Sunday, August 30, 2009

Pyrocumulus Overwhelming

Its like something in the back of your mind, all the time.

The past several days have had an ominous mood around our area. There is a new central topic of conversation - "have you been up to see the fire?" "Do you have friends up there?" "Are they safe, have they been evacuated"?

The morning sun is a burnