Archive for October 23rd, 2007

San Diego Fire Update: Tuesday Evening

October 23, 2007 @ 7:58 pm | Filed under:

The fires are still largely uncontained and making advances in certain directions, but the wind situation was better today, allowing air support to work its magic on the flames. Many homes were saved.

The relative humidity is going up, and that will help as well.

The evacuees at Qualcomm and other shelters around the county seem to be doing pretty well as far as supplies go—though it must be awful to be sleeping on the floor of a stadium, wondering if your home is still standing. Qualcomm received so many donated supplies today that authorities actually requested people NOT bring any more for now, and they are sending their surplus to some of the other shelters.

People who would like to make donations are being asked to donate to the Red Cross.

If you live in San Diego and would like to volunteer at a shelter, here’s a link to an organization that is coordinating volunteer efforts.

Some evacuees have been allowed to return to their homes, but over 300,000 500,000 San Diego County residents remain displaced tonight. More evacuations are expected over the next couple of days. 6800 structures are still in danger from the Witch Creek Fire, and some 2500 structures are in danger from the Harris fire. Those are the two biggies, but the smaller fires are serious business too.

Let’s pray those winds stay calm tonight.

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San Diego Fire Update: Tuesday Afternoon Links

October 23, 2007 @ 3:26 pm | Filed under:

These sites continue to be the best sources for recent updates:

SignonSanDiego Fire Blog

KPBS Twitter feed

New 8 Wildfire Coverage—news updates at top of page; scroll down for list of mandatory evacuation areas and shelter locations.

Fire maps:

SignonSanDiego fire map (updated about once an hour)

This one shows the whole state; click to zoom in on an area.

KPBS fire map

If you have family in the San Diego area and are looking for more information about specific towns and neighborhood, a good place to check is the SignonSanDiego forums. Scroll down to find folders for each town.

News briefing:

Governor Schwarzenegger has arrived at Qualcomm Stadium where over 5000 evacuees are sheltering. Here are rough notes from his press conference (3:30 p.m. Tuesday):

First of all let me just say thanks for turning out.

Special thank you to Sec. Chertoff for coming w/ me from Washington,
and for being on the phone w/ me every day & being concerned about
the fires and how he can help.

Thanks other officials.

Will speak briefly. What made this tragic fire, this catastrophe,
actually doable is that we have had so much help. Unlike other
disasters, we have seen state, local, and federal govts come together
in quickest possible way.

Thanks firefighters, law enforcement.

300,000 people evac’d here in SD alone, over 500,000 evacs state wide.

President Bush called him to offer help, said Chertoff will help. He is
coming out early on Thursday to visit us, visit fire locations.

Thanks President.

Now passing mic to Michael Chertoff.


Thanks officials. All have done a tremendous job in stepping up, making
sure we can get best assistance to these communities as quickly as
possible. American Red Cross has provided a tremendous amount of
assistance (supplies) through donations by American people who support
Red Cross.

Still facing serious fires, weather has made it difficult, hope
tomorrow wind will die down & we can put those assets up there in
the air.

Brave first responders fighting to point of exhaustion to keep these
fires under control. If weather cooperates, maybe we can turn the tide

In the end of course, tremendous spirit of volunteerism, the
cooperation of people in shelters, is critical in assuring we can pass
this period of time w/ a minimum of discomfort & keeping our
spirits up.

I know people are anxious about what they’ll find when they go home. I
know there’s a request for a disaster declaration in the works; as soon
as that’s approved we’ll be working v. closely with the community to
restore communities that have been hurt.

Now FEMA Administrator Dave Paulison speaks:

Thank you. Someone asked me earlier, what is the diff. b/t what
happened in Katrina and what’s happening here today. One: lessons
learned in 2003 fires and from Katrina, we have to work together.
Nobody does disasters better than California firefighters, best
wildfire fighters in the world. Cooperation down the line, governor,
mayor, Red Cross, other agencies, going into it as partners–that’s
what will make the difference. Totally impressed w/ your volunteers.
Thank you & God bless you.

State Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner speaks:

My heart goes out to victims, firefighters. As IC, my top responsibility is to help victims recover, so 3 major steps:
1) I’ve deployed from Dept of Insurance my consumer services experts to
be on the ground here in SoCal to be of assistance, help process
claims, cut through red tape.
2) Scam artists show up claiming to be contractors, investors–we will nip that in the bud to protect victims.
3) Will work w/ ins. companies to expeditite payments as quickly as
possible so people can get back on their feet. If you have any problems
w/ your insurance co, contact the Department of Insurance. I will make
sure ins. cos do what they are supposed to. Call us at 1-800-927-HELP
or online at

Mayor Jerry Sanders speaks:

Thanks everyone. Mentions good cooperation. Would also like to thank
Mexican authorities. Mayor of Tijuana sent 4 firetrucks. Gove. of Baja
CA called & said would send whatever help we needed. CMT, Mexican
electricity, is lending power to our grid. Truly a neighbor helping
neighbor situation. San Diegans helping San Diegans. Volunteers,
supplies, entertainments to shelters. Thanks everyone. We welcome the
help, welcome the partnership. Thank you all very much.

another speaker thanks everyone, praises governor.

Gov. thanks volunteers at Qualcomm. It’s one thing to evacuate people,
another to make sure have enough supplies. Toilet paper, toilets,
formula, diapers. We called immediately the Grocer’s Assoc &
challenged all the grocers to help. Within half an hour, they were
delivering supplies, tens of thousands of bottles of water, etc. Big
thank you to all of them. Thanks the Mayor, so organized with your
notepad always writing things down, making your phone calls, always a
step ahead, big hand to Mayor Sanders for great leadership.

Takes questions:

Reporter: Sec, Chertoff, what’s the status at the border?

Chertoff:  Anyone thinking of crossing the border w/ fires raging is taking an
exceptionally foolish risk. I’ve communicated w/ Mex. authorities to
get message out attempts to cross border now would be life-threatening.
Border patrol is covering border, Natl Guard has been pulled off to
help w/ fire.

Reporter: (can’t hear it)

Chertoff: First I would say, to those who have survived & whose loved ones
have survived, take a moment to hug & kiss them, saving lives is
most important. Second, look around if you’re in shelters, take comfort
in community is standing with you. Third, we do have mechanisms in
place, both state & fed, to get people assistance. Short term
rental, long term building assistance. Need to get a declaration
declared, that is in process, will get disaster recovery vehicles into position so we can respond at appropriate moments, take people’s applications.

Reporter: Have you had the chance to talk to the President about a price tag?

Gov. Schwarzenegger: President will come to help, is serious about that, no preliminary figures. We are going to make sure the people are not out there alone to rebuild.

San Diego Fires: Noon Press Conference Live Blog

October 23, 2007 @ 12:52 pm | Filed under:

UPDATED 3:25 pm: Here is the link to Councilman Maienschein’s website for District 5. The list of homes destroyed in Rancho Bernardo is now up.

Note to Lilting House regulars: Rancho Bernardo is not near my house—I am 25 miles south. This link is to aid people searching for the list of destroyed homes promised in the news briefing below.


(Please excuse typos. Am typing fast to catch this. Will try to correct names of speakers later.)

County Supervisor Ron Roberts speaking.
officers helping, many volunteers at shelters
not planned to be shelters
doing a super job
people providing food, cots, surgical masks (one company offered 30,000)
breathing these fumes is extremely unhealthy
good news today: four firefighting helicopters have arrived to help

our 211 line, we have more than tripled capacity
trying to get 175 lines in operation
waits will decrease
anyone needing info try 211 line
info on road closures, access at 511
211 talk to someone, get specific info

minimize cell phone use
mimimize driving
concerns about closing major freeways again b/c threat of fire,
so please minimize use, avoid commutes

finally, electrical capacity limited, please do everything possible to conserve electricity
we want you to use your air conditioners, want you to have clean air, but please conserve,
esp during peak hours

Now Mayor Jerry Sanders speaking.

we will be allowing residents to move back into 2 areas: Del Mar Heights south of Via de la Valle,
west of 5, north of Torrey Pines State Beach

Scripps Ranch residents can move back in.
area south of beeler canyon rd, west of sycamore canyon rd, east of 15, north of mcas miramar

no structure damage in those two areas
area safe for citizens, traffic systems restored.

