Dee Finney's blog
start date July 20, 2011
today's date May 2, 2013
updated June 3, 2013
updated August 23, 2013
TOPIC: CALIFORNIA WILD FIRES - 2013
NOTE: I have been wanting to move to this area of the state for several
years, but my spirit guide said that we couldn't go there because of the coming
fires. I expected it sooner, but here we are:
August 23, 2013
Rim Fire: Wildfire Near Yosemite National Park Nearly Quadruples In Size,
FRESNO, Calif. — A wildfire outside Yosemite National Park nearly quadrupled
in size Thursday, prompting officers to warn residents in a gated community to
evacuate their homes and leading scores of tourists to leave the area during
California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency due to the huge
fire, one of several blazes burning in or near the nation's national parks and
one of 50 major uncontained fires burning across the western U.S.
As flames approached an area of Pine Mountain Lake with 268 homes in the
afternoon, deputies went door-to-door to deliver the news and to urge people to
leave, Tuolumne County Sheriff's Department Sgt. Scott Johnson said.
The evacuations are not mandatory, although Johnson stressed that the fire,
smoke and the potential for power outages pose imminent threats.
"We aren't going to drag you out of our house, but when we are standing in
front of you telling you it's an advisory, it's time to go," he said.
Fire officials said the blaze, which started Saturday, had grown to more than
99 square miles and was only 1 percent contained Thursday, down from 5 percent a
day earlier. Two homes and seven outbuildings have been destroyed.
While the park remains open, the blaze has caused the closure of a 4-mile
stretch of State Route 120, one of three entrances into Yosemite on the west
side, devastating areas that live off of park-fueled tourism.
Officials also have advised voluntary evacuations of more than a thousand
other homes, several organized camps and at least two campgrounds. More homes,
businesses and hotels are threatened in nearby Groveland, a community of 600
about 5 miles from the fire and 25 miles from the entrance of Yosemite.
"Usually during summer, it's swamped with tourists, you can't find parking
downtown," said Christina Wilkinson, who runs Groveland's social media pages and
lives in Pine Mountain Lake. "Now, the streets are empty. All we see is
firefighters, emergency personnel and fire trucks."
Though Wilkinson said she and her husband are staying put – for now – many
area businesses have closed and people who had vacation rental homes are
cancelling plans, local business owners said.
"This fire, it's killing our financial picture," said Corinna Loh, whose
family owns the still-open Iron Door Saloon and Grill in Groveland. "This is our
high season and it has gone to nothing, we're really hurting."
Loh said most of her employees have left town. And the family's Spinning
Wheel Ranch, where they rent cabins to tourists, has also been evacuated because
it's directly in the line of fire. Two outbuildings have burned at the ranch,
Loh said, and she still has no word whether the house and cabins survived.
"We're all just standing on eggshells, waiting," Loh said.
The governor's emergency declaration finding "conditions of extreme peril to
the safety of persons and property" frees up funds and firefighting resources
and helps Tuolumne County in seeking federal disaster relief.
Park officials said the fire has not impacted the park itself, which can
still be accessed via state Routes 140 and 41 from the west, as well as State
Route 120 from the east side.
Yosemite Valley is clear of smoke, all accommodations and attractions are
open, and campgrounds are full, said park spokesman Scott Gediman. During summer
weekdays, the park gets up to 15,000 visitors.
"The fire is totally outside the park," Gediman said. "The park's very busy,
people are here. There's no reason that they should not come."
The Yosemite County Tourism Bureau based in Mariposa has been helping
tourists displaced by the fire to find new accommodations in other park-area
towns, said director Terry Selk.
In Yellowstone National Park, five wildfires have been burned about 18 square
miles of mostly remote areas on the 25th anniversary of the infamous 1988 fires
that burned more than 1,200 square miles inside Yellowstone, or more than a
third of the park.
The vast areas that burned that year remain obvious to anybody who drives
through. The trees in the burn areas are a lot shorter.
This summer's fires haven't been anywhere near that disruptive. The biggest
fire in Yellowstone, one that has burned about 12 square miles in the Hayden
Valley area, for a time Tuesday closed the road that follows the Yellowstone
River between Fishing Bridge and Canyon Village.
