San Diego County On Fire(UPDATED 20:30)

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(Updates below. you can email me at danmelson (at) the domain name. I am at the office working on some client files, so I might not get it and respond right away, but I will get to it as quick as I can)

In case you hadn't heard, San Diego county is experiencing a rash of wildfires. My home is safe, and so is my office, for now, but a lot of folks aren't so lucky. At least one person was killed by the Potrero fire, in a very rugged area of East County (to get there quick, you don't drive CA 94 - you drive I-8 and then go south 10 miles on a county road, and come back. It amounts to twenty extra miles, and twenty minutes saved. Other fires threaten Ramona, where I have some friends, San Marcos, Fallbrook, and Escondido. Here's a list of evacuations and evactuation sites, and there's even a graphic there for where the fires are. Evidently a couple of fires merged earlier today.

here's a list of road closures.

The 14,000 acres that one of the fires has burned as of the last report is 22 square miles.

This has already eclipsed the 2003 fires as the worst fire in recent memory. It's even starting to look like 1970 all over again. More than one family I know lost their homes then. Ashes were falling all over the county, and the sky was grey and brown from smoke for 2 weeks. San Diego didn't have nearly so many people then, and other than those threatened by fire, life went on pretty much normally. In one famous incident, the football team was playing a home game and the blimp panned the area with the cameras - and switchboards lit up as everyone in the country called their friends in San Diego.

Most of the burned area is in wilderness areas, intentionally set aside with building either prohibited or strictly curtailed. There's going to be a lot of breast beating about this, but fire is a normal part of the California ecosystem. Evidence says it was far more regular before the advent of civilization. Many plant seeds don't germinate until they've been through a fire. One hopes you get the idea. Civilization has actually had the effect of limiting all but the worst fires, with the unfortunate dark lining that once things do get out of control, they tend to get worse than they might have because of all the brush that burns that would have otherwise burned in lesser fires.

The fires are being driven by hot dry Santa Ana winds from the northeast, pretty much directly opposite the predominant wind direction here, which is west to southwest. If the winds change, things will likely settle down fairly quickly, but there will be an extremely interesting few hours (in the chinese curse sense). The wind change is what killed at least one firefighter four years ago.
I'll make updates as I get them. In the meantime, here's the Local dog target's main news page.

here's their blog on the fire. It appears that Pomerado Hospital has been evacutated, and Palomar Hospital may become threatened. That's both of the hospitals in the region close to the north county inland fires. Tri City (near the Vista-Oceanside border) and especially Grossmont Hospital near me in La Mesa are likely to pick up a lot of the load. In 1970, there were actually more hospitals, if smaller, but lots of them have closed. And Air-Evacs are likely to have to go all the way to Sharp or UCSD Medical Center.

One more thing: If the Ramona area in particular wasn't threatened, they'd probably open a temporary control tower at the Ramona Airport. Look for it to happen if it looks like the Ramona area has become safe enough.

UPDATE: Upscale Rancho Santa Fe has been ordered evacuated. Furthermore, the San Diego Wild Animal Park is threatened, and in case it wasn't obvious, is closed.
UPDATE 2:San Diego makes national news. I'd rather that didn't happen.

UPDATE 3: (1120 local) Radio coverage on 87.7

Parts of Lakeside and Olivenhain (about 30 miles apart as the crow flies) have been added to the evacuation list. Penasquitos also (about halfway between, likely from the same fire that's threatening Olivenhain.

San Diego Police are putting their detectives in uniform and calling them in.

Afterthought: hope the Bergs are okay. As I recall, they live in one of the newly threatened areas.

UPDATE 4: (1200) Dulzura annd Barrett Junction have been added to the evacuation list in the 94 fire.

parts of Poway and Rancho Bernardo were evacuated earlier (I'm behind the curve on this one)

some pictures here. I know folks who live in most of these neighborhoods.

Looks like the evacuation area has been extended from CA 56 to Del Dios Highway, between I-5 and I-15. That fire that crossed I-15 could burn all the way to the ocean.

UPDATE 5: (13:00) Solana Beach residents are being advised to prepare for mandatory evacuations, with the strong suggestion it might be good to get out now. Valley Center and eastern Fallbrook, too.

Up to 30,000 acres burned now. That's roughly 47 square miles. The good news is that a couple of the fires have lessened in intensity (but they're not out).

UPDATE 6: (14:00) Personally, just got a call to pick my oldest daughter up. San Diego City Schools are canceling classes both today and tomorrow. Her school is nowhere near any of the fires, but I'd be surprised if none of the teachers had some urgent personal business to attend to, and there's also the issue that fire is threatening parts of the district.

AAA is apparently getting out in front of what they need to do on this one. I have to say, I don't think I've ever had a client who got mad at them for failure to cover damage. In the fire four years ago, they treated coverage limits as being a failure in their underwriting.

UPDATE 7: (14:45) New report I just found has the County saying over 100,000 acres burned, as well as some satellite imagery. 100k acres is over 150 square miles. Some video accompanies, slow loading so I didn't play it.

