Friday, July 13, 2012

Robbers Fire Day 3

We've got a wildfire going near our home right now. It started day before yesterday at about 3:30 in the afternoon. On day 1, it was about 3 to 3.5 miles from us, and not spreading in our direction. Even though it was in some really rough territory, it looked like we were close enough to monitor the situation but far enough that it wouldn't threaten us.

Yesterday started out well. I spent time in the yard and around the house with my daughter doing some additional clean-up. Things were in pretty good shape, I've been improving the property with an eye to fire safety for years now, since our prior run-in with a fire that came close. Plus I'd already done the hard work for this year back in April. But there's always more you can do.

When the heat of the day grew to within spitting range of 100 degrees, though, we could see the fire plumes suddenly spread and go vertical with lots of heat. Prior to that, there'd just been white drifts of smoke. The new plumes were coming our way.

From Mildly Concerned to Biting Nails

The fire spread rapidly, and got very hot. Reports are that it jumped two fire control lines. It spread up several fingers of the canyon complex near us, it wasn't confined to a single area any more. And it was a lot closer, and in an area where it could reach us far more readily.

Now, there are a lot of houses between us and it. We're in a location that we'rre not likely to be right on the line without things getting really bad for a lot of people. We're not one of the houses with a fire engine parked in front and firefighters on the roof. My heart goes out to those that are.

But we are close enough that we're keeping right on top of the evacuation situation. On day 1, I wasn't able to get home from errands for a couple of hours because our street was closed to all traffic. Finally, they moved the roadblock down two streets and I was able to get home. We had to get there through a roundabout way, the direct route was still closed off--we have a California Department of Forestry station that needs the space for marshalling vehicles--but we could get home. I was able to contact my two daughters, who were also out and about, and let them know how to get home.

Finally at about 8:30pm we were all together at home again.

We've had prior experience with fires here, as I mentioned, and we've lived in the Sierra Foothills prior to moving here about 15 years ago. We've been evacuated from this house once before--the fire got within 1/2 a mile--and been on alert for evacuation several times. The past two years have actually been a bit unusual in being relatively calm and fire-free. We were hoping this year would be, too.

Keeping Up

Fortunately we've got uninterrupted internet service and electricity to this point. We were warned by the power company last night that we may lose power in the night, with no known time for it being cut off or of restoration. One line in the area has been de-energized for the sake of the firefighting. There's a 100KVA line in the area that's threatened.

But so far I've been able to keep in touch.

The internet has been a huge boon. The reporting through ordinary media outlets hasn't been of much value. They finally got excited about the event yesterday after the fire went wild and tripled the number of houses threatened. Prior to that, even the most local outlets couldn't be bothered to tell me more than I could learn by looking out my back window--less, in fact.

Fortunately Twitter (#RobbersFire) and wlfhotlist.com, as well as a number of other places, have had more info for me. Sacramento's KCRA TV station brought their helicopter into the area yesterday afternoon, I was able to watch the feed on the internet and get a look at the fire from a viewpoint I don't have at home for the first time.

Fire Crews Doing Excellent Job

After the outbreak yesterday, as the day began to come off its high point of temperature, the air crews did an excellent job of suppressing the fires here at the north end. There were several hot plumes when they started, by the time they had to close up air operations for lack of light, it was white drifts with no apparent hot spots.

Crews have come in from all over the state. This morning, so far as I can tell, things are hugely improved. There are still a lot of structures threatened, and a lot of operations that have been waiting on daylight. The briefings this morning were at the other end of the fire area (Forest Hill) and apparently in Auburn at the Fair Grounds, too, but not close enough for me to be able to attend. So I'm relying on what comes in over the wire.

Today promises to stay a bit cooler than yesterday, in the low 90s, temperature-wise. Hopefully we won't have any more breakouts like yesterday. The numbber of firefighters has grown by at least 3x since yesterday. There's no telling what's going to happen, but things always look cautiously optimistic at this time of day.

Fingers crossed.

Update at 1pm local time:
We're into the nail-biting time of the day. The winds are picking up a bit, and there's been increased activity on the side of the fire that's away from us. The winds are blowing northeast, from the fire toward the town of Iowa Hill. We're only getting light smoke here so far. It's nowhere near as close or frightening as yesterday.

There are a =lot= more firefighting resources on the fire today than yesterday. It looks like they're really doing a great job. Their work is very much appreciated by everyone in the area.

Of course, we're still earlier in the day than when most of the trouble has come over the past two days. Yesterday's flareup came at about 3 or 3:30.

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