Anybody who needed to travel between Fishing Bridge and Canyon Village faced
a detour through the Old Faithful area that added 64 miles to the 16-mile drive.
By Wednesday, the road had reopened. Later that day, half an inch of rain
fell on the fire.
Park officials had been making preliminary plans to evacuate Lake Village, an
area five miles south of the fire with a hotel, lodge, gas station and hospital.
Any threat to that area appeared less likely now.
A few trails and parking areas along the Yellowstone River remained closed in
case the fire flares up again and the area needs to be evacuated, park officials
Smoke from the fires has been blowing into Cody, a city of about 10,000
people 50 miles east of Yellowstone, for the past couple weeks.
If anything, though, visitors have been more curious about this year's fires
than threatened, said Scott Balyo, executive director of the Cody Country
Chamber of Commerce.
"People from the East Coast or the Midwest where this isn't common are very
interested, certainly, in the way the fires look, the way the smell," he said.
"There's a lot of educational opportunities along with it."
This year's Yellowstone fires are being allowed to burn to help renew and
improve the ecosystem.
A lightning-sparked fire in a remote area of Colorado's Rocky Mountain
National Park burned more than 615 acres in June but had no impact on tourists –
other than backcountry trail closures – or tourism-dependent towns adjacent to
Crews allowed the Big Meadows Fire to burn beetle-killed spruce before
containing the blaze. The fire was overshadowed by wildfires that destroyed
nearly 500 homes near Colorado Springs and a 170-square-mile complex of fires on
national forest land in Colorado's southwestern mountains.
Associated Press writers Mead Gruver in Cheyenne, Wyo., and Jim Anderson in
Denver contributed to this report.
June 3, 2013
6-2-13 Dangerous California wildfire explodes in size
Updated 11:18 p.m. ET
LANCASTER, Calif. A wildfire
that destroyed at least six homes, damaged 15 others and threatened hundreds
more grew quickly Sunday as it triggered evacuations for nearly 3,000 people and
burned dangerously close to communities in the parched mountains north of Los
The blaze had burned about 35 square miles of very dry brush in the Angeles
National Forest mountains and canyons, some of which hadn't burned since 1929.
The fire was growing so fast, and the smoke was so thick, that it was difficult
to map the size, U.S. Forest Service Incident Commander Norm Walker said.
"This is extremely old, dry fuel," Walker said at an afternoon news
The fire, which was 20 percent contained, appeared to be the fiercest of
several burning in the West, including two in New Mexico, where thick smoke
covered several communities and set a blanket of haze over Santa Fe on Saturday.
Crews fighting the two uncontained wildfires focused Sunday on building
protection lines around them amid anticipation that a forecast of storms could
bring moisture to help reduce the intensity of the fires.
The fire raging in Southern California had crews fighting the fire on four
fronts, with the flames spreading quickest northward into unoccupied land,
authorities said. But populated areas about 50 miles north of downtown LA
remained in danger, with more than 2,800 people and 700 homes under evacuation
orders in the communities of Lake Hughes and Lake Elizabeth, sheriff's Lt. David
They wouldn't be allowed to return home until at least Monday and possibly
Tuesday, Coleman said.
About 2,100 firefighters aided by water-dropping aircraft, some of which were
making the rare move of flying through the night, were attacking the blaze.
"We're putting everything that we have into this," Walker said.
The cause of the fire was under investigation.
Winds were blowing 20-25 miles per hour with gusts of more than 40 mph, so
fast that speakers at the news conference were difficult to hear with hard winds
hitting the microphone.
"That has created havoc," LA County Deputy Chief David Richardson said
through the winds. "It's had a huge impact on our operations."
At least six homes burned to the ground overnight, and 15 more were scorched
by flames, LA County fire Chief Daryl L. Osby said.
Mark Wadsworth, 64, said he was confident his house in Lake Elizabeth
survived. He spent Sunday parked in his truck atop a ridge, watching plumes of
smoke rise from the canyons below.
"I've got nowhere to go, so I'm just waiting for them to open the roads again
and let me back in," said Wadsworth. "I didn't want to go to a shelter."
The Red Cross opened evacuation centers in Palmdale and Lancaster. At
Palmdale's Marie Kerr Park Recreation Center, more than 100 residents awaited
word on when they could return home.
Temperatures hovered in the high 90s, but were expected to dip, with humidity
rising, later Sunday.
