September 30, 2007

Movies on the Beach

We just got back from a quick weekend at Newport Dunes. It is a resort atmosphere with quarter-million dollar RVs everywhere you look. They put the Clampetts (AKA popup campers) in the back row. Our space was literally 16'x25' of decomposed granite, a picnic table and a vine covered chain link fence between us and the next campers. We were lucky that they were all quiet folks, but the wrong neighbors would have really spoiled the weekend. It was $68 for the night which gave us cable TV, full hookup, and access to the pool, bay, etc. The thing that made it the most fun was they set up this giant inflatable screen and we sat in the sand with a couple hundred campers and watched a movie. I told Sherry it was like sleeping in a parking lot. As long as you went with the idea that you were going to spend your time in the "resort" and just sleep in the parking lot, it was nice. We'll definitely go again next year just for the nice beach and movie.

September 17, 2007

Heading for the Desert

Looks like this will be the last post on the Butler 2 fire for a while. It seems to be moving out of the timber and into the desert, away from camping areas. Again, our thoughts and prayers for those impacted by this fire, and a hero's thanks to those fighting the fight. If you haven't read the quotes from the scanner, I think it gives an incredible glimpse into what they're facing. One of my favorite quotes today was one of the pilots, accidentally dropping retardant and announcing, "We're gonna need a cleanup on isle 18!" Just a few minutes later another pilot said, "just had an engine failure, over the lake, going to put it in the field" then "I think we just had an engine failure in one of the SEATS." He then put the plane down in a meadow and walked away (he may have been walking funny).

September 16, 2007

Fire Imaging

I found this cool, err, hot website that combines thermal imaging with Google satellite photos. Here is the fire at 2:00 PM this afternoon. I added the labels and scale for this capture.

9PM Fire Update

I just got this photo from Holcomb Valley showing the fire burning to the north of the stables. If the wind changes, things could get a little warm over there. I've been listening to the scanner and some of the comments were pretty interesting:

  • 10:50 am Had to pull out of 2N13
  • 11:00 am That piece north of Butler it’s going to be touch and go with those structures for a while.
  • 11:02 am Gel these buildings at Camp Whittle
  • 11:02 am Cannot get out of Big Pine; tried two different routes
  • 11:02 am Once we get the gel on we’re pulling out to Fawnskin
  • 11:02 am The fire jumped our triggers about 10 minutes ago and we called mandatory evac at Fawnskin
  • 11:04 am Structure triage; main priority is no one gets hurt
  • 11:05 am Direct marching orders, pretreat and leave; have a good lookout and know where your safety zones are
  • 11:10 am made two attempts to get out of Big Pine Flat through 2N13; we’re looking at a map to try to figure out how to get out of here; it will take us way out of the way
  • 12:15 pm a sudden wind shift could cause involvement in Fawnskin; fire broke Holcomb Valley where it drops; fire is spotting ahead 3/4 mile at times
  • 12:32 pm fire is coming back on that corner; may not be able to do a gel op; if you can safely do it, do it; fire to the ballfield to the left, that and to the south; making sure you are talking and make sure we know where all our resources are; make sure when we pull out we pull out with everybody
  • 12:40 pm Fire has gone through Camp Whittle; making run to east instead of north
  • 12:40 pm fire is running unchecked to the north and west; 40K to fly over camps and order evacuations, mandatory, of the camps; the tankers are focusing on Fawnskin side to save that contingency
  • 1:01 pm pretty active fire on 3N14; getting someone to protect our escape route
  • 2:14 pm Helco is afraid the fire is hooking up over you there in Fawnskin; hooking to the east above you about ½ mile or so; that is the priority. Just pulled the guys off for the moment; afraid it would be smoke in and we’re afraid we couldn’t
  • 2:15 pm Lines down where that Hazmat shed is; do not know if the lines are energized or not; just roll-call them and let them know
  • 4:52 pm Helicopter had to pull out of a drop; "just too smokey in there"
  • 7:15 pm Air Attack wrapping up; We got our butt’s kicked today. Tomorrow should be interesting.
  • 9:16 am Could you please ask the kitchen to stay open until 11:00, or have them prepare meals for about 40 folks and set them aside; these folks haven't had a hot meal in quite awhile now, and I'd appreciate it.
  • 9:52 am We've got an engine crew here that has been on the line for about 24 hours, can we get them released?
  • 10:14 am We're gonna get out of here for awhile; they're bombing the you-know-what out of things here, and we'll come back when things calm down.
  • 11:24 am I'm out here chasing rabbits in the desert.
  • 11:49 am It's all we can do to hold the back of this; if we start sending stuff to the head, we don't want to lose what we've got going on here. If you pull from this we're going to lose what we've got.
  • 11:50 am One strike team type 3 to protect a boy scout camp, at 3N12 and 3N16. We'll see what we can find but I can't guarantee it.
  • 12:07 pm large snag on fire up here; no containment; unsafe for hand crews only; need air support; fire behind us at the west aspect; fire in front of us on the ridge; we need some heavy duty air support in here or this whole canyon is going to go.
  • 12:12 pm Stand by. We need to back out; we're getting a lot of heavy flames in here.
  • 12:28 pm Unfortunately we are losing it up near Fawnskin. We're going to have to pull the ships and move them there. If that's the case we're probably going to lose what we're working on and we'll have to back out of here. Probably going to lose the back door anyway.
  • 1:20 pm I'm going to safely say yes; I don't think we're going to be able to hold this.
  • 2;47 pm dropping way too high for the penetration in that area, you need to drop it down about another 200 feet.
  • 3:15 pm Be advised we may have some severe activity heading our way; make sure you're in your safe areas and you're all accounted for.
  • 3:21 pm I need you to start to Cactus Flats OHV area for a fractured leg.
  • 3:56 pm I got a lot of sidewind out of that, the airplane even went sideways.
  • 4:50 pm the fire is deep seated in pile of manure. We're going to have to do an overhaul on this.
  • 5:16 pm nice prominent ridge by the dam, that may be something to think about, put 9-10 tankers there so it doesn't go into the neighborhood. If it gets beyond there we'll be screwed, because we'll be dealing with retardant & water.
  • 6:09 pm I think we've got this stopped, but it's going to go all the way to the road no matter if we want it to or not.
  • 6:51 pm Heavies have one more drop and they have to go, they are over time. Please pass along my regards and those ground troops really appreciate them; they did an outstanding job out there today. Pass it along to all your partners. Thanks again and be safe.

