Sunday, August 30, 2009

Station Fire a/k/a The Yo-Yo Fire

When I first started planning this post... back on Thursday night - which feels like a lifetime now... I thought it would be a quirky little post about L.A. air quality.

I knew there was a fire in the Angeles National Forest but it was 20 miles east. But late Thursday afternoon, I received a phone call from Kat. She had heard there was a bad fire above her home in La Canada and people were telling her she would need to evacuate. She was no where close to home and was upset about her animals. I reassured her. I had heard nothing of the fire and had bought groceries on her street less than a hour before. She returned home and while the fire was near her, she wasn't worried.

That would change on Friday. I awoke to smoke and ash everywhere. This is the ash I found on my car that morning. Still, the fire was seven miles away. I wasn't worried.

Looking down on the hood of the car

I decided to walk Mabel early, figuring the air quality would worsen as the fire wore on. It was a painful hike... eyes stinging; hard to breathe. We took it slow.

Everything had that Armageddon Orange glow. The ash was coming down like a snowstorm.


And every once in a while, some new area would catch up and a giant smoke plume would soar into the sky and obliterate the sun.

As Friday wore on, evacuations were called for within blocks of Kat. Hers is not an easy house to evacuate: three dogs, three cats, reptiles, uncountable birds and one teenaged daughter. Complicated by the fact that two of the cats bully all the other critters. I offered my home and talked her through evacuation prep on the phone: Line up the crates, pack important papers, clothing, lots of underwear, laundry detergent (clean clothes make a huge difference when you are homeless), flashlights w/ batteries, back up computers. She wrote a note to herself to open the bird cage to allow her finches the opportunity to save themselves.

And we waited... The fire receeded.

But not for long. It was back Saturday morning. There was so much soot and ash, I didn't walk Mabel but I did opt for breakfast at our favorite dog-firendly spot. I had called ahead...the smoke wasn't bad in that canyon and they had misters working to keep the ash at bay. It wasn't bad but it was damp and getting smokier. Driving home, I was amazed at the delineation of the smoke...you could SEE it hanging over Sunland with the blue sky to the south!

Smoke on the right; Blue sky on the left! Taken on my cell phone while driving!

I had hoped the fire would clear up in the afternoon and I could walk the girl. Around 2, I need postage for some mail and ran out to the shop. I squealed when I hit the porch. Mt. Luken's - the tallest peak in Los Angeles - was burning! Visible flames from my back porch...way worse and way closer than last year!




As I notified my local pack, I saw some heroes on the way to do battle. (Hard to believe my godson wants to fly one of these!)


And within two hours, it was out. I took a nap, still thinking I could hike. I awoke with a start at 7:30...it was so dark, I was certain the fire had hit a transformer. The hiking buddy called and invited me over to watch the fire from her yard along with the dogs and a root beer float. I was shocked to see the fire raging on Mt. Lukens again and when I got to the car, I could see another fire in the area of Alpine Village...another hiking trail I love.

It took 10 minutes to exit my driveway. The fire department was staging right in middle of Foothill Boulevard and diverting traffic to my street. Cars were stopping in front of my house for the view!

We watched the fires for hours and they were still burning at bedtime; and at 2 and 4 when I got up and checked on them. All night long I could hear news choppers - fire choppers rarely fly at night - and fire trucks rushing about town.

Mt. Luken's 10 p.m. 8/29/09

This morning, it seems to have receeded again, but not the smoke and ash. That's worse than ever. Mt. Lukens is no longer visible due to smoke.

The strange thing is, there is no wind and yet this fire is covering more than 35,000 acres. I had to laugh when someone asked a fire commander where the fire is growing. His answer was a drawn out explanation but basically amounted to North, East, South and West.

Mabel an I are staying inside where it's still smoky and trying not to worry. But the winds are due to kick up this afternoon and I fear it could get really ugly then.

2 comments:

Velvet Sacks said...

I'm SO glad to hear from you, Holly. I've been very nervous for you, not knowing exactly where you live in relation to these fires I've been seeing on TV. Did Kat end up evacuating or not? And are you packed and ready in case it gets closer to you? Holding you in my thoughts...

CreekHiker said...

Velvet has not left yet... they've evacuated to within a block of her. She is packed and ready but unpacked her computer today. She couldn't stand being without one after four days!

I am not packed but with three fires visible from my office window and wind kicking up...I should.