Patty Robitaille, 61, grabbed personal photos and documents before
fleeing her Lake Hughes home with her pit bull, Roxie, as flames approached
late Saturday. She said her property was in the direct path of the fire.
"Driving away, you could see the town burning up," she told the Los
Angeles Times. "I don't think there's going to be much left."
A huge plume of smoke could be seen from much of various parts of
northern Los Angeles County, and air-quality officials warned against
strenuous outdoor activity.
The blaze broke out Thursday just north of Powerhouse No. 1, a
hydroelectric plant near the Los Angeles Aqueduct, forcing about 200
evacuations in the mountain community of Green Valley. Several power lines
were downed by the flames.
The wilderness area is a draw for boaters, campers and hikers. Crews and
residents were being warned to keep an eye out for rattlesnakes and bears
that could be displaced by flames.
Evacuations remained in effect for several campgrounds and two youth
probation camps. Several roads were closed.
In New Mexico, the forecast for moisture was not entirely good news. The
potential thunderstorms also brought the possibility of lightning that could
start new fires and gusty winds that could fan the blazes.
The fire burning in New Mexico's Santa Fe National Forest 25 miles from
Santa Fe had grown to more than 11 square miles by Sunday morning.
Thick smoke from the fire covered Gallinas Canyon and Las Vegas, N.M.
The fire near the communities of Pecos and Tres Lagunas had prompted the
evacuations of about 140 homes, most of them summer residences.
Crews also cleared out campgrounds and closed trailheads in the area as
they worked to prevent the fire from moving toward the capital city's
watershed and more populated areas.
© 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights
May 2, 2013
Winds at the fire site were hitting 30 mph and could gust to
BANNING, Calif. (AP) — Gusty winds drove a new wildfire toward a Southern
California community on Thursday and hampered efforts by hundreds of
firefighters battling another foothill blaze that destroyed a house as the
region swelters under extreme fire weather, authorities said.
Crews made progress overnight on a 4½-square-mile fire burning in the
foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains north of Banning, but winds returned
in the morning, Riverside County fire spokeswoman Jody Hagemann said.
The fire that burned a home on Wednesday was 40 percent contained with only
sporadic flames showing, but renewed winds gusting to 40 mph could halt that
"It makes fire conditions unpredictable and more dangerous," Hagemann said.
The blaze was being fought by aircraft and 671 firefighters.
More than 100 miles to the west, a new blaze erupted Thursday along U.S. 101
in the Camarillo area and quickly grew to 100 acres.
Television reports showed a field of flames roiling along the side of the
The fire was separated only by a ridge from a housing tract around Camarillo
Springs Golf Course. No evacuations were immediately called.
The wind pushed flames through tinder-dry brush and sent huge plumes of smoke
over a nearby mobile home park and strawberry fields.
Weather forecasts called for red flag conditions of extreme fire danger in
canyons, foothills and mountain passes because of the winds, coupled with hot,
Several other small fires were reported in widely separated areas near
The Riverside County fire broke out Wednesday about 90 miles east of Los
Angeles. Hundreds of people briefly evacuated homes.
A stand from firefighters came too late for Joe Kiener, 53, who lost the
house he had lived in since his mother bought it in the 1970s.
Kiener was home on a lunch break when he stepped outside to check on his
barking dog and saw heavy smoke approaching. He took the dog and started to
leave just as a deputy arrived to tell him to evacuate, but it wasn't easy.
"When I left I went around the corner and I got engulfed in a big cloud of
smoke," said Kiener, who could see so little the deputy had to yell to him how
to get out.
He got out safely, but the next time he saw the house was in a cellphone
picture sent by his neighbor. The roof was on fire, and he knew it would be
destroyed, but he shrugged off the loss.
"My mom passed away a month ago. The day before Easter," Kiener said. "So
that was the biggest thing that hurt my heart is losing her. Losing the house is
just minimal. We can rebuild."
In Northern California, crews were able to hold the line against two
wind-whipped wildfires, but one in Tehama County continued to grow.
The Panther Fire north of the town of Butte Meadows had spread to 1,700 acres
with no containment. The fire is burning in a remote area of brush and timber
and is not threatening any homes, said state fire spokesman Daniel Berlant.
