Saturday, July 5, 2008

...and we're Back!

Note the homes at the bottom of the frame

note: My camera has a problem with the protective shutter getting stuck so some shots have black corners.

The hills are still burning in Goleta (north of Santa Barbara) and even more residents, thousands now, have been evacuated from their homes. Some of the residents were allowed back in to Old San Marcos road yesterday 'at our own risk'. I took the opportunity to station myself on the ridge above our neighborhood to witness the heroic firefight that kept the fire from our back door. I was by no means alone. many news vans were parked down the hill and I was passed by five engine companies. Soon after I got there, "Rocky" the chief of our San Marcos Volunteer Fire Department, pulled up in his rig to spot and relay information. Several of the firemen who are residents of the Trout Club had tales of many wildfires that had threatened and burned homes several times in years past. We all watched the flames rise and fall in a tense but stoic mood lightened by the driest of humor.

Rocky's rig

I cannot begin to adequately describe the skill and bravery of the pilots who pummeled these hillsides dropping load after load of water and retardant. Between my proximity to the flames and all the military aircraft in the sky I felt like a war correspondent. I kept hearing The Ride of the Valkyries in my head. I could hear the flames roar and crackle like an angry beast from hell, feel the heat, smoke, and rumble of engines and propellers. And then the wind came up, in 40 mph gusts; that's strong enough to sting your face and make you lose your footing. From the very beginning of this event we have been at the mercy of these evening "sundowner" winds.

Aerial Acrobatics
The larger craft are led out by smaller spotter planes

The Beast

S20 (?)

Firefighters and news crews assembled at the gates of hell

On the drive to the hotel July 4th

July fourth fortunately ended with a respite and a different kind of red glow. Cathy Mehl of, (also an evacuated hill dweller) invited me out to a party on her friend's boat in Santa Barbara Harbor for the fireworks show. Being new in town and having only got the last truckload of belongings moved in last week, packing up to evacuate just seemed a discouraging bridge too far. Plus it's exhausting to be on red alert in your mind and soul for 36 hours even when you don't move your body all that much. Good food, dark beer and cheering for the glittering sparkles overhead, surrounded by the cool ocean breezes were just what I needed.
Like another world
the fireworks over Santa Barbara Harbor

Unofficially out of immediate danger (and unofficially back in my crib) I can hear the men yelling on the lines, choruses of chainsaws and massive water tanker helicopters flying overhead as they turn around and head back to the latest drop zone a few miles to the west... My thoughts are with all the Goletans to the west and south because the fire is heading their way. At this writing the few puffs of smoke that I saw driving home on July 1st has now grown to more than 6,600 acres.

The hillside today - July 5th

CNN (getting live coverage of a charred hillside...)

Trout Club Cheek
a couch, I'm guessing positioned by Jan and Rocky for comfortable conflagration viewing during the night shift watch
correction: it has since been discovered that Jan and Bob were responsible for the couch and are up there again this evening... fire has now consumed over 9,000 acres...

I can't wait for that first blessed bike ride (tomorrow?!) I did get to see the first stage of the 'Tour DAY Frantz' at the hotel - yes, even with all this my concern over tv access for today never left my mind. Cathy was equally concerned. She wanted to be able to catch it live at 5:30 a.m. We bike nerds are all completely mental I tell you. Certifiable!

and all is well

evening addition: To the tall, handsome men of engine co. #5 from San Gabriel who are keeping watch over our canyon tonight - thanks boys. Your broad smiles and shoulders reassure me we're in good hands. Ahhh firemen, as always they do the human race proud!


Marco Fanelli said...

Great pictures! I'm glad the danger is past and you're back in. What a welcome to town!

Kk said...

Thanks, Marco. We're still watching little smokers tonight but the big stuff is now far to the west.