Recorded wind speeds (from the article):

* Whitaker Peak: 108 mph
* Malibu Peak: 101 mph
* Laguna Peak: 96 mph
* Warm Springs: 91 mph
* Fremont Canyon: 85 mph
* Rancho Cucamonga: 74 mph

From what I can find, the Laguna fire of 1970 burned 175000 acres all by itself (and was one of several), and they're saying that the Cedar Fire of 2003 burned 280,000 acres (and was one of two). But neither of them went through areas quite so densely populated as what they're calling the Witch Fire has already done.

UPDATE 8: (15:30) And Still I persist is in Escondido, with a good diagram and some pictures of what's been going on with the Witch Fire.

I'm trying to dig up more on the east county Harris Fire, which has supposedly burned almost as far west as Otay Lakes, but I'm not getting much. Until it gets past the lakes, it's still pretty sparsely populated area, but a whole bunch of newer developments as well as the Olympic Training Center are just the other side. Now here's a link with news on the Harris Fire, which is evidently approaching settled area.

Looks like they're also evacuating Scripps Ranch (Zip 92131, east of I-15 in the central county, for those following on maps), which was hard-hit four years ago, there's a Fire in San Ysidro (Zip 92173, down near the mexican border) and military offers route through Camp Pendleton (in the northwest end of the county), which except for I-5 is the only way to or from Orange County.

No Kidding Deparment: Air Quality is getting worse, despite winds up to 70 mph. Don't exert yourself if you don't have to. Take care if you've got respiratory problems, like I do.

That's Nice of Them Department: U-Haul is offering 30 days free storage for evacuees

here's another smoke plume map that gives you an idea as to where fires are burning now.

confirmation that all San Diego Unified School Districts will remain closed tomorrow

UPDATE 9: (1630) Just drove home. From Grossmont Summit (8 and 125), I could see two plumes of smoke from the Harris Fire, one the other side of Lyon's Peak, maybe 20 miles or so east-southeast, and the other just south of Mt. San Miguel. That's maybe 10 miles or so straight south. The thing is HUGE. The smoke from the Witch Fire to the north is just too diffuse to make anything out directly. I thought about driving up onto Mt Helix or Eastridge, just to see what I could see, but decided against it.

Also, the La Mesa Police had the Fletcher Parkway offramp from 125 blocked off. Evidently, some flaming material from the Harris fire was blown all the way to La Mesa touched down and set off a fire at Fletcher Parkway and Amaya, quickly contained but they were waiting an official all clear.

Alpine, Crest, and Harbison Canyon have now joined the list of evacuated areas. I expect that's from a wing of the Witch Fire. Alpine has its own Zip (91901), and Harbison Canyon runs south from there on between Alpine and El Cajon, while Crest is a hill community just a little further west. Crest was burned out in 2003, and Harbison Canyon aslo, to a lesser degree.

Here are some newly reported animal care and boarding options, as Lakeside Rodeo Grounds has filled.

Updated Shelter Information (for humans). Ones that are full and ones that still have some room:

Shelters that still have capacity
Qualcomm Stadium
Santana High School
Poway Community Park
Poway Girls & Boys Club
Campo Community Center
Mission Hills High School
Escondido High School - 1535 North Broadway
Santana High School - 9915 Magnolia Avenue (in Santee)
Ramona High School

Full Shelters
Del Mar Fairgrounds
Steele Canyon High School - 12440 Campo Road in Spring Valley
Escondido High School
Mira Mesa High School - 10510 Reagan Road (off Mira Mesa Boulevard)
San Marcos High School (temporary shelter).

UPDATE 10: (1715) Here's a State Map of the Fires, expandable.

More state of California information.

Smaller Area maps, all on one page.

I'm getting a headline saying "flames in east Chula Vista" but the link gives a 404 error. From the maps in the previous link, it looks like the fires are in western Jamul (Zip 91935), or just south of there - probably one set of smoke plumes I saw on the way home.

Witch Creek Fire Burn Area, from the North County TImes.

NEW: NORTH COUNTY EVACUATIONS LIFTED: Mandatory Evacuations have been LIFTED in San Marcos for San Elijo Hills and Coronado Hills. NEW: FIESTA ISLAND SHELTER OPENED: As of 4 p.m. on October 22, 2007, Fiesta Island has been opened to accept up to 500 owners and animals (livestock). This location will be staffed by Park and Recreation employees and Park Rangers. NEW: SOUTH SHORES SHELTERS OPENED: South Shores and Ski Beach are open for individuals with motorhomes. Park and recreation employees along with lifeguards will be staffing these areas. NEW: SOUTH BAY VOLUNTARY EVACUATIONS: Voluntary Evacuations are underway in the following Chula Vista neighborhoods: All of Bellalago, all of the Woods at Eastlake, areas of San Miguel Ranch and areas of Rolling Hills Ranch. Information Hotline for Chula Vista and Bonita area: (619) 397-6399. Evacuation center is located at Chula Vista High School.

