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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Fire Weather Watch for Friday through next Wednesday

Hot, dry, low relative humidity up to 112 degrees for zone 259. Gusty northwest winds can spell trouble too. This weather pattern will continue until the Fourth of July.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Power House Fire, Recovering From The Ashes

Today reality sets in for many homeowners who are returning to charcoal pits of total destruction in the mountain community of Lake Hughes. Homes  have been leveled to the ground with only masonry chimneys still remaining, as 1600 degree searing heat consumed everything they owned. Only little keepsakes are left, but mostly memories of sharing quality time  with family and friends around a brick or stone fire place and fond memories or much better days long ago. Or perhaps it was to reminisce about an off-roading adventure in old jeep exploring the surrounding forest. What ever the reflection I am sure it was painful introspection today.

As I made my way down to the Forestry Camp to help Garret today, I knew many of his possessions had burned, a favorite motorcycle, keepsakes, his tools and generators. However you can see his disposition had changed from when he left to go on a relaxing camp trip to when he came home to find his forestry camp and many of possessions destroyed by wildfire.

Just a day earlier I frantically sent him several text messages to return, but he and my daughter were just too far in the Kern River Canyon to receive the messages. Today we sifted through the ashes with the help of a fire camp crew, as helicopters whirled over head dropping water on hot spots on the ridges above the camp.

Just up the canyon several homeowners were doing the exact same thing, sifting through the ashes and rubble to find anything salvageable. This is a heavy burden to those who lost cherished mementos in the Power House fire just days earlier.

As for me, I shot pictures three days ago from high above Elizabeth Lake. I shot the column of smoke from the mountain top because on July 15, 1981 Forestry Fire Captain Gilbert Lopez died on the Elizabeth wildfire. Battalion Chief Steve Olson, a personal friend from Los Angeles County Fire Department was a new crewman at the time and he can recall the tragic event vividly.

There are markers placed on top of wood post at the entrapment site over looking Elizabeth Lake, one states leadership, the other, LCES, lookouts, communications, escape routes and safety zones. When the entrapment occurred a searing wind over swept the crew, much like it did two nights ago, now all that remain are wooden stobs of burnt manzanita and chamise and only one sign survived, the one marked leadership burned.

Every year I hike the site to pay my respects and to set my mind straight for the upcoming fire season. So it was with great respect I went to the site today. I could only imagine running from the head of a voracious wildfire all the while trying to out smart it and run to safety or clean air. I can imagine the great pain of loosing the Captain and dealing with the trauma years later. But in the tragedy many lessons were learned and things will once again return to normal.

The brush will grow back, homes will be rebuilt and lives will be restored to some form of normalcy, changed yes, but nonetheless restored. My life has been changed by fire numerous times, the ebb and flow of life is constantly changing, hopefully being forged for the better by fire.


Monday, June 3, 2013

Power House Fire 29,584 Acres

If you asked me on June 1, 2013 how my day would go I would have probably said "ok", "going out to take some pictures and enjoy a hike". Instead my day ended up in an unbelievable fire storm in Lake Hughes with roaring hundred foot flames chasing me through a canyon in the Angeles National Forest.

Would I have ever imagined trying to evacuate my daughter's boyfriends home through an emergency window since they were out hiking in the Kern River area and the house was dead bolted shut, probably not. Would I have imagined driving his jeep down a burning mountain road to escape flames from destroying it behind Camp Mendenhall, probably not. Would I have ever imagined my friend Dave Mills would have to push me through a small kitchen window to gain access into the nearly burning home, no way. But it all happened in a few surreal moments.

As the day grew hotter and drier things were changing drastically on the Power House Fire along Lake Hughes Road. Flames started to erupt out of the canyon by 10:00 am, it was clearly evident that the fire was going to jump out of Ruby Canyon and over to Lake Hughes Road. By 5:30 pm radio reports stated that the town of Lake Hughes was going to be impacted by fire and that Cottonwood Campground was being over run with fire.

By now flames with unbelievable speed and intensity filled the canyon devouring anything in its path. At the mouth of the canyon were homes and ranches directly in the path of flames. Chiefs were ordering crews out of the canyon and to go up canyon to protect homes. Fire engines from across the County were summoned to the blaze for immediate need structure protection. My only goal was to stay out of harms way and record some video of the inferno. As I looked back in my rear view mirror from leaving the forestry camp the entire canyon was ablaze in just moments. I had locked all his windows and removed what I could of his personal property for safe keeping. That is if I made it out of the canyon unharmed.

Several homes have been destroyed, 29,584 acres charred and 2,185 people are working the incident. Helicopters and fixed wing aircraft are working the perimeter and much more work needs to get finished before temperatures swell to 105 degrees by the weekend.

I will continue to cover this story as time allows. For now the forestry camp in Lake Hughes will need to be rebuilt, several families will have to try and recover serious loses and hopefully the road system will be opened soon.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Power House Fire Reaches 25,000 Acres

As predicted hot dry weather helped to spurn on a large wildfire in Los Angeles County near the town of Green Valley. Started near the Department of Water and Power Plant 1 on San Francisquito Canyon Road, the fire has covered a lot of ground since its ignition.

Approximately 25,000 acres have burned in the past three days, hundreds of firefighters are working the lines and half a dozen or so homes have been razed to the ground. Numerous evacuations have occurred in the fire area.  Dense dry fuels, steep slopes and very aggressive fire behavior have required the County and the Forest to request large firefighting aircraft to help slow the rate of spread.  

Today the DC -10 with a vast storage capacity came in and painted the ridges on the west side of the fire stop its advances before it entered into Kings Canyon, a densely populated and steep canyon along 205 Street west. The tanker flew in low and precisely laying in a drenching line with retardant along 190 Street west and Ave G. It was a very impressive site to behold. 

Firefighters also had to allow horses some freedom today as fire threatened barns and corrals along Lancaster Road. Another glorious site to see horse coming full throttle to you in the midst of a fire storm.  The horse ran free for about 2 hours until animal control arrived and rounded up them up. 

More hot weather is on the way later in the week but hopefully the fire can be contained soon.  The Forest Service is investigating the fire to see if a faulty power line may have sparked the fire.  

Information and photos Copyright: Jeff Zimmerman