Friday, November 14, 2008
Santa Barbara Ablaze
[photo from Edhat.com - thanks Peter]
I've had a few e-mails from friends and readers about the fire here in Santa Barbara. I just sent this reply to Elyse Umlauf, a writer friend in Chicago. Thanks to everyone for their thoughts.
Elyse: Thanks for checking. It's a raging inferno, but not of any immediate threat to me. My full-time job is with the City of Santa Barbara Parks & Recreation Department, so I spent the night as an emergency service worker, running the logistics command post. I started my shift around 7 pm and got relieved at about 2 am. 100 homes lost in the wooded and brush foothills. One of my son's friend's home was the first to go.
The town is blanketed in smoke and ash this morning - bit of an Armageddon vibe, but the weather is in our favor right now. Virtually no wind, but that could change by sunset - that's when the hot 'sundowners' can kick up, but the meteorologists are optimistic. We had 70 mph gusts in the fire areas until abut 10 last night, then the wind laid down for the rest of the night. This is the first time we've had night vision helicopters picking up water from the ocean and doing a few drops. Today we get jumbo flying tankers laying down retardant. The raging orange flames I saw as I reported for duty subsided before I left the command post at about 1:30 a.m.
All I could think about was how many homes could have been saved if people understood and heeded the principles of fire-wise landscaping. My TV partner, Owen Dell, and I produced four shows on the concept of Firescaping that aired last year and are still on-line starting with Episode Six. Owen and I also completely redesigned the City's Firescape demonstration garden to help inform homeowners in fire prone areas how to create defensible space. I'm hoping that a lot of people took the message to heart and made changes to their landscaping. I'll be interested to hear how many of the lost homes ignored the admonitions.
I have a song lyric going through my head – Joni Mitchell’s ‘Help Me’. Her song is about love, but it applies today.
It's got me hoping for the future
And worrying about the past
'Cause I've seen some hot hot blazes
Come down to smoke and ash
Nuff for now - bg