Tag Archives: fire

Split Sky – Distant Smoke from the Colby Fire

My first hint that something was wrong this morning was the extremely yellow sunlight coming in around the blinds as I got ready for breakfast, the color you expect right at sunrise or sunset, not after the sun’s already up. Once I walked outside it was clear there was a fire somewhere in the area, and as I walked around the building I could see smoke filling half the sky.

It only filled half the sky, though. The smoke rose from the fire near Glendora, at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains northeast of Los Angeles, and drifted south to Orange County before winds blew it west across Long Beach, San Pedro, and the Palos Verdes peninsula.

Off to the west of the plume, the skies remained clear. Clearer than usual, in fact, because high winds had blown all the smog out to sea over the last few days. To the north and west, the sky was a gorgeous blue, the mountains and distant city skyline crystal clear. (If you view the larger image on Flickr, you can spot downtown LA right next to the first telephone pole on the left.) Smoke in the southeast turned the sun orange, bathing the area in light more suited to the golden hour.

A few miles north and a bit later, this view looking south shows the clear blue northwestern sky reflected in the building, the smoky southern sky behind it, and another building lit orange by the smoky sunlight.

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Fireworks Ban

Most cities in Orange County have banned the sale and setting off of fireworks to and by the general public for safety reasons. Of course, fireworks are an Independence Day tradition, so most cities also put on professional displays on the Fourth of July.

But a lot of people like the hands-on experience of setting off fireworks themselves. This leaves them with three choices:

  1. Go somewhere where setting off your own fireworks is legal.
  2. Shrug it off.
  3. Sneak around and hope you don’t get caught.

#1 is getting harder all the time as more cities clamp down on fireworks. #2, I imagine, is unsatisfying. #3 is stupid, because chances are pretty good that you’ll either get unsafe fireworks, or use them unsafely (because you’re trying to hide the fact that you’re setting off explosives), and end up burning someone, or burning their house down, or starting a 75-acre brush fire because you went out into the boonies in hopes that no one would catch you, but didn’t think about the fact that you were surrounded by dry grass.

So here’s my proposal:

If you’re going to ban fireworks, instead of banning them outright, set aside a designated area where people can set them off themselves.. Fairgrounds and/or large parking lots would be good for this. The Great Park, perhaps? Keep fire crews on standby. Limit the number of people so that you can evacuate safely if something goes wrong. Limit the types of fireworks people are allowed to bring in so that it’s hard for them to bring in homemade crap that’s more likely to blow off their hands than make a nice show.

It will never happen in today’s litigious society, of course. The first time someone broke the rules and someone else got hurt, people would start suing the city because it should have been safe! Even if it was a private company running the event, they’d get sued, along with the property owner for allowing it to happen, and the city for allowing them to run it in the first place.

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Fire, Borg and Spam

  • Hah! Today’s flashback post is about the time I dreamed I auditioned for Borg: The Musical. (Sadly, I didn’t record any details.) #
  • From @ThisIsTrue:

    AMAZING false-color NASA satellite pic of the damage caused by LA’s Station Fire. #

  • From @lol_spam:

    Spam subject: “I have Salvia! Join me :)” – I misread this as “saliva”…and almost did a spit-take (really!) #

  • I don’t want *more* spam, but a wider variety would be nice. The funny stuff is mostly sex, drugs & watches w/occasional acaĆ­. #

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Bad Timing

I keep putting off washing my car, then finally getting to it right before a freak storm…or the arrival of a giant cloud of ash. # *grumble*

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Mt. Wilson Fire Status (Sep 1 2009)

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Touring the Mt. Wilson Observatory (17 Years Ago)

The Station Fire burning through the Angeles National Forest north of Los Angeles is expected to reach the summit of Mt. Wilson sometime tonight. In all likelihood it will damage or destroy the communications towers and the observatory complex. The Mount Wilson Observatory is an active observatory, and is also of historical importance because of discoveries made there over its 105-year history. In particular: Edwin Hubble’s* observations with the 100-inch Hooker telescope (shown at right) indicated that universe is much larger than was previously thought, and that it was expanding — observations that revolutionized astronomy and led to the current Big Bang theory.

I’ve been to the observatory once, on a tour my family took on August 8, 1992. We’d just come back from a trip to Florida where we visited Disney World and Cape Canaveral during the summer I was 16. I really wish I could remember more about the trip…but I took pictures and labeled them (though not in much detail). With the observatory threatened, I thought I’d dig them out and scan them**. You can see all eight on my Mt. Wilson Observatory Tour 1992 photoset on Flickr.