Secondly, in the Rancho Bernardo area, Council Member Maienshein has walked that area w/ fire and police.
He will be releasing a list of homes destroyed. Info will be on his website.
City & county will establish an assistance center in Rancho Bernardo as soon as citizens allowed back in.

Now San Diego fire chief speaking.

Still extreme conditions. 2 new independent fires near Camp Pendleton.
Rice fire hasn’t changed much since last update. 4000 acres. Have lost no structures.
Putting resources on it as fast as we can.
Issue we’ve had is that Fallbrook evac order is still in effect. Do not come in. Some people have tried to come back.

Tracy Jarman speaking about Witch Creek Fire.

All areas experiencing extreme burning conditions as we speak.

Another fire chief speaking about Poomacha Fire.
Fire on La Jolla Indian res is 3000 acres on Palomar Mountain.
We are managing it until a team is in place later this evening.
Doing our best to protect structures, in particular in La Jolla Reservation canyon area.
Fires are pulling toward each other, will likely join by end of day. When that happens we will see extreme conditions.
Working to get all citizens out.

Now another fire chief speaks.

Next 24 hrs very critical.
New fire starting as we stand here.
Just because allowing 2 sections to be re-entered, does not mean likelihood of any additional repopulation.

Another fire chief. Steve ?

Harris Fire. 70,000 acres. Cal Fire, CIty of Chula Vista, City of SD fire
Chula Vista, north to Jamul–our focus
winds are light enough to get helicopters up
last night in Deerhorn Valley, some structural losses, assessing damage now.
Successes: San Miguel peak last night, critical emergency communications structures are intact.
11 major fires in SoCal. About 8 have significant structural damage issues now. Trying to divide resources.

Air support: 20 helicopters, combined from state & federal agencies.
Yesterday ordered 6 C-130s, mobile system air firefighting unit. Arrive late today or by Thursday.
40 helis federal, park service, city, county.
6 federal military helis. 4 Blackhawks, 2 Seahawks.

Ron Lane, Director office of emergency services speaking.

Have evac’d over 500,000 residents. During Cedar fire, only evac’d 50,000–gives idea of magnitude.
OVer 23 shelters in place.
Ask evac’d residents to be patient, getting supplies there as fast as we can.
Sheer quickness of need to move shelters, challenging task, but getting ahead of the game now.

Evac with as much water & food as you can, 3 day supply if possible.
Energy a big issue right now. All citizens minimize use of electrical power.

3:17a.m. Presidential emergency declared.
1 death.
22 civ injuries, 21 firefighter injuries.
estimated 1250 homes destroyed,  530 homes damaged, 100 commercial
bldgs destroyed, 75 comm bldgs damaged, 51 other structures destroyed,
241,000 acres burned at this point

2 hospitals evac’d. Additional hospitals may be threatened, also assisted living facilities, we are monitoring this.

Residents worried they’ve lost homes, what is next step?
Director of Public Works dept will be at next briefing to address this.
Working w/ state & FEMA to address this.
Needed Pres. disaster declaration to get funds for individuals.

Now back to Chairman Ron Roberts.

Good news: release that Poway residents can go back in following areas:

South of Twin Peaks Rd, East of Community Road to Tierra Bonita Rd on the north
and Donard Drive to the South.

West of Ipava Drive, west & north of Poway Drive. Don’t know how
many people that area contains but we are advised that before you
return to your homes, if you live in those areas, please call Poway
Sheriff’s office at 858 513 2800.

Pam Stewart speaking.

