Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Up In Smoke (Or Is It 'Out With Smoke')

Note: All pictures, maps and video in this post are from various sources found on the Internet

Eight days ago a lot of heat lightening went through Central California and started numerous fires.  The SCU Lightning Complex (Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Joaquin, and Stanislaus Counties) currently at 363,772 acres and 15% contained, the LNU Lightning Complex (Napa, Sonoma, Lake, Yolo, and Solano Counties) currently at 352,913 acres and 27% contained, and the CZU Lightning Complex (Santa Cruz and San Mateo Counties) currently at 78,869 acres and 17% contained fires, all started that night.  All take on the name "Complex" because they were many fires close to each other from which, for the most part, the smaller fires each joined into one larger fire.  The picture above is of the LNU fire as it crossed over I-80 near Vacaville and Fairfield, between Sacramento and San Francisco.  These fires, along with the many other fires which have hit California this year, have been devastating.

Stats from Cal Fire Website 4:30 pm, Tuesday, August 25th

About 10 days ago I happened to look at the Cal Fire website to see just how many fires and acres there had been so far.  I remember the acreage was around 350,000 acres.  Eight days later, 1.2 million more acres have 'gone up in smoke', growing to 1.5 million acres.  Or, as I suggest in the title, 'Out With Smoke'.  I say that because the smoke does go up...but then it goes out...and then it falls low to the ground...and with 1.2 million acres burning, that is a lot of smoke!

I think with the smoke this thick, people would be wearing masks even if there was not a pandemic taking place right now.  At times, the air is just thick with smoke.

This map from the Cal Fire Website shows some of the current fires.  It does not include house fires, localized fields which catch fire in cities and towns, and it does not show all of the National Forest/National Park fires...but it does show the major fires and most fires which fall under Cal Fire's jurisdiction.  

The above two pictures are from the Cal Fire Website showing the CZU fire.  What I like about the Cal Fire map is that you can get very close on the map and see the perimeter of the fire zone.  On May 1st-4th of 2018 we went over to Felton to visit my cousin Richard.  He and his wife Marci operate the Daybreak Camp there.  They were evacuated last Thursday in the middle of the night.  Thank goodness this camp, and much of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park have not burnt up.  Another thing to remember is that just because an area is within the 'red zone', it does not mean that everything within is totally burned up...that won't be known until people can get in and examine the entire burn zone.

Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the Big Basin State Park just north of Rich and Marci's camp...it has been devastated.  Anyone who has visited these great Redwoods in California have probably heard that they are very hardy and have survived many forest fires.  The following is a quote from the "Outsider" website about the Big Basin State Park:

The California fires continue burning. Reports now say that Big Basin, the state’s oldest redwood tree park, is engulfed in flames. Century old trees in the park may be lost forever.

“We are devastated to report that Big Basin State Park, as we have known it, loved it, and cherished it for generations, is gone,” Sempervirens Fund, an organization working for redwoods protection, wrote in a post to their website on Friday.  

Let's hope that as they get in there that they find that many of the trees actually survived...but I am sure it won't be the same.  I remember upon my visits to various Redwood Parks is that fires bring new, future growth within the Redwoods.  But the results of new growth won't be very visible for many, many years.  Fingers are crossed that Great Basin is not as bad as people think. 

Note: After my post I found this article:  

Big Basin Redwoods survive fires: Photos show what California's oldest park looks like now


Cal Fire's main airport is right near where we are at here at Sandy and Arny's house.  We hear planes and helicopters coming and going all day long.  Although there are many smaller airports from which smaller planes and helicopters use to fight the fires, large airports are needed for the large planes.  The helicopters we hear are typically large ones carrying machinery and supplies to varous fires. The second picture above is the 747 Supertanker dropping a load a few days ago, most likely for the LNU fire.  The Supertanker can drop nearly 20,000 gallons of fire retardant or water in one load.  Normally it breaks the drop up into 2 or 3 passes.  It can take off, drop its load a couple of hundred miles away, and land again in just about an hour.  45 minutes later, it can be up in the air again. 

Above is a 9-10 minute video of the Supertanker in action.  It is an amazing plane.  Although you can't see it in the video, it actually follows a smaller plane as it nears the drop zone since it flies so low to the ground that the pilots can't see where they are going.  The small plane acts as a spotter to let them know when to dump, when to stop the dump, and warn them of stuff such as electrical lines and cell towers.

Above is air quality for yesterday.  As a kid I remember they would burn the rice fields to the west of Sacramento, and the smoke from these fires would be intense, but the smoke would not last long since they burned on a windy day...once the field was burned, the smoke would blow through.  The rice fields were burned after harvest to dispose of the left over straw and to control disease and pest problems that can carry over between crops...which is rarely done any more.  With today's wildfires we have ash falling on cars, sidewalks, windows...just about anywhere and everywhere.  The air quality this past week is the worst I have ever seen.  The only good thing is that the heavy smoke has kept the temperatures down by 5-10 degrees.

I see from some of the blogs I follow that the smoke has reached other places, such as Montana, the Dakotas, Utah and Colorado, and places beyond.  I smile when I see pictures because it is nothing we are facing here.  
We sure are thankful for all the Cal Fire Fire Workers, and the many Fire Workers who have come from throughout the state and from other states to fight these fires.  Heroes, just plain HEROES! 

Note:  When they talk about a fire being contained, it is defined as follows:
The status of a wildfire suppression action signifying that a control line has been completed around the fire, and any associated spot fires, which can reasonably be expected to stop the fire's spread.
Although the fires are far from full containment, much of the boundary growth has stopped.  Within the 'Red Zone' there are still many hot spots, and wind will cause them to flare up, causing more smoke.  So far, the winds have not blown up the fire to where the boundaries have grown over the past few days.


  1. Wow, that looks horrible. We're in the UP of Michigan and are not getting television reception so we haven't seen much news on the fires.
    I can't imagine being on I-80 with flames on both sides of the highway.
    Stay safe!

    1. They are lucky no cars caught fire, but it sure destroyed a bunch of homes. Good year to skip California, that's for sure.

      How did you get to Michigan so fast...you last blog was still from Idaho! Tony must be taking driving lessons from me! LOL

  2. Why were there not fires in the "old" days? Because we burned the underbrush so huge fires would not happen. Environmentalists decided we should not be doing that so they stopped it altogether. Now there is so much undergrowth that when it catches fire it burns everything. A few have finally figured it out ... they have burns in Yosemite often to keep it in check. Too bad the Governor doesn't believe in it too. It might have saved lots of lives and property.

    1. I remember what we thought was a "BIG" fire up along the California/Nevada border back in the 60's along what is now I-80...you can still see burned stumps of trees sticking up. That fire would just be a small fire now days. One would think that along I-80 and other highways in along the foothills and the coastal range that they would create a very wide swath between the grasses and the houses...but no, and it just burned a bunch of house near Vacaville and Fairfield.

  3. Wow, those fires are horrible. I bet it is hard on the lungs and eyes with all that smoke. Might be time to depart for cleaner air!

    1. It has been PAST TIME to depart except for visiting family and seeing mom over the balcony at the Senior Living Facility...thank goodness she has a outside balcony that we can use to visit her easily.


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