A fire in Sonoma County that has burned 125 acres did not grow overnight.
Full containment on the Yellow Fire was expected later in the day, Berlant said.
Two smaller fires totaling 165 acres are burning in Glenn and Butte counties.
Berlant said crews were also able to hold the line against one of those fires,
the 55-acre Cedar Fire in Butte County, but wind was going to be a factor again
"The continued wind throughout much of the north state is going to help fan
these fires," he said.
State Channel Islands Evacuation
Coast Highway Wildfire
Fire firghters set back fires to burn off dry
brush to protect homes behind a hillsdie threatened by an out of control
wildfire on May 2, 2013 in Newbury Park, California. Hundreds of firefighters
are battling wind and dry conditions as over 6000 acres have already been burned
northwest of Los Angeles. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
CAMARILLO, Calif. — It seemed that each time wind-driven embers sparked new
blazes or a wall of fire leaped a Southern California hillside and came charging
toward hundreds of homes, an army of firefighters was right there to either
douse or direct the flames away from humanity.
As a result, the fire that broke out Thursday quickly moved through the
Camarillo Springs area without destroying a single home.
Firefighters were hoping for the same success on Friday, as the fire raged
out of control miles away near the coast.
Fifteen structures in the area 50 miles northwest of Los Angeles sustained
some damage, and other homes in a wooded area were being threatened Friday by
the blaze that had roared across 43 square miles. Some 900 firefighters using
engines, aircraft, bulldozers and other equipment had it just 20 percent
contained. Since daybreak, the fire has nearly tripled in size.
"That's the way this fire has behaved, it has been a very fast-moving, feisty
fire," said Ventura County Fire Department spokesman Bill Nash.
To the north of the fire, parts of the Newbury Park community of Thousand
Oaks are under mandatory and voluntary evacuations, Nash said.
Overnight, Nash said firefighters plan to stockpile resources along a road
that lies between the fire and Malibu, protecting homes on the fire's eastern
Of the thousands of homes threatened by flames, 15 have been damaged.
The good fortune of the Camarillo Springs area wasn't the result of luck or
clairvoyance by firefighters. It came after years of planning and knowing that
sooner or later just such a conflagration was going to strike.
"When developers want to go into an area that is wild-land, it's going to
present a unique fire problem," county fire spokesman Tom Kruschke said. "And
you have to be prepared for that."
Camarillo Springs, which was nothing more than rugged backcountry when homes
began to go up there 30 years ago, was well prepared.
Its homes were built with sprinkler systems and fireproof exteriors from the
roofs to the foundations. Residents are required to clear brush and other
combustible materials to within 100 feet of the dwellings, and developers had to
make sure the cul-de-sacs that fill the area's canyons were built wide enough to
accommodate the emergency vehicles seen on TV racing in to battle the
"All of our rooftops are concrete tile and all of the exteriors are stucco,"
said Neal Blaney, a board member of The Springs Homeowners Association and a
15-year resident. "There's no wood, so there's almost no place for a flying
ember to land and ignite something."
When the blaze broke out, Blaney said, volunteer emergency officers in the
neighborhood gave the first alert to residents. As a result, when the flames got
close, residents were ready to get out of the way of firefighters.
Residents in the area are also particularly vigilant about clearing brush
from the hillsides next to their yards, Kruschke said. Normally, firefighters
remind people in such areas to do that every June, but in Camarillo Springs
people do it every few months. The work paid off this week.
The type of blaze that hit the area usually doesn't strike Southern
California wild-land until September or October, after the summer has dried out
hillside vegetation. But the state has seen a severe drought during the past
year, with the water content of California's snowpack only 17 percent of
That created late-summer conditions by May, and when hot Santa Ana winds and
high temperatures arrived this week, the spring flames that firefighters
routinely knock down once or twice a year quickly roared up a hillside – out of
"It's just the beginning of May and we already have a 10,000-plus acre fire
that's burning intensely," Kruschke said. "That doesn't bode well for the rest
of the season."
On Friday, the huge wildfire stormed back through canyons toward inland
neighborhoods when winds reversed direction. A new evacuation was ordered in a
Thousand Oaks neighborhood along a two-mile stretch of road overlooking
smoke-filled coastal canyons.
