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California - Fires

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#51 Heywood

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Posted 05 September 2020 - 10:28 PM

How many of you guys can smell the smoke?  If you can smell it, I'd be afraid of breathing in that air for very long.


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#52 gwlee

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Posted 05 September 2020 - 10:52 PM

How many of you guys can smell the smoke?  If you can smell it, I'd be afraid of breathing in that air for very long.

Many of us haven’t smelled anything else for weeks. Of course, you are right, and we wouldn’t breathe it if we had anything else to breathe. 


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#53 vsteblina

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Posted 05 September 2020 - 11:06 PM

A new fire blew up today at Shaver Lake.  I was outside around noon and saw the giant thunderhead-looking white billow in that direction and said to my wife, "Looks like a new fire, and a big one, probably several thousand acres already and growing fast."  Fire fighting tankers have been flying in and out regularly.

That one is really ugly:  https://www.visaliat...ake/5731174002/

 

Lots of good comments in this thread.  I got my Forestry degree from UC Berkeley in 1972. 

 

Fires were no mystery then within the profession, it was just that the public wasn't paying attention.  Much of the fire research at that time was focused on restoring the fire dependent ecosystems in the Sierra's primarily in Giant Sequoia groves and the mixed conifer forests in the Sierra National Parks.

 

Though in 1971 I went out with a professor that was doing prescribed fires on private property in Mendocino county to keep it from burning down in a wildfire.  Southern California even in those days burned large acreage and homes.

 

In 1910, the Big Burn spread over THREE million acres in Idaho and Montana.  Prompting evacuation of many communities in the region.

 

The problems are many fold and vary by region.  It wasn't that the forests were "mismanaged".  It was that the public wanted different things from the forest over time.  Unfortunately, societal demands on forests change quicker than foresters are able to change forests.

 

The issues are many fold, but population growth in the west has moved homes into primarily areas that in the past had NO homes.  When those properties burned in the past, very few people cared.

 

We have a "epidemic of trees" in the fire dependent ecosystems in the west.  In 1994, every community in Chelan County was under a evacuation order.  The Forest Service was well aware of the problem prior to the fires, however, there was little acceptance of the issue by the public.

 

At that time, I was running the timber harvest model for the Wenatchee National Forest.  So after I came back to the office after 3 months on fire duty I reprogrammed the model to see how much bio-mass the Wenatchee National Forest was producing.

 

Prior to that time the Forest Service harvest levels were running 170 million board feet on the Wenatchee National Forest.  The Forest Service preferred alternative was to reduce the harvest level to 136 million board feet.  President Clinton, ordered that in saving the Spotted Owl the harvest level was to be reduced to 25 million board feet.  My computer model showed that the ANNUAL growth on the Wenatchee National Forest was 500 million board feet!!!

 

At that time, annual wood consumption in the United States was 12 billion board feet.  A National Forest better known for its Wilderness and Recreation opportunities was growing just under 5% of the total wood consumption in the country.  Multiply that by 126 National Forest, countless National Parks, forested lands managed by the BLM, and add private timber company lands, plus small private timber holdings, and brushlands and quickly you see that we have a "epidemic of trees and brush" in this country.

 

The problem is worse than that since we do not have a institutional structure currently that can deal with fire prevention and protection.  We do have a great institutional structure that deals with fighting wild land fires.  However, as you can easily see from the growth rates of bio-mass there is no way that we are going to stop those fires.

 

It is a very serious problem.  Any solution will be decades in the future.  At this point, 50 years after I started my professional career we as a society are still ONLY TALKING about the problem.

 

It is easy to blame other folks for their problems.  BUT in the Wenatchee Valley for years the homes were protected by a belt of irrigated orchards that surrounded the town.  Well, as the population of the town tripled due to urban refugees moving in from Seattle and other areas, the homes started to be built outside the orchard belt which was cut down anyway to provide more housing for refugees.

 

It is nice, upscale housing.  So much so that in late middle age, my wife wanted one of those nice houses.  She asked me IF we get a fire what were we going to do??  My answer was not IF, but when.  So far in the 20 years we have lived in our "nice" house, we have been under TEN evacuation alerts.  We are still standing and on pins and needles for the next month.  No rain for the entire summer.  Doesn't look like any rain until October. Hard to blame other folks.

