Archive for the ‘San Diego Fires’ Category

Friday Morning Fire Update and Other Stuff

October 26, 2007 @ 8:09 am | Filed under: ,

Well, I think the Union-Tribune sums up today’s status nicely with this headline: “No new evacuations, but fires far from out.” They have a very good update (with links) this morning if you’d like today’s top fire stories.

We ventured out of the house yesterday afternoon for the first time since Sunday. Our young friend had a birthday to celebrate, and it would take more than a little particulate matter in the air to thwart such important plans. The air was pretty clear in their neighborhood (though probably still not terribly healthy to breathe—“dangerous air quality” warnings are in effect all over the county. Here at home, our eyes and throats burn when we step outside to water the plants. At least, they did yesterday. I haven’t been outside today.

After spending all week poring over San Diego County fire maps (Click to download a PDF of the county’s latest version), it was a welcome change of pace this morning to visit the Journey South Monarch Butterfly Migration map. (Be sure to change the “Week Ending” date to October 31st for the most recent version of the map.) The monarchs are on their way south to their wintering ground in the little mountain town of Angangueo, Michoacan, Mexico. I have to say it gave me a little thrill to look at all those “monarchs were here” dots on the East Coast and know that some of those might have been “our” butterflies, thanks to Sarah, who made sure our milkweed lived on after our move.

San Diego Fire Update: Thursday Morning

October 25, 2007 @ 8:59 am | Filed under:

Well, it looks like the Santa Anas are indeed dying down. Today is expected to bring winds from the west. Most news sources seem to agree that this will improve the fire situation greatly, but the air quality is going to get worse. A lot of the smoke and ash that was blowing out to sea will now be wafted back over the city. Even in the closed-up house, my throat is dry and burning.

But that’s certainly better than the loss of more homes. So far, 1,470 structures have been burned. Here again is the link to the updated (as of last night) list of homes destroyed in San Diego County.

Speaking of the Santa Anas, if you go to the LA Times website and scroll down a little way below the main picture, you’ll see a link called "Sketchbook: How Santa Ana winds fuel fires." It pops up a series of rough pencil-sketched diagrams demonstrating how the Santa Anas are formed and how they start and feed fires.

The Harris fire is still pretty ugly on its eastern side, threatening more homes there as it eats its way toward the Cleveland National Forest.

The San Diego County Emergency homepage is now posting good news updates, including frequently updated fire maps.

As I mentioned at Bonny Glen this morning, I’m finding the KPBS Twitter feed to be another excellent source of updates. It only gives brief bulletins (that is the nature of Twitter), so for in-depth information you have to dig elsewhere, but it’s a very good and informative starting point.

I missed the morning news briefings, but SignonSanDiego has a recap.

President Bush is arriving in town today.

I was particularly interested in this series of blog posts about deaf evacuees at Qualcomm Stadium and what accomodations have been made for them. Jane and I were pleased to see a sign interpreter next to the podium at all the news briefings we have watched.

Speaking of Qualcomm, I’m seeing conflicting reports of how many people remain sheltered there. Yesterday I read 5,600, then I read 11,000, and this morning KPBS is reporting there are only 800 evacuees left there? I know many evacuated communities have been reopened and people have begun to return to their homes, but that many, in that short a time span? Maybe it’s a typo—8,000 would make more sense.

As for us, we had a more normal day yesterday—normal for an at-home day, that is, but not normal for the busy day of activities it was supposed to have been. We canceled Shakespeare Club, alas, and actually settled down to some lessons in the morning. Jane and I did a big Latin review (I am trying to keep up with her Latin studies, and failing woefully), and everyone did some math. The younger girls have created a whole village of Sculpey creatures—enough to fill a miniature Qualcomm Stadium.

San Diego Fire Update: Wednesday Afternoon

October 24, 2007 @ 3:11 pm | Filed under:


A Martin Mars Water Bomber is flying in from Canada to assist SoCal firefighting teams. This flying tanker plane can dump 7500 gallons of water at once, enough to cover a three-acre area.

Some fire updates:

Witch Fire (now merged with Poomacha Fire), 10% contained, 12 firefighters injured, 2 civilians injured, has burned 225,000 acres. The quaint little mountain town of Julian, known for its fall apple-picking opportunities, is in serious danger. It has been evacuated and has lost power, and firefighters are working to redirect the blaze that threatens it.

