Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Did you know you can see the smoke from the southern California wildfires on the 2KM and 4KM Pacific satellite photos? Check out the Satellite link on the National Weather Service web site (this link should display the forecast for Oakland, from which you can see the Pacific satellite shots).

In fact, SFGATE.com has a NASA satellite image in which you can see the flames. From orbit.

Sorry, folks, but this is the price we pay to live in a state where fire is a normal part of the ecosystem. It's also the price we pay for suppressing fire for a century - the fuel built up to the point that, once it starts, we can't stop it. The native Americans, I recall reading, used to schedule controlled burns on damp calm fall days; but they didn't build housing developments.

I don't see it online, but the article on the fires in today's paper Chronicle says that people in San Diego watched the flames hopscotch over
I-15 - a 10 lane freeway. These fires are being driven by Santa Ana winds up to 100 mph - I don't see how they can stop them until the wind dies. I'm just grateful that Northern California is only getting mild winds and (at the moment) nothing serious is burning. The Oakland Hills Fire was 16 years ago, but I still get nervous on a hot windy fall day.

There's no moral to this post. I'm just scared. And the fires are 500 miles away.


  1. Sorry, I looked again at the NASA satellite photo and I think what I thought were "flames" visible from orbit are actually false color indicators of fire locations. But you can sure see the smoke plume.

  2. Here's my letter to the SF Chron of this morning:

    Re: "Exodus" front page story from Chronicle 10/24/07

    If anyone needed reminding, once again, what the consequences of uncontrolled urban
    sprawl and explosive population growth are , the recent devastating wild-fires in Southern
    California have provided yet another proof. The Santa Ana winds, and the fires they cause,
    are a completely natural occurrence which has been happening for thousands of years.
    There is nothing unusual or unforeseen about them. Building homes and mansions in
    and around these tinder-box canyons in the LA basin is the sheerest idiocy. In Winter,
    they have mudslides and slipping foundations; in Summer, fast-moving brush-fires.
    There is no efficient way either to prevent or to mitigate these disasters, and those who
    complain about poor or inadequate response are kidding themselves. The message is
    clear: If you pretend that Mother Nature isn't the boss, you'll get your comeuppance.
    And how!

    (unpublished, of course--can't have any negativity when people are SUFFERING!!)

  3. Anonymous8:00 AM

    It is sad but true. If building in an area with the possibility of a clearly defined natural disaster, common sense should tell you to prepare for the worst. Only then do you pray it doesn't happen.

    In typhoon prone areas, people build with cement. Cement block walls covered with stucco doesn't look bad. Of course, a good solid typhoon with winds up to around 200 mph can still tear your roof off, but cement survives better than wood. (Yes, I have experienced such a typhoon/hurricane. The exact strength of the wind couldn't be determined, as all the sensors at the weather station were blown away when the wind got up to around 200mph. The cement building survived.)

    Why California still allows wooden structures in wildfire prone areas is beyond me. Price isn't the factor. Cement block isn't that pricy nor does it have to be ugly. Why are wooden shake roofs allowed in these areas? It is important to look stylish as your house burns? How expensive is that fire retardant paint or coating or whatever it is? Wouldn't it be cost effective for the state to offer cash rebates for applying this protective coating? There must be landscaping options that would help as well as simply declaring some areas unsafe for human habitation.

    Oh well, sometimes common sense isn't so common after all.

  4. Yes, and in this morning's paper I noticed a comment (not an exact quote here) that in some areas the older, tile-roofed Spanish style homes had not burned. Do we see a pattern here? If the roof is not flammable the house has a much better chance of surviving.

    It isn't just the roof, either. One of the only structures still standing in upper Chabot Canyon after the Oakland Hills fire was the Maybeck beauty called the Chick House. The Chick House is surrounded by mature trees - live oaks, which aren't especially flammable. I don't know what its roof is but I'm damn sure it's not wooden shake.

    I gave up on the commonness of common sense years ago.