Well, I think the Union-Tribune sums up today's status nicely with this headline: "No new evacuations, but fires far from out." They have a very good update (with links) this morning if you'd like today's top fire stories.
Laurie at Sea Glass Hearts has a nice update too, as well as a thought-provoking look at what impact the fires are likely to have on the Diocese of San Diego. I urge all my Catholic friends to read her post—those of you who live outside this Diocese could certainly help with your prayers.
We ventured out of the house yesterday afternoon for the first time since Sunday. Our young friend had a birthday to celebrate, and it would take more than a little particulate matter in the air to thwart such important plans. The air was pretty clear in their neighborhood (though probably still not terribly healthy to breathe—"dangerous air quality" warnings are in effect all over the county. Here at home, our eyes and throats burn when we step outside to water the plants. At least, they did yesterday. I haven't been outside today.
After spending all week poring over San Diego County fire maps (Click to download a PDF of the county's latest version), it was a welcome change of pace this morning to visit the Journey South Monarch Butterfly Migration map. (Be sure to change the "Week Ending" date to October 31st for the most recent version of the map.) The monarchs are on their way south to their wintering ground in the little mountain town of Angangueo, Michoacan, Mexico. I have to say it gave me a little thrill to look at all those "monarchs were here" dots on the East Coast and know that some of those might have been "our" butterflies, thanks to Sarah, who made sure our milkweed lived on after our move.
Well, it looks like the Santa Anas are indeed dying down. Today is expected to bring winds from the west. Most news sources seem to agree that this will improve the fire situation greatly, but the air quality is going to get worse. A lot of the smoke and ash that was blowing out to sea will now be wafted back over the city. Even in the closed-up house, my throat is dry and burning.
But that's certainly better than the loss of more homes. So far, 1,470 structures have been burned. Here again is the link to the updated (as of last night) list of homes destroyed in San Diego County.
Speaking of the Santa Anas, if you go to the LA Times website and scroll down a little way below the main picture, you'll see a link called "Sketchbook: How Santa Ana winds fuel fires." It pops up a series of rough pencil-sketched diagrams demonstrating how the Santa Anas are formed and how they start and feed fires.
The Harris fire is still pretty ugly on its eastern side, threatening more homes there as it eats its way toward the Cleveland National Forest.
The San Diego County Emergency homepage is now posting good news updates, including frequently updated fire maps.
As I mentioned at Bonny Glen this morning, I'm finding the KPBS Twitter feed to be another excellent source of updates. It only gives brief bulletins (that is the nature of Twitter), so for in-depth information you have to dig elsewhere, but it's a very good and informative starting point.
I missed the morning news briefings, but SignonSanDiego has a recap.
I was particularly interested in this series of blog posts about deaf evacuees at Qualcomm Stadium and what accomodations have been made for them. Jane and I were pleased to see a sign interpreter next to the podium at all the news briefings we have watched.
Speaking of Qualcomm, I'm seeing conflicting reports of how many people remain sheltered there. Yesterday I read 5,600, then I read 11,000, and this morning KPBS is reporting there are only 800 evacuees left there? I know many evacuated communities have been reopened and people have begun to return to their homes, but that many, in that short a time span? Maybe it's a typo—8,000 would make more sense.
As for us, we had a more normal day yesterday—normal for an at-home day, that is, but not normal for the busy day of activities it was supposed to have been. We canceled Shakespeare Club, alas, and actually settled down to some lessons in the morning. Jane and I did a big Latin review (I am trying to keep up with her Latin studies, and failing woefully), and everyone did some math. The younger girls have created a whole village of Sculpey creatures—enough to fill a miniature Qualcomm Stadium.
Our eldest first went to the West Indies to visit her grandparents when she was five months old, and we went with all three to live there for seven months when our youngest was not quite two. So sunscreens were pretty much out of the question.
Not to mention that with all that inning and outing with the pool and the beach, and my husband's and my sweat making the sunscreen drip off, you spend more time reapplying than actually protected.
My husband and I each have Tilley hats with broad brims, and the kids have a collection of baseball caps and also Tilley-style hats. The key seems to have been starting them out young, so they are used to having hats on in the sun :)
I know you're right. Alice said the same thing. You are wise women.
I wish I liked hats.
