A fire is raging in the hills and canyons of Orange County. It’s nothing compared to the devastation in Northern California, where 160,000 acres have burned, killing 21 people and wiping out whole neighborhoods in Napa and Santa Rosa — but a dozen homes have been lost and about as many damaged in the 8,000-acre blaze near Anaheim.
Even though I live farther away now, the smoke still reached the coast on Monday, the first day of Canyon Fire 2 (so-named because it picked up where the Canyon Fire left off last month). It turned the sun orange and the sunlight yellow, like sunset but at too high an angle. The smoke is a lot more diffuse now, looking more like typical smog, and firefighters are getting the fire under control as the weather changes.
The evacuation maps and the photos of Peters Canyon remind me of the Santiago Fire ten years ago this month. That fire burned for nearly three weeks and scorched 28,000 acres. I wondered whether they ever caught the arsonist who set it. As far as I can tell from a quick search, they never did. The most recent article I found was on the five year anniversary of the fire. At that time, they had “narrowed the search to three suspects, he said, but no arrests [had] been made.”
October is always a bad month for wildfires in California. Plants have been drying out all summer, the winter rains haven’t started yet, and the hot, dry seasonal winds of fall — Santa Anas in the south and Diablos in the north — whip up the flames and drive them long distances. But in the last decade, more and more fires have burned large areas in summer, spring, and even winter, to the point where “fire season” may as well be year-round.
The kiddo had a day off from school in mid-March, so I took a vacation day and we all drove out to the desert to see the spring wildflowers. After the endless suburbia of Los Angeles, northern Orange County, and Corona, we drove past hills green from the winter rains, then into the similarly-endless suburbs of Temecula. It’s been years since I took Highway 79 south, and the city has grown a lot, but after a few miles the strip malls and housing developments disappeared, the road shrank to two lanes, and we drove through green hills with oaks, bushes, and the occasional patches of poppies, mustard and lupins. Fences, dirt roads and gates indicated ranches and wineries. Continue reading
As near as I can tell they’ve stopped watering the grass in the back half of this park. The grass around the edges, near the playground, and near the clubhouse is green but scraggly. I’m not sure how they’re watering the trees, but most of them seem to be finding enough water to have put out leaves. Away from the street view, the ground is mostly dirt and dead grass now, but you can really see where the runoff collects.
Del Cerro Park sits atop a hillside overlooking the Pacific Ocean and, in the distance, Catalina Island off the coast of California. Suburbs surround it on the inland side, but the hills rolling down to the sea remain mostly open space (though to be fair that’s in part because the land isn’t stable enough to build on).
Normally I can put the car right in the lot when I go there. On the afternoon of January 1, I had to park all the way on the other side of the gorge that separates the outcropping from the rest of the neighborhood. I can’t complain, because I got to see this view on the way over…and on the way back, after sunset. Continue reading
It’s been a relief to have (relatively) cold weather this winter. Last year I think I wore a sweater once. While the rest of the country was caught in the frozen grip of a meandering polar vortex, California was so warm people were going to the beach to cool off. Not that December heat waves are unheard of, but it’s usually only a few days. Last winter the state barely got any snow, which meant we’ve been really relying on reservoirs and groundwater this year.
Even if it holds, and we get a wet winter in the lowlands and (enough) snow in the mountains, it’ll take a while to climb out of the current drought. So I’m always happy to see new water-saving measures put in place, like this fountain at a gas station that’s been re-purposed as a drought-friendly planter.