passes around the trunk with a (silent) wood burner from Michael's or Hobby Lobby.

Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 09-10-20 6:07 AM
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32: That was an interesting article, thanks! I noticed that my incorrect impressions mostly matched what the quoted political leadership has been saying, even as the science was undercutting their statements.

12: I was thinking mostly about full forest fires, but you're right, grasses and ground cover come back quickly. Fire's an important and more frequent part of the cycle in the prairies and meadows. I know that the whole Santa Rosa area has been hit hard; after the 2017 Tubbs fire some of the sites designed for reconstruction were hit by last year's Kincaide Fire.

Posted by: Mooseking | Link to this comment | 09-10-20 9:36 AM
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If it's >this fire:

In early August 2018, after selling thousands of dollars' worth of maple to the mill, WILKE and WILLIAMS identified a big leaf maple they wanted to steal. However, the large tree contained a bee's nest, which made it difficult to fell. After unsuccessfully attempting to get rid of the bees with wasp killer, the men decided to kill the bees by burning the nest. WILKE poured gasoline on the nest and lit it on fire. The men tried to put the fire out with water bottles but were unsuccessful. The fire grew into a 3,300-acre forest fire, damaging public lands in Olympic National Forest and costing $4.5 million to extinguish.

Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 09-10-20 9:48 AM
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Fires in the Amazon are also epic this year, of course.

Brazil reported 8,373 fires in its portion of the Amazon rainforest for the first seven days of September, more than double the number of fires in the same period a year-ago, according to data from Brazil's national space research agency Inpe.
A pressing concern is that 27% of the major fires so far in September have been in virgin forest, rather than in recently deforested areas or farmland where blazes are more contained, according to an analysis of satellite images by U.S.-based non-profit Amazon Conservation, reviewed exclusively by Reuters.
That's up from 13% in August.

I am too exhausted to do my periodic check on Siberia and definitely too exhausted to survey Asia for more overlooked destruction. Glad it's been calm this year in Alaska (and western Canada?). I am not really able to conceive of 2030 yet.

Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 09-10-20 10:18 AM
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I lied. Quick Indonesia update from July:

- there were significant fires in Central Kalimantan province, Borneo
- "Milder weather is expected to bring about a less severe forest fire season across Indonesia this year compared to 2019. But cutbacks to fire-prevention measures as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and deregulation could still see large amounts of haze generated, threatening an already precarious public health situation in the region." On this point, no subsequent news is possibly good news...

Same site, global summary. Has some confusing data about percentage of annual fires on forest land, and is working primarily from one WWF report, but notes that "this April, nearly 20% of the forested area of northern Thailand burned, causing dangerous levels of air pollution in Chiang Mai."

Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 09-10-20 10:59 AM
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35.2: Part of it is that fire extent maps don't capture how a fire burns, how much fuel it leaves behind for the next one, etc. But in Santa Rosa, yeah, my misguided impulse is to tile the various fires and game out what's still left to burn. Gonna be invincible soon!

Posted by: Kymyz Mustache | Link to this comment | 09-10-20 11:43 AM
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36: Thanks, Minivet, I think that was it.

The local comments were probably majority "oh why throw two good old boys in jail for tryna make a buck" but not by a *big* majority. Some disdain for their damages to multiple public goods, underpinned by considerable disdain for their stupidity and incompetence.

Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 09-10-20 2:04 PM
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And now it looks like the latest big fire, the North Complex, is ravaging an area directly adjacent to the 2018 Camp Fire that destroyed Paradise, CA - but not overlapping all that much. In fact it almost looks like you could align them as puzzle pieces on a map.

Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 09-10-20 7:45 PM
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There was a small fire earlier in the summer not too far from where the 2017 Thomas fire started and part of the reason cited for why it didn't burn too much was the fact that the earlier fire had cleared out a lot of brush. Even though a lot of the landscape doesn't look burned or scarred these days, it's still not as densely grown as it was before the fire.

* Which was briefly the largest fire in CA's recorded history.

Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 09-10-20 9:49 PM
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34: thanks, that makes sense. I hadn't actually heard of a wood burner before.

36 is kind of impressively, even hilariously stupid. Carl Hiassen widening his range.

Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09-11-20 1:07 AM
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Wednesday was alarming--outside, you felt like your eyes wouldn't focus or you were in a dream; inside, it was...well, yes. Too dark to read.

Thursday it just looked gloomy though in fact the air quality was worse.

I tell you what, though, the next time I hear someone say "yah, I grew up in Cali so I can't really live anywhere else," I am just going to punch them right in the gut.

Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 09-11-20 1:32 AM
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Wednesday orange, Thursday yellow, Friday gray, just needs a few rhymes.

Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 09-11-20 9:27 AM
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Don't want to hijack an active thread. I would love if someone did a thoughtful comparison of the QAnon phenomenon to the Daycare sex abuse hysteria of the late 70's. It just all seems so parallel.

Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 09-11-20 5:21 PM
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I hadn't thought of that, but whenever wherever any of these people get any kind of power, this is exactly what is going to happen.

Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-11-20 7:52 PM
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I remember a state rep back home who was looking like he was going to lose (or maybe just after he lost). Found a savings and loan collapse that he said was caused by a pedophile ring. The grand jury published a very long "go fuck yourself" to him at the end when they got through charging everyone with just bank fraud.

Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-11-20 8:40 PM
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Relatedly, if any of you know a good, very recent article to the effect that QAnon is a completely overblown diversion/post-Gamergate liberal moral panic over the bad internet/bog standard American conspiracy theory that will have few real-world consequences, I would love to read it as a chaser for this shot.

Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 09-12-20 9:40 PM
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49.last. I read that linked Time article and it is frightening.

Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 09-12-20 10:23 PM
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That article is really upsetting, but it's offering me the teeniest bit of pleasure that these two people, "Tina Arthur and Marcella Frank" (who have REALLY upsetting things to say, like how they'd commit mass familicide if Biden is elected) keep getting referred to as "Arthur and Frank". It's just so anodyne and mid-century!

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-13-20 6:53 AM
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Speaking of the OP, this was a very sad story

Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 09-13-20 7:21 AM
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51: sigh, bring back LaVerne and Shirley.

52 was the thing that finally convinced me I have to stop reading these stories, because I don't ever forget them and just think about them periodically, several times a year, forever, and at this point they are really piling up.

Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 09-13-20 9:10 AM
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Hey Megan, this might be what you're looking for?

Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 09-15-20 8:49 PM
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We were going to spend Sept and Oct at my father's cabin in Sequoia. The day before we were supposed to drive up, they closed the mountain because of fire. Seems very likely our cabin burned down on the 13th. If it didn't, it is only because of my father's obsession with overbuilding; I am nearly certain it was the only cabin in the complex built to current defensible fire standards. It was also fully insured. We'll find out in the next couple days. I do feel bizarre that I'm about to have the quintessential Californian experience of viewing the burned out ruins of a neighborhood I can claim.

Like I said before, no need for condolences. It was a source of conflicting emotions. The cabin was convenient to Los Angeles and very hard for me and my sister to get to. All my Dad wanted was for us to appreciate and visit it, so it was a big source of intra-family guilt and disappointment that we just couldn't go very often. I've been expecting it to burn since the big tree die-off in 2016. The surrounding mountains were 60%-80% standing dead trees. There was only ever one outcome. Since Steadfast was born, I've refused to go there at all in the summer and fall, on the grounds that it is my job to keep Steady alive and I didn't think I could safely evacuate him if we were out on a hike or anything (which refusal also hurt Dad's feelings). I didn't want to be driving down the twisty road through flames. I was about to break that rule when fire broke out. Anyway, the fire managers issued the evacuation 12 full days before the cabins burned and I appreciate their caution and that I wasn't there for any of it.

I maybe shouldn't say this, but for all the good they did, maybe they shouldn't have just spent $30M fighting the fire and instead just let it all burn through faster.

Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 09-15-20 9:45 PM
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