 

The solutions vary from southern California, to the Wenatchee Valley, to the National Forest lands, to the private lands in California that are overgrown with brush and trees.  The Big Burn acreage in Idaho and Montana is primed for another THREE million acre fire.  It has been 110 years and I still have a few years to go that I might see that country go up in flames.

 

Back between 1965 and 1969, the Public Land Law Review Commission was established to review federal public land laws and regulations and recommend a public land policy.

 

Congress and the Executive Branch really need to establish a Wildland Fire Commission to do comprehensive, multi-year review on that scale for fire policy in the west. Not just Federal lands, but ALL state, local, and private lands as well.

 

The problem is much greater than the limited discussions that are going on today.
 


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#54 Redbetter

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Posted 06 September 2020 - 12:46 AM

How many of you guys can smell the smoke?  If you can smell it, I'd be afraid of breathing in that air for very long.

Depends on which way the wind is blowing and whether or not air is settling in the Valley.  There are smokey days and clear days, usually they come in bunches.  Sometimes it is clear part of the day, then smokey for part.  Yesterday afternoon I saw some of the SQF complex smoke blowing over us and begin blocking a lot of sunlight.  But the smoke smell didn't reach the ground until early evening.  This morning there was no smoke odor and early this evening it was comfortable for a run.



#55 gwlee

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Posted 06 September 2020 - 12:54 AM

That one is really ugly:  https://www.visaliat...ake/5731174002/

The problem is enormous and complex, and there’s enough blame to go around. Like we are doing with the pandemic, we will muddle through this crisis somehow, at least most of us will. 
 



#56 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 06 September 2020 - 05:10 AM

I’m in the suburbs east of San Diego and this fire went from 20 acres to 1500 in a couple of hours this afternoon.  Probably 15 miles straight line to my house but the smoke is all the way across the sky.

 

https://twitter.com/CALFIRESANDIEGO

 

attachicon.gifD1E28EF2-1D2C-44CB-BDEA-CEB2236109A6.jpeg

 

Dave

 

Dave:

 

I was planning on setting up so I went outside about 6pm to check on the conditions and saw the cloud of smoke from the Valley fire in Japatul valley.  It was 113 F in Alpine yesterday, an all time high.  I hope they can get control of that fire soon.  

 

About a month ago, we drove down Japatul Valley road from the 8 to the 94 on our way to Boulevard.  It sure looked ripe for a fire.  Lots of homes with little or no brush clearing and not many water tanks for storing water for the fire fighters to use.  

 

Jon



#57 JMW

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Posted 06 September 2020 - 08:44 AM

I can smell it most days in Reno for the last two weeks.



#58 Forward Scatter

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Posted 06 September 2020 - 10:35 AM

What I found shocking were all the campers, RVs & boats still trying to get up Hwy 168 yesterday & today for the holiday even though there are road closures & evacs from Shaver Lake & Mammoth Pool due to the Creek Fire (the big smoke blob over the Sierras).

 

20202501521_GOES17-ABI-pnw-GEOCOLOR-300x

 

Fellow CNers in the fire areas, please keep safe!

 

Breaks my heart. I grew up near there and did lots of climbing, backpacking & astro in the hills in the fire zone.


Edited by Forward Scatter, 06 September 2020 - 11:12 AM.

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#59 John Fitzgerald

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Posted 06 September 2020 - 12:00 PM

About a month ago, we drove down Japatul Valley road from the 8 to the 94 on our way to Boulevard.  It sure looked ripe for a fire.  Lots of homes with little or no brush clearing and not many water tanks for storing water for the fire fighters to use.  

 

Jon

I know little about that area, but:  Would it be worthwhile to build "farm ponds" to hold fire fighting water, or is there not enough rainfall, or no clay soil to make ponds hold water, or both?



#60 Forward Scatter

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Posted 06 September 2020 - 12:43 PM

Back in the '50s & '60s They built a large number of dams for Hydro power in the area, including Shaver, Huntington, Courtright, Mammoth Pool & Bass lakes. I was conceived at the Courtright work camp!

 

A lot of the firefighting water it taken from them using helicopter drop buckets, water tankers, etc. for protecting structures. Most of the actual firefighting is done by firebreak construction (by hand or by bulldozer) and fire retardant air tankers. 



#61 cuzimthedad

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Posted 06 September 2020 - 06:45 PM

How many of you guys can smell the smoke?  If you can smell it, I'd be afraid of breathing in that air for very long.