I like them on other people. Just not on me.
Of course, part of the reason is because I've been toting a baby in a sling pretty much nonstop for 12 years now, and I've never yet known a baby who could resist the delights of whipping a hat off mom's head over and over and over.
But I'm probably using that as an excuse because I just don't like wearing hats.
Maybe I've just never found the right one.
I do love the look of an old-fashioned wide-brimmed straw hat with a ribbon around it...I guess I never really thought of wearing one myself, but maybe I could pull it off? (Or the baby could...ba dum bum.)
Something like this?
Or one of these?
Some fire updates:
Witch Fire (now merged with Poomacha Fire), 10% contained, 12 firefighters injured, 2 civilians injured, has burned 225,000 acres. The quaint little mountain town of Julian, known for its fall apple-picking opportunities, is in serious danger. It has been evacuated and has lost power, and firefighters are working to redirect the blaze that threatens it.
Scott had actually planned to take yesterday off work and take the family for a drive up to Julian. Does not sound like we'll be making that trip this fall after all.
The Poomacha fire is burning its way up Palomar Mountain now.
Horno Fire at Camp Pendleton, 10% contained, 800 evacuees, has burned 6000 acres. This one shut down traffic on the I-5 earlier today, but I think it has reopened now.
Harris Fire, the one south/southeast of us, has caused widespread evacuations but seems to have been somewhat redirected away from heavily populated residential areas. It has also burned its way eastward toward the Cleveland National Forest.
Some repopulating is occurring today in scattered communities now deemed to be out of harm's way. But this is only a small percentage of the evacuees; thousands of people remain in shelters around the county. New evac orders have come through all day today as the fires
Schools are closed, the courts are closed, and people like us in non-threatened zones are laying low, keeping the roads clear and avoiding the smoke. We had to cancel Shakespeare Club today, which crushed the kids. A small sacrifice compared to others' losses, though! The footage of destroyed homes is devastating.
Up in Orange County, St. Michael's Abbey had a narrow escape (and is still not entirely out of danger). Fr. John Caronan writes:
"Please keep us in your prayers as the fires around 2pm this afternoon (Tuesday) were just 200-300 yards away. The abbey is completely empty. We all evacuated by 4pm. We hope that the abbey will be spared as firetrucks filled the abbey as we have about 4-5 fire hydrants. We took refuge at St. John the Baptist parish in Costa Mesa. We don't know when we'll be able to return to the abbey."
(HT: Michelle Bru of Regina Caeli Academy Independent Study Program.)
This aerial map image from DailyKos shows the smoke of all these fires swirling out over the Pacific. But I think now the winds are blowing mostly east? It's the west-blowing winds, the Santa Anas, that have created this inferno.
(Click to enlarge.)
Mayor Sanders is trying to decide whether the Chargers will be able to play their Sunday afternoon game at Qualcomm Stadium as scheduled. I'm a little surprised there's any question about it at all. Over 11,000 people are living at Qualcomm right now. Are they really going to be able to return home by Sunday? I would love to think so, but it seems like these fires are a long way from being under control.
One of the Steele Canyon High evacuees I wrote about this morning has suffered a stroke and was taken to the hospital.
Five people have died in connection with the fires: one in the Harris blaze, and four others during or after evacuation.
Here is a link to a Flickr photostream of the fires.
Link to list of homes destroyed by fire in San Diego County.
Some specific things to keep in your thoughts and prayers today:
The Steele Canyon High School was designated an evacuation shelter when the Harris fire came over Mt. Miguel. Several hundred people are sheltering there now; however, yesterday when the fire's direction shifted, it headed toward the high school. Because the school is surrounded by a lot of asphalt, authorities decided the best option was to "shelter in place" rather than move those evacuees. Firefighters are surrounding the school, hosed everything down, and taken other precautions to ensure that fire will not threaten the evacuees. But still it must be awfully scary to be stuck inside that building with fire so close by. I would not want to be there!
The Catholic Church on the Rincon Indian Reservation has burned down. I think it is this small mission church, St. Bartholomew's. (I haven't confirmed that yet, though.)
As reported on the SignonSanDiego fireblog:
The church on the Rincon Indian reservation burned early [yesterday] morning as the Poomacha fire roared through the Pauma Valley.