Thanks Cal Fire for dedication, working 24 hrs, resources, with the situation north in Malibu so much to attend to.
People need to know: these evac centers are run by various organizations, run differently.

211 line needs volunteers, 4 hr time slots.
Will be visiting shelters to assess need.
Need cots, beds, sleeping bags,
face masks, inhalers, bandages, wheelchairs, medical supplies.
If you evac, bring med supplies with you if possible.

Mira Mesa shelter, shortage of bathrooms, donations would helps.
We thank Red Cross for food delivery.
Thanks for immediate response getting health & safety team to Del Mar.

Everyone has said how much more coordinated this effort is than four years ago. More to do, but we have made great strides. 

Councilman Brain Maienschein
Scripps Ranch can return–difficult b/c only one entrance & exit, I appreciate your patience.   Click to District 5, Brian Maienschein, to see list of
destroyed homes. Not prepared by fire professionals but hopes will help.
Damage is significant. I counted 75 destroyed homes in Rancho Bernardo.
Still leaking gas lines in Rancho Bernardo, please do not go. Not a safe situation.
As soon as safe, fire & police will allow return.
Most damage: communities of Westwood, Mont Elena, The Trails, and Greens East.
For most part other neighborhoods in good shape.
Have given this list to police & fire to expedite cleanup and rebuild.
When RB is reopened, we’ll make available a one-stop shop to help you reclaim your lives asap.
My staff, many of whom have homes threatened themselves, gave time to walk this area, I thank them.
Info will be on website after 2pm.

SDGE update on power issues (SDGE official speaking):

Tight day in power grid. Ask every single customer to conserve.
Transmission emergency declared.
Many lines down.
Our ability to import power into San Diego is reduced to 40% of normal.
Please conserve.
Every generator in county is working.
As customers return to home, PLEASE be careful, don’t touch downed lines.
If you smell gas, call 800-411-SDGE

Fire chief returns (the one who talked about La Jolla Indian Reservation).
Pumaca fire has grown to 20,000 acres
Palomar mountain.
Reverse 911 is working to notify residents.
This fire is converging w/ Witch fire.

Ron Roberts returns to wrap up.
Half hour ago we were talking about 3000 acres (Poomacha), now 20,000! Changing fast.

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Southern California Wildfire Links

October 23, 2007 @ 11:01 am | Filed under:

UPDATED Tuesday at noon. I’ll continue to add links here throughout the day.

Here’s a chilling computer animation model of the Cedar wildfire that devasted San Diego county in 2003. This was made by a professor in the SDSU geography department. The current fires are affecting much of the same territory.

Kristen has an update this morning too.

Here’s a Google Earth map which shows some current fire data. You have to download Google Earth first, then open the link. Jane and I zoomed in on the Harris fire (which shows up only as a tiny dot, but when you go close there is more information) and saw the radio and TV towers on Mt. Miguel. Our local NPR station was knocked out, but they are now broadcasting from 94.9 FM.

San Diego Fire Update Tuesday Morning

October 23, 2007 @ 8:24 am | Filed under:

UPDATED: Yikes. SignonSanDiego reports:

The Harris Fire is 70, 000 acres and 5% contained.  Firefighters are looking for full control of this fire on November 4th.

November 4th?

Still home, still safe, still worried about the city. The Harris fire to the south is making inroads; it engulfed Mt. San Miguel last night. My kids know Mt. San Miguel as "the mountain with all the transmitters on top like spiky hair." All year, we’ve been wanting to find out its name; now we know. (Sort of. On the news they just call it Mt. Miguel.)

Here is a picture taken during the night

This is a good site for updates
. SignonSanDiego moved its firewatch blog to Blogger to accomodate higher traffic.

The Witch Creek fire also continues to rage. It has burned more than 164,000 acres so far. Some 5,600 hundred people have evacuated to Qualcomm Stadium, and many more have gone elsewhere.

Here’s a blog that is updating frequently with fire news for all of Southern California, not just the San Diego area.