The Observatory’s website is apparently hosted on the grounds, so the fact that its fire status page is still responding indicates it’s still there and has power. The latest update says that they’re setting up a backup info page at http://joy.chara.gsu.edu/CHARA/fire.php, but that’s showing a 404 error right now.

*As in the Hubble Space Telescope.

**Scanning them was not a problem. Digging them out? That was a problem. I knew exactly which photo album they were in, and thought I knew where the album was. As it turned out, it wasn’t there. It was in an unopened box shoved at the very back of the long,narrow hall closet, such that I had to move 3 other boxes, several bags, and an unused CD rack just to see that it was labeled “photo albums” on top. Edit: And, oh yeah, the trail of ants along the wall, going after the long-forgotten bag of Halloween candy. The wall I kept brushing up against. How did I forget that part?

That’s the missing piece that makes the classic phrase more than a simple tautology. It’s not just that it’s in the last place you look. It’s that it’s in the last place you want to look.

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Station Fire Smoke Plume from Irvine

Station Fire Smoke Plume from Irvine
Station Fire Smoke Plume from Irvine, originally uploaded by Kelson.

About 2:00 in the afternoon today, in a park in the Quail Hill area of Irvine. Roughly 50 miles away from the fire, perpendicular to the wind (thankfully!)

That puffy plume looks a lot whiter than the rest, which is clearly smoke, making me wonder if it’s a cloud that’s formed above the fire somehow. Edit: And literally seconds after I post this I spot the term pyrocumulous in another window. So, yeah, it’s a cloud produced by the air heated by the fire. The Wikipedia article has a picture of a cloud produced by this same fire a few days ago.

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Saddleback Haze

Saddleback Haze
Saddleback Haze, originally uploaded by Kelson.

Taken Friday morning. You can really see the layers in the haze that (I assume) has drifted down from the Morris Fire near Azusa.

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Magenta Sunset

Watched the sun set, its disc tinged almost magenta by the smoke plume from the Morris fire near Azusa stretching along the horizon.

Sunset Silhouette

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Green and Brown

While driving to work this morning, I looked off to the left and saw this beautiful view of fluffy white clouds hugging the mountains, and bright sunlight on the patchy green hills.* When I got into work, I went straight for the corner conference room that has a view in that direction… but the clouds had rolled in and turned everything gray. I kept checking back every so often, but the closest I got was this:

Green patchy hills

It’s been great to have a more normal amount of rain this year. The coastal hills all turned green after the second rainstorm, early in December. The hills up by the mountains took longer, since most of the area had burned off in the Santiago fire. Faint patches of green started to appear around Christmas, and now, the lower hills at least are more green than brown.

The scenery still looks odd, though. There’s a third peak (Flores?) near Saddleback, about 1,000 feet lower, that normally blends in with the mountain behind it. Well, the entire north face of the hillside burned. Then high winds blew the ashes away. People coated it with a green-gray material that I suspect was intended to prevent mudslides (it looked like the stuff they spray on dirt embankments in construction projects before the landscaping kicks in). It rained, repeatedly. Then we had high winds again, clearing all the gunk out of the air…and now it’s got the light brown color normally seen on the lower, closer hills during the dry season, instead of the darker brown of the mountains. It doesn’t blend at all, even from as far away as Tustin.

Saddleback with a large hill in front of it

This was taken from in front of the Ralphs on Jamboree on January 13. You can see the line of hills in front is still a green/brown mix, and then there’s this light brown lump rising up behind them. On the left side you can see some remnants of the anti-erosion substance.

The following day, on my way to lunch at the Irvine Spectrum (7 miles away, and perhaps a 30-degree difference in angle), I went over a bridge and saw Saddleback next to the Ferris wheel. I knew I had to get that shot.

I parked in the west parking structure, then went running around the top floor looking for a spot where I could frame the wheel and the mountains together, and avoid too many light poles, and get above the few cars, and not have to worry that losing my balance would cause me to fall 3 stories to my death. I finally climbed onto one of the support pillars for the light poles in the middle of the deck, where if I fell I’d only fall a few feet.

Saddleback and Ferris Wheel

Here, you can really see the difference between the areas that burned and those that didn’t. Compare this to the third picture in Saddleback Snow, or the second in Ashen Mountains.

Sadly, the best places to take photos from seem to be the middles of freeway bridges and tops of private buildings — in other words, inaccessible.

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