Several homes also burned, said tribal councilman Bo Mazzetti.
"We've lost a lot of our older buildings we had, that have been here for years and years," he said about 11:45 a.m. Tuesday. "Our church, our Catholic church, we lost that."
The loss is a spiritual blow to the tribe, he said.
"That's something we've all attended, that church, it's devastating to see that," he said.
Oh, my heart goes out to them!
Witch Fire: About 196,420 acres in northern San Diego County from Witch Creek to Rancho Santa Fe. One percent contained; 500 homes, 100 businesses and 50 outbuildings destroyed; 375 other structures damaged, including 250 homes and 75 businesses. Two civilians and 12 firefighters injured.
This is the really big one north of us. Last night it merged with the Poomacha fire to create a giant nightmare of a blaze.
Harris Fire: About 72,000 acres 70 miles southeast of San Diego north of the border town of Tecate. 10 percent contained; 200 homes destroyed; 2,000 homes and 500 commercial properties threatened. One civilian killed, 21 civilians and five firefighters injured.
This is the one south of us that has spread steadily north, marching over Mt. Miguel and threatening homes in Rancho San Diego and Spring Valley. It started way down south near the border and for a while was moving northwest, threatening Chula Vista, but then shifted northeast toward Mt. Miguel and beyond. Although its northern edge is now less than ten miles from our house, we remain safe here and still don't expect to have to evacuate.
Rice Fire: At least 7,500 acres in Fallbrook in northern San Diego County. 10 percent containment; 206 homes and 2 commercial properties destroyed. One firefighter injured.
Poomacha Fire: 20,000 acres on the La Jolla Indian Reservation and in northeastern San Diego County. No containment; 50 homes destroyed and 2,000 homes threatened. Ten firefighters injured.
This is the one that merged with the Witch Creek fire in the night. It is moving toward Palomar Mountain in one direction and Cleveland National Forest in the other.
Camp Pendleton Fire: 6,000 acres on the Marine base north of San Diego. 10 percent contained.
One of the newer fires. It shut down traffic on I-5 for a while, but I'm now reading that the highway is open again.
Today's firemap (updates every hour, in theory).
The fires are still largely uncontained and making advances in certain directions, but the wind situation was better today, allowing air support to work its magic on the flames. Many homes were saved.
The relative humidity is going up, and that will help as well.
The evacuees at Qualcomm and other shelters around the county seem to be doing pretty well as far as supplies go—though it must be awful to be sleeping on the floor of a stadium, wondering if your home is still standing. Qualcomm received so many donated supplies today that authorities actually requested people NOT bring any more for now, and they are sending their surplus to some of the other shelters.
People who would like to make donations are being asked to donate to the Red Cross.
If you live in San Diego and would like to volunteer at a shelter, here's a link to an organization that is coordinating volunteer efforts.
Some evacuees have been allowed to return to their homes, but over
300,000 500,000 San Diego County residents remain displaced tonight. More evacuations are expected over the next couple of days. 6800 structures are still in danger from the Witch Creek Fire, and some 2500 structures are in danger from the Harris fire. Those are the two biggies, but the smaller fires are serious business too.
Let's pray those winds stay calm tonight.
These sites continue to be the best sources for recent updates:
New 8 Wildfire Coverage—news updates at top of page; scroll down for list of mandatory evacuation areas and shelter locations.
SignonSanDiego fire map (updated about once an hour)
If you have family in the San Diego area and are looking for more information about specific towns and neighborhood, a good place to check is the SignonSanDiego forums. Scroll down to find folders for each town.
Governor Schwarzenegger has arrived at Qualcomm Stadium where over 5000 evacuees are sheltering. Here are rough notes from his press conference (3:30 p.m. Tuesday):
First of all let me just say thanks for turning out.
Special thank you to Sec. Chertoff for coming w/ me from Washington, and for being on the phone w/ me every day & being concerned about the fires and how he can help.
Thanks other officials.
Will speak briefly. What made this tragic fire, this catastrophe, actually doable is that we have had so much help. Unlike other disasters, we have seen state, local, and federal govts come together in quickest possible way.
Thanks firefighters, law enforcement.
300,000 people evac'd here in SD alone, over 500,000 evacs state wide.