The smoke is heavy and the smell along with it. Keeping indoors as both the wife and I have scratchy throats now after doing some yard work for about an hour. Meh.



#62 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 06 September 2020 - 06:50 PM

I know little about that area, but:  Would it be worthwhile to build "farm ponds" to hold fire fighting water, or is there not enough rainfall, or no clay soil to make ponds hold water, or both?

 

John:

 

There's maybe 10-15 inches rain per year, the summers are hot and dry and the soil is sandy.  Where we are, people have water tanks of 3000-10000 gallons that's setup for a fire truck to hook up to and pump.  

 

But the back county is relatively unpopulated so there's just so much to burn. The current fire, the Valley fire, is near a reservoir.

 

Jewel valley water tank etc.jpg
 
Jon


#63 John Fitzgerald

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Posted 06 September 2020 - 07:22 PM

 

John:

 

There's maybe 10-15 inches rain per year, the summers are hot and dry and the soil is sandy.  Where we are, people have water tanks of 3000-10000 gallons that's setup for a fire truck to hook up to and pump.  

 

But the back county is relatively unpopulated so there's just so much to burn. The current fire, the Valley fire, is near a reservoir.

 

 
 
Jon

 

That's a lot different from here.  We get about 50 inches a year, no real dry season except possibly mid August until late September.  Lots of clay soils that hold water like a tub.



#64 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 06 September 2020 - 07:37 PM

That's a lot different from here.  We get about 50 inches a year, no real dry season except possibly mid August until late September.  Lots of clay soils that hold water like a tub.

:waytogo:

 

The pine trees in the background, I water them once a month. I just turn the hose on to about 1.5 gallons/minute and leave it for 24 hours. It soaks in. No mud.

 

Jon



#65 Redbetter

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Posted 06 September 2020 - 08:47 PM

I heard and saw the evac helicopter coming in last night from Mammoth Pool.  I could tell what it was by the heavy thud of its rotors.  Even for a Chinook it sounded "heavier" than when they normally fly over the house.

 

It has been 10 degrees cooler to day than expected, only reaching low 100's because of the fire smoke above.  This fire has burned off one of the areas we back pack in, and is headed north toward another.  This one put California at over 2 million acres burned so far this year, a new record.

 

 

That's a lot different from here.  We get about 50 inches a year, no real dry season except possibly mid August until late September.  Lots of clay soils that hold water like a tub.

When we had a month or two of drought in the Ozarks our ponds started drying up, even the spring fed ones that normally had some trickle in August.  I remember in August of one year we finally filled a tub full of water in the back of a truck and used a net to remove all of the fish we could find that were still alive wading around in the shallow pool of our second biggest pond.  And that would be very wet compared to out here.  

 

The difference here is that it typically doesn't rain at all from sometime in May through September.  Getting 0.1 inches of rain here on any given day during that stretch is a big deal.  There are days here in August where no rain has ever been recorded.  

 

It is nice for backpacking, because rain is not much of an issue even at high elevation near the tree line.  It will sprinkle some at night at times and might even have some lightning, but the tent will be dry a few hours later in the morning, with the sand/ground around the tent still dry.  Up that high temps can drop and give some snow and ice in September--cut a solo trip short a few years ago when it was snow/sleeting in the morning before I planned an ascent.

 

That lightning in the mountains with almost no precipitation is a major cause of fires.  Camping at a lake with some beautiful trout up near the tree line, I noticed that there was a lot of fire charcoal spread about.  I thought it was the result of careless camping fire practices seen at lower elevations...except that those usually had illicit stone fire rings around them, and these did not.   Then I surveyed the few surrounding trees:  they all had burn marks from lightning strikes in what was left of their tops.  The charcoal randomly scattered about was actually from burnt limbs that had been blasted off.  The tree and grass density was too sparse to maintain a fire in the mostly rocky terrain.  But at lower elevations where there is a lot more fuel...


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#66 67Yosemite

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Posted 06 September 2020 - 09:07 PM

 it's really ugly.... it's been perpetual twilight under a steady rain of ash all day



#67 tommm

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Posted 06 September 2020 - 11:31 PM

Over 7,800 SQUARE MILES have burned this year in the Pantanal. It's a huge wetlands in Brazil and parts of Bolivia and Paraguay. Plus the usual increased burning of the Brazilian rainforest under Bolzonaro.



