The story of the good coordination and efforts by federal authorities from the national media is a complete misrepresentation.
Use this article about Orange County as a microview of the entire California firefighting effort. Elsewhere in California the situation is much worse. We have nearly one million people evacuated. There have been over 1,660 homes burned with the number certainly to go up. 2 lives lost. A minimum one billion dollars in damages, if not more. And it goes on with no end in sight partly from a lack of state and federal resources.
Yesterday, after three days of fires, the Feds finally began the effort to send 6 C-130 aerial tankers from their staging area in Idaho. These are key very effective firefighting tools. They are needed. California has been in a pure fire storm since Sunday. Why did it take three days to start to get us some additional key resources?
For one example of the problem, here’s a quote from the Orange County Fire Authority Chief:
From WAPO: [While]Schwarzenegger and other officials emphasized cooperation among jurisdictions and agencies across the state and beyond, an improvement urged by a blue ribbon commission appointed after 2003. But the fire chief in Orange County, a prosperous area wedged between San Diego and Los Angeles, complained vociferously that the pool of available assets was too small, especially in the week’s frantic first 36 hours. Because no aircraft were available to attack a blaze near Irvine that arsonists apparently set, flames leapt a road and overtook a dozen firefighters who survived only by wrapping themselves in fireproof tents that they carry as a last resort.
“Yadda yadda yadda,” said Fire Chief Chip Prather, dismissing the state’s assurances. “All I know is, I had 12 firefighters deploy their shelters yesterday, and they shouldn’t have had to do that.”
The canyon community of Modjeska has at least partially burned. The Fire Chief said yesterday afternoon, “It is an absolute fact had we had more air resources we would have been able to control this fire,” Orange County Fire Chief Chip Prather said.
Modjeska fire got so bad yesterday the firefighters had to withdraw. It was simply too dangerous. The historic canyon was left to burn.
After the Fire Chiefs unprecedented remarks, and the angry aggressive remarks of the area State Assemblyman Todd Spitzer, aerial tankers magically showed up and helped slow the path of the fire at dusk. It’s my opinion that when we finally really get into Modjeska Canyon we’ll find it’s burned to the ground. That’s not what news readers are being told today. Today they are being told only 6-8 homes have been burned. Time will tell perhaps they are right and the OC firefighters did a great job in very dangerous circumstances.
Just so you know this isn’t written from merely news resources: I watched that fire eat that canyon from a highpoint on my ranch about 2-3 miles away. I know the area. I was on mandatory evacuation and was nearly arrested merely trying to get back to the ranch to evacuate nine horses and some of my personal belongings. Right now I’m living out of my car.
This morning, at dawn, I watch the fire crawl over the top of a ridgeline that threatens the community of Hamilton Trail. There was no air support. The fire was on the ridgeline and could have been effectively attacked by air tankers. Orange County again had no, or too few, air tankers to make the effort. Again, I repeat, it could have been stopped or slowed this morning in my opinion.
OC fire authority has set backfires to try and deprive the fire of it’s fuel as it burns down that mountainside into the Hamilton Trail area. No firefighter can get to the fire itself today. The hillsides are simply too steep. They have to attack from the air or wait for it close in on the communities so they can physically fight it.
Here’s the specific problem with Hamilton Trail burning: Hamilton Trail runs to the east. It connects with Trabuco Canyon. Trabuco Canyon has 212 homes. Some of these built in the late 1800’s. The connection point to Trabuco Canyon from Hamilton Trail also runs East a few hundred yards into the top of Rose Canyon. Rose Canyon is a pathway to other streets in the area. Across the top of Rose Canyon is Holy Jim Canyon.
As of 3PM PST it appears the fire line is holding on Hamilton Trail. If they lose that line there are potentially disastrous consequences.
What’s the short version? If Hamilton Trail burns we risk it spreading more quickly than it if had to crawl up and down all the ridgelines and hillsides in between these locations.
Only time will tell if the OCFA can pull off the near miracle and stop more canyons from burning. Elsewhere fires are burning 30-40 miles, apparently headed to the ocean.
And it goes on with no end in sight. Southern California is burning. Bush is due tomorrow to tell us what a good job he’s done. Brownie says he’s “not doing heckuva job.”