Scott had actually planned to take yesterday off work and take the family for a drive up to Julian. Does not sound like we’ll be making that trip this fall after all.

The Poomacha fire is burning its way up Palomar Mountain now.

Horno Fire at Camp Pendleton, 10% contained, 800 evacuees, has burned 6000 acres. This one shut down traffic on the I-5 earlier today, but I think it has reopened now.

Harris Fire, the one south/southeast of us, has caused widespread evacuations but seems to have been somewhat redirected away from heavily populated residential areas. It has also burned its way eastward toward the Cleveland National Forest.

Some repopulating is occurring today in scattered communities now deemed to be out of harm’s way. But this is only a small percentage of the evacuees; thousands of people remain in shelters around the county. New evac orders have come through all day today as the fires

Schools are closed, the courts are closed, and people like us in non-threatened zones are laying low, keeping the roads clear and avoiding the smoke. We had to cancel Shakespeare Club today, which crushed the kids. A small sacrifice compared to others’ losses, though! The footage of destroyed homes is devastating.

Up in Orange County, St. Michael’s Abbey had a narrow escape (and is still not entirely out of danger). Fr. John Caronan writes:

"Please keep us in your prayers as the fires around 2pm this
(Tuesday) were just 200-300 yards away. The abbey is completely empty.
We all
evacuated by 4pm. We hope that the abbey will be spared as firetrucks
the abbey as we have about 4-5 fire hydrants. We took refuge at St.
John the Baptist parish in Costa Mesa. We don’t know when we’ll be able
to return to the abbey."

(HT: Michelle Bru of Regina Caeli Academy Independent Study Program.)

This aerial map image from DailyKos shows the smoke of all these fires swirling out over the Pacific. But I think now the winds are blowing mostly east? It’s the west-blowing winds, the Santa Anas, that have created this inferno.


(Click to enlarge.)

Mayor Sanders is trying to decide whether the Chargers will be able to play their Sunday afternoon game at Qualcomm Stadium as scheduled. I’m a little surprised there’s any question about it at all. Over 11,000 people are living at Qualcomm right now. Are they really going to be able to return home by Sunday? I would love to think so, but it seems like these fires are a long way from being under control.

One of the Steele Canyon High evacuees I wrote about this morning has suffered a stroke and was taken to the hospital.

Five people have died in connection with the fires: one in the Harris blaze, and four others during or after evacuation.

San Diego Fire Update: Wednesday Morning

October 24, 2007 @ 7:39 am | Filed under:

Here’s a good update from the SignonSanDiego fireblog:

Witch Fire:
About 196,420 acres in northern San Diego County from Witch Creek to
Rancho Santa Fe. One percent contained; 500 homes, 100 businesses and
50 outbuildings destroyed; 375 other structures damaged, including 250
homes and 75 businesses. Two civilians and 12 firefighters injured.

This is the really big one north of us. Last night it merged with the Poomacha fire to create a giant nightmare of a blaze.

  Harris Fire:
About 72,000 acres 70 miles southeast of San Diego north of the border
town of Tecate. 10 percent contained; 200 homes destroyed; 2,000 homes
and 500 commercial properties threatened. One civilian killed,
21 civilians and five firefighters injured.

This is the one south of us that has spread steadily north, marching over Mt. Miguel and threatening homes in Rancho San Diego and Spring Valley. It started way down south near the border and for a while was moving northwest, threatening Chula Vista, but then shifted northeast toward Mt. Miguel and beyond. Although its northern edge is now less than ten miles from our house, we remain safe here and still don’t expect to have to evacuate.

  Rice Fire: At
least 7,500 acres in Fallbrook in northern San Diego County. 10 percent
containment; 206 homes and 2 commercial properties destroyed. One
firefighter injured.

  Poomacha Fire:
20,000 acres on the La Jolla Indian Reservation and in northeastern San
Diego County. No containment; 50 homes destroyed and 2,000 homes
threatened. Ten firefighters injured.

This is the one that merged with the Witch Creek fire in the night. It is moving toward Palomar Mountain in one direction and Cleveland National Forest in the other.

  Camp Pendleton Fire: 6,000 acres on the Marine base north of San Diego. 10 percent contained. 

One of the newer fires. It shut down traffic on I-5 for a while, but I’m now reading that the highway is open again.

Today’s firemap (updates every hour, in theory).

Comments are off

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.