#68 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 07 September 2020 - 07:33 AM

During the day, the Valley Fire east of San Diego grew from about 2000 acres to 9850 acres yesterday.  It's 1% contained.  This is a photo of the fire taken from an overlook near our home in San Diego.  The fire is about 30-35 miles from there.

 

Valley Fire Sept 6, 2020 1.jpg

 

Jon

 

 

 



#69 Jim Thommes

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Posted 07 September 2020 - 11:34 AM

The Bobcat fire is about 4.5 miles east of the Mount Wilson Observatory grounds. It looks kinda scary, but the fire is relatively small. I posted some pictures last night (20200906 23:06). The topic is here (but now closed):

 

https://www.cloudyni.../#entry10484129

 

As of this morning (20200907 05:59:52), it is still pretty smoky.

 

Images are from The High Performance Wireless Research and Education Network (HPWREN), a University of California San Diego with other partners in research, education, and public safety realms.

 

MtWilson fire- 20200907_Dawn.jpg


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#70 MarMax

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Posted 07 September 2020 - 12:09 PM

Pyrocumulus cloud as the Bobcat fire started yesterday afternoon. No more blue skies now with lots of ash falling.

 

gallery_332504_14251_385020.jpg


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#71 Cloudkicker

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Posted 07 September 2020 - 01:04 PM

I live in iowa, and this is my 2nd summer with my dobsonian.  Looking at the astrospheric website/ap it shows the transparency lately as being very bad.  I'm not sure if this is normal for this time of year of it could be caused by the fires in Cali. 


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#72 JMW

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Posted 07 September 2020 - 05:35 PM

I am so excited about the Tuesday forecast high of 69 degrees in Reno. It has been a lousy hot smelly smoke last two weeks. 

 

I hope we get some fresh air with the cooler temperatures.

 

This may be one of the years where the California fires stop once the forests are covered with snow and the winter rains soak to the lower areas.



#73 Redbetter

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Posted 07 September 2020 - 07:00 PM

With the Shaver Lake (Creek) fire I have been watching the forecast for temp and wind direction.  I figured it would take off toward the south and southwest today because of the wind shift that started sometime in the past 24 hours.  When it was blowing north they were able to do some operations to protect the community to the south, but they didn't have much time.   Now the fire extends into/around it so in the coming days we will learn how successful they were in protecting structures.  Video this morning indicates the structures survived.

 

In the next several days temps will drop into the mid 90's in the valley, which means they should have some relief up there as well.  When the forecasts were for 110 to 113 in the valley on a holiday weekend, I knew it was likely to explode in fire.  With temps returning to moderate for the season as long as the winds aren't too strong, they should be able to start managing portions of the fire and begin a containment operation.  But those hills/mountains are filled with standing matchsticks as a result of the drought/beetles.  I have been fearing this was coming up there for several years, and have been relieved that they have been able to avoid a big on for so long.  This allowed some clearing of standing dead trees each year.  Hopefully, it will have been enough for crews to get some control when the heat isn't at max. 


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#74 John Fitzgerald

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Posted 07 September 2020 - 07:04 PM

Red,

What do they do with the standing dead trees when they clear them?  Are they too rotted to make into lumber or poles/posts?



#75 Redbetter

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Posted 07 September 2020 - 08:29 PM

Red,

What do they do with the standing dead trees when they clear them?  Are they too rotted to make into lumber or poles/posts?

I don't know.  I haven't found anything comprehensive.  Most of the standing dead wood likely has little value, particularly the beetle infested.  Even without beetle damage it is probably not useful structurally.  There isn't much capacity in the market for the standing deadwood from what I understand.  Some of it can be used for wood burning biomass, but there is far more than needed.  There were ~150million dead trees in California as of 2018 or so.

 

The smaller stuff can be chipped/shredded in place, but the rest has to be stacked or carried out.  They do some burns of the smaller stuff at times.  I have wondered where the big log trucks are headed.

 

In some cases there might be some thinning going on with some cut live wood that has value.  In some of the fire scars from recent years (such as the French fire in 2014) they might have been able to use some of the formerly live, killed-by-fire trees for lumber, since they went after some of these quickly on slopes near the highway.  That is something that someone in the forestry products market could probably answer.


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