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.