Older news, but just found it: Animals Moved At Wild Animal Park

According to the California Department of Transportation, the closure of Interstate 15 south of SR-56 has been canceled. However, Interstate 15 remains closed from SR-56 to lower SR-79 in both directions. Click here for additional road closures:

* Please also be advised of these additional closures throughout the county:
* SR-67 northbound and southbound from Vigilante Road to Highland Valley Road
* SR-76 eastbound and westbound from East Vista Way
* SR-78 eastbound and westbound from SR-79 in Santa Ysabel to Haverford Road in Ramona
* SR-79 northbound and southbound from SR-78 to SR-76
* SR-94 eastbound and westbound from Steele Canyon to two miles east of Harris Ranch Road

Thus far, where I am is fairly clear. There's a thin layer of particles on the pool. North and South, though, are very smoky. South and east seems denser than north, but more wealthy people live where the Witch Creek Fire is going to hit, not to mention more news anchors. It's going to start getting dark in about an hour, so this is likely the last good visual check for tonight.
UPDATE 11: (2030) buildings destroyed: (thus far)

Escondido: 70
Poway 50
Rancho Santa Fe: 6
Rancho Bernardo: Unknown but "dozens"
Fallbrook: 50 destroyed, 30 damaged
East County I saw one report that said 130 destroyed, 500 threatened

Advisory evacuations have been ordered for five neighborhoods in DelMar: the east side of Crest Road, Oribia Road, San Dieguito Road, Avenida Primavera and Serpentine Drive, a county official announced about 6:20 p.m.

Residents in all other neighborhoods within Del Mar are encouraged to prepare to evacuate to Qualcomm Stadium.Residents in areas where firefighting helicopters and air tankers are working are asked to stay indoors, to avoid being in the way when huge amounts of water or retardant are dropped.

(later) Looks like some of those orders have become mandatory

Evacuations have been ordered for the following areas: South of Del Dios Highway, north of Sorrento Valley Road and west of Black Mountain Road to the ocean. Evacuees are being advised to go to centers at Carlsbad High School, Encinitas Senior and Community Center and Qualcomm Stadium.

I suppose any time there's opportunity, there will be scams

Governor Calls Up Guard, Asks Bush For Military Support

He's also asked President Bush to authorize San Diego-area military forces to work with local officials to provide cots, first-aid equipment and possibly personnel to aid evacuees and firefighters.

another fire map (updated), and another (multiple maps)

Updated evacuation help in El Cajon As a sub note, looks like instead of trying to establish a temporary tower at Ramona, they're bringing the fire-fighting planes and their logistic support to Gillespie Field, which already has one, and is easier logistically to work with. is asking landlords to list their available rentals for emergency housing, but I'm not seeing anything about fees being waived. We'll see how it shakes out.

The Harris Fire has now jumped Proctor Valley Road in Chula Vista/Bonita. I'm not certain there's another good line of defense shy of the 54 and 805. Should be somewhat sheltered from the wind by San Miguel Mountain, but I'd seriously consider exiting that whole area, even though I'm not finding any kind of evacuation order. I'm also thinking it's going to stay south of Sweetwater Reservoir.

Harris Fire at 22,000 acres and Witch Fire at 145,000. That's 260 square miles, just for the two of them, and they're saying both could easily burn to the ocean. I'm having trouble running down information on the Descanso Fire, the Fallbrook Fire, and a couple of others.

Finally, Road Closures (It was a busy link, so in the interests of public information I'm printing the entire list)

Interstate 15 closed in both directions from state Route 56 to state Route 78

Interstate 8 closed to big-rig trucks and other high-profile vehicles from Alpine to Ocotillo in Imperial County

State Route 94 between Harris Ranch Road and state Route 188

State Routes 78 and 79 from Julian to Ramona

State Route 79 from Ramona to Sutherland Dam Road

State Route 94 between Otay Lakes Road and Forest Gate Road

State Route 67 closed to northbound traffic at Mapleview Dr. in Lakeside

Other closures:

All Campo roads west of Forest Gate Road and east of Otay Lakes Road

Honey Springs Road in Jamul at Lyons Valley Road

East of Victoria Drive in Alpine between Otto Road and Overland Passage Road

Buckman Springs Road at eastbound Interstate 8.

El Montevideo at Paseo Delicias in Rancho Santa Fe

Proctor Valley Road in Chula Vista

Among the roads reported affected Monday by fallen trees, downed power lines and other debris:

State Route 67 just south of Vigilante Road

Engineers Road at state Route 79

State Route 76 at Red Gate

La Bajada at Rancho Santa Fe Road

Santa Margarita Road at Calle de Luz Road

State Route 78 at Wynola Road

Southbound lanes of Valley Center Road at north Lake Wohlford Road

West Bernardo Drive south of Rancho Bernardo Road

Country Club Lane in Elfin Forest

Willow Glen Drive at Hillsdale Road in Rancho San Diego

For more information on freeway closures call Caltrans at (619) 688-6670 or (800) 427-7623 or check County road closures are posted on{ATTR:1}

Status Report from the state of California, and about the only information on the smaller fires I've found.

This is going to be the last update for this post and for tonight. Assuming I'm still here (No known reason why I wouldn't be), I'll start another post tomorrow.


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This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on October 22, 2007 8:30 PM.

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