TL;DR: We are out of harm’s way, but we know peo­ple who have lost every­thing. Fire is still burn­ing out of con­tain­ment toward Santa Barbara.

The fire start­ed north east of us and moved direct­ly west rapid­ly last week. Most of what was burn­ing is unde­vel­oped old growth oak for­est that’s been local­ly, but not fed­er­al­ly, pro­tect­ed. This means any fires that have sprung up in the past 30+ years have been sup­pressed as quick­ly as pos­si­ble.

Fire is meant to clear out the under­growth of forests every few years. It trig­gers some trees to drop seeds and oth­ers to bloom, but it also means there isn’t much to burn.

Nationally we fig­ured this out about 10 years ago, so fed­er­al land is now allowed to burn as long as it doesn’t threat­en life or prop­er­ty.

But all of the for­est up here is under local pro­tec­tion, not fed­er­al, so the under­growth has devel­oped for beyond the usu­al vol­ume. Which has allowed this fire to spread hot­ter, faster, and with more volatil­i­ty than most. It’s now in the top 5 of most dead­ly of California’s mod­ern fires.

So far over 400 build­ings of var­i­ous types have been lost. Over 175k acres and count­ing. The city of Ojai has been hit pret­ty hard. They’re our local hippy/artisan town. I have a lot of friends up there.

At the moment, smoke is our biggest issue. It gen­er­al­ly is being blown out to the ocean (you may have seen the pho­to some­one took from the ISS). But prac­ti­cal­ly speak­ing we’ve got par­tic­u­late in the air so think it looks like down­town LA. Today was the first day we could open the win­dows with­out the whole house smelling like smoke with­in a minute. But that changes day to day as the wind shifts.

There’s been one con­firmed civil­ian death (car acci­dent), one con­firmed first respon­der death (also car acci­dent), and one con­firmed pet death (also car acci­dent), and the low num­ber prob­a­bly is thanks to the ubiq­ui­ty of cell phones and the emer­gency broad­cast sys­tem. We’ve been receiv­ing vol­un­tary and manda­to­ry evac­u­a­tion notices every cou­ple of hours for dif­fer­ent local areas.

That big build­ing in the mid­dle is city hall. The pho­to is of our down­town road. I think that’s from yes­ter­day.

At the moment things are weird­ly dis­con­nect­ed. On the one hand Mr Veldura and I went to tar­get. But on the oth­er, we stopped out­side and saw this:

Which looks more like a vol­cano than a wild­fire to be hon­est.

We are no longer packed to evac­u­ate, but still form­ing a sched­ule day-to-day. My usu­al work­ing café is up in Ojai so I’ll be head­ing up there soon to sur­vey dam­age and check my friends var­i­ous prop­er­ties for those who fled to Sacramento and haven’t made it home yet. I know of at least one per­son putting togeth­er a vol­un­teer team for repairs and aid slash man­pow­er so I’ll look into how I can help with that.

In addi­tion, I vol­un­teer at the rap­tor reha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­ter up in Ojai. I don’t believe the prop­er­ty sus­tained any fire dam­age and all of our birds were evac­u­at­ed ahead of any smoke, but I know there’s some wind dam­age from the Santa Annas that needs to be addressed and who knows what kind of crit­ters are going to start turn­ing up at our door with smoke inhala­tion or worse. I’m only thank­ful this didn’t hap­pen dur­ing baby sea­son. But damn, we are in for a rough win­ter.

Looking for­ward a bit more, we’re over­due for our first rain of the sea­son, but now that the for­est is essen­tial­ly gone, we’re like­ly to have mud­slides, rock slides, sink holes, and flash floods all over the place.

If that wasn’t enough, the land lead­ing up the hill to Ojai is an oil field that’s being active­ly pumped and the fire blew through there a few days ago. We could have seep­age and water con­t­a­m­i­na­tion to deal with in the next months.

In short, cleanup and recov­ery will take years. If the fire hits Santa Barbara, it will get much worse.

So… We are ok. But we’ve got work to do.