However, cooler, calmer ocean air was beginning to move ashore, raising
humidity and even bringing a chance of rain by Sunday night, which should aid
California State University, Channel Islands, remained closed, however.
After jumping Pacific Coast Highway 20 miles north of Malibu, the fire burned
for a time on a beach shooting range at the Point Mugu Naval Air Station.
The blaze is one of more than 680 wildfires in the state so far this year –
about 200 more than average.
On Friday, some 3,000 firefighters were battling a handful of blazes
scattered around the state.
In Riverside County, a 4 1/2-square-mile fire that destroyed a home burned
for a third day in mountains north of Banning. It was 65 percent contained.
Fifty-five miles away from Camarillo, in the hills above Glendale, a blaze
broke out Friday afternoon, prompting the closure of several roads as it quickly
charred 75 acres.
In Tehama County in Northern California, the size of a wildfire north of
Butte Meadows was revised down from more than 15 square miles to 10 square
miles, state fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said.
The fire, which was 10 percent contained, was burning in a remote area and
wasn't posing an imminent threat to any structures.
A fire in Butte County that covered 55 acres was expected to be contained
Associated Press writers Shaya Tayefe Mohajer and Robert Jablon in Los
Angeles contributed to this story.
California Wildfire Grows To 43 Square Miles
CAMARILLO, Calif. — A big cool-down in weather calmed a huge wildfire
burning in Southern California coastal mountains Saturday, and firefighters
worked to cut miles of containment lines while conditions were favorable.
High winds and withering hot, dry air were replaced by the normal flow of
damp air off the Pacific, significantly reducing fire activity.
"The fire isn't really running and gunning," said Tom Kruschke, a Ventura
County Fire Department spokesman.
The 43-square-mile blaze at the western end of the Santa Monica Mountains
was 30 percent surrounded.
The humidity level rose so much that an overnight effort to burn away
fuel at one section of the fire did not work well, Kruschke said.
Despite the favorable conditions, evacuation orders remained in place for
residences in several areas.
Nearly 1,900 firefighters using engines, bulldozers and aircraft worked
to corral the blaze.
Firefighting efforts were focused on the fire's east side, rugged canyons
that are a mix of public and private lands, Kruschke said.
The National Weather Service said an approaching low pressure system
would bring a 20 percent chance of showers Sunday afternoon, with the
likelihood increasing into the night and on Monday.
"Anything we get is going to help us," Kruschke said.
The change in the weather was also expected to bring gusty winds to some
parts of Southern California, but well away from the fire area.
Despite its size and speed of growth, the fire that broke out Thursday
and quickly moved through neighborhoods of Camarillo Springs and Thousand
Oaks has caused damage to just 15 homes, though it has threatened thousands.
The fire also swept through Point Mugu State Park, a hiking and camping
area that sprawls between those communities and the ocean. Park district
Superintendent Craig Sap told the Ventura County Star () that two old,
unused ranch-style homes in the backcountry burned. Restrooms and
campgrounds also were damaged. Sap estimated repairs would cost $225,000.
The only injuries as of Saturday were a civilian and a firefighter
involved in a traffic accident away from the fire.
Residents were grateful so many homes were spared.
"It came pretty close. All of these houses – these firemen did a
tremendous job. Very, very thankful for them," Shayne Poindexter said.
Flames came within 30 feet of the house he was building.
On Friday, the wildfire reached the ocean, jumped Pacific Coast Highway
and burned a Navy base rifle range on the beach at Point Mugu. When winds
reversed direction from offshore to onshore, the fire stormed back up
canyons toward inland neighborhoods.
The blaze is one of more than 680 wildfires in the state so far this year
– about 200 more than average.
East of Los Angeles in Riverside County, a nearly 5-square-mile fire in
mountains north of Banning was 85 percent surrounded. Firefighters worked on
improving containment lines and patrolled for hotspots. The blaze destroyed
one home shortly after it broke out Wednesday.
In Northern California, a fire that has blackened more than 10 square
miles of wilderness in Tehama County was a threat to 10 unoccupied summer
homes near the community of Butte Meadows, according to the California
Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Thunderstorms Saturday were expected to bring erratic winds but little
rain to the area about 200 miles north of San Francisco.
Nearly 1,300 firefighters were on the lines and the blaze, which started
Wednesday, was 20 percent contained.
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