President Bush called him to offer help, said Chertoff will help. He is coming out early on Thursday to visit us, visit fire locations.
Now passing mic to Michael Chertoff.
Thanks officials. All have done a tremendous job in stepping up, making sure we can get best assistance to these communities as quickly as possible. American Red Cross has provided a tremendous amount of assistance (supplies) through donations by American people who support Red Cross.
Still facing serious fires, weather has made it difficult, hope tomorrow wind will die down & we can put those assets up there in the air.
Brave first responders fighting to point of exhaustion to keep these fires under control. If weather cooperates, maybe we can turn the tide tomorrow.
In the end of course, tremendous spirit of volunteerism, the cooperation of people in shelters, is critical in assuring we can pass this period of time w/ a minimum of discomfort & keeping our spirits up.
I know people are anxious about what they'll find when they go home. I know there's a request for a disaster declaration in the works; as soon as that's approved we'll be working v. closely with the community to restore communities that have been hurt.
Now FEMA Administrator Dave Paulison speaks:
Thank you. Someone asked me earlier, what is the diff. b/t what happened in Katrina and what's happening here today. One: lessons learned in 2003 fires and from Katrina, we have to work together. Nobody does disasters better than California firefighters, best wildfire fighters in the world. Cooperation down the line, governor, mayor, Red Cross, other agencies, going into it as partners--that's what will make the difference. Totally impressed w/ your volunteers. Thank you & God bless you.
State Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner speaks:
My heart goes out to victims, firefighters. As IC, my top responsibility is to help victims recover, so 3 major steps:
1) I've deployed from Dept of Insurance my consumer services experts to be on the ground here in SoCal to be of assistance, help process claims, cut through red tape.
2) Scam artists show up claiming to be contractors, investors--we will nip that in the bud to protect victims.
3) Will work w/ ins. companies to expeditite payments as quickly as possible so people can get back on their feet. If you have any problems w/ your insurance co, contact the Department of Insurance. I will make sure ins. cos do what they are supposed to. Call us at 1-800-927-HELP or online at insurance.ca.gov.
Mayor Jerry Sanders speaks:
Thanks everyone. Mentions good cooperation. Would also like to thank Mexican authorities. Mayor of Tijuana sent 4 firetrucks. Gove. of Baja CA called & said would send whatever help we needed. CMT, Mexican electricity, is lending power to our grid. Truly a neighbor helping neighbor situation. San Diegans helping San Diegans. Volunteers, supplies, entertainments to shelters. Thanks everyone. We welcome the help, welcome the partnership. Thank you all very much.
another speaker thanks everyone, praises governor.
Gov. thanks volunteers at Qualcomm. It's one thing to evacuate people, another to make sure have enough supplies. Toilet paper, toilets, formula, diapers. We called immediately the Grocer's Assoc & challenged all the grocers to help. Within half an hour, they were delivering supplies, tens of thousands of bottles of water, etc. Big thank you to all of them. Thanks the Mayor, so organized with your notepad always writing things down, making your phone calls, always a step ahead, big hand to Mayor Sanders for great leadership.
Reporter: Sec, Chertoff, what's the status at the border?
Chertoff: Anyone thinking of crossing the border w/ fires raging is taking an exceptionally foolish risk. I've communicated w/ Mex. authorities to get message out attempts to cross border now would be life-threatening. Border patrol is covering border, Natl Guard has been pulled off to help w/ fire.
Reporter: (can't hear it)
Chertoff: First I would say, to those who have survived & whose loved ones have survived, take a moment to hug & kiss them, saving lives is most important. Second, look around if you're in shelters, take comfort in community is standing with you. Third, we do have mechanisms in place, both state & fed, to get people assistance. Short term rental, long term building assistance. Need to get a declaration declared, that is in process, will get disaster recovery vehicles into position so we can respond at appropriate moments, take people's applications.
Reporter: Have you had the chance to talk to the President about a price tag?
Gov. Schwarzenegger: President will come to help, is serious about that, no preliminary figures. We are going to make sure the people are not out there alone to rebuild.
I believe this photo was taken by Rich Friend, an outstanding artist with whom Scott works. (Watch out for the scantily clad comic-book babe in the header.)
I think the scariest thing about it is all the homelights at the foot of the mountain. It's like a scene out of Lord of the Rings.