12:00 Fire Update

I've been listening to the radio traffic from the fire fighters and air tankers, and I just heard them ask for trucks to protect a Boy Scout Camp. I called Paul to see what was going on at Holcomb Valley and he told me that they evacuated 65 horses from the camp. The smoke is very dense and the fire is burning their direction. This photo above is from a firefighter with a GPS transmitter. The dots show his various locations. I added some other descriptions to the photo for reference. Click on it for a larger view.

In this photo taken across the lake and looking north, you can see the solar observatory next to Serrano Campground. Holcomb Valley is four miles directly behind that observatory. From the radio traffic, it sounds like they're not going to get a handle on this fire for several days.

Butler 2 Fire Update

I'm the first to admit that this posting is purely selfish. Our thoughts and prayers go out to those who are incredibly impacted by this fire, but this post is really just an update on the fire and its potential impact on our camping. On the bright side, if we get some rain this winter, there should be some great wildflowers next spring.

This map is from the Riverside Press Enterprise newspaper. It shows the fire boundary as of last night. I added the locations of our favorite campgrounds for that selfish perspective. One of our long-time friends is the Ranger at the Holcomb Valley Scout Reservation which is currently in the line of fire. Last night at nearby Camp Whittle, several buildings were lost to the fire.

This photo was taken by a local pilot for the Big Bear Grizzly. I added the pointers to give some perspective to this vantage point. The smoke trail extends past Las Vegas.

September 15, 2007

Fire in the Mountains

It can take a whole book of matches to light a campfire, but only a careless match to light a forest fire. I got an email alert from the Lookout team on Friday that smoke was spotted near the Butler Peak lookout near Big Bear Lake. Within an hour it had grown to 20 acres, and as I write this, it is over 14,000 acres and burning strong. They have mandatory evacuations from Green Valley to Serrano and burning behind the town of Fawnskin towards Holcomb Valley. The media has decent coverage, but the InciWeb coverage is the best.

On a happier note, Andrew and I escaped to Disney's California Adventure on Friday and had a great time. We did all our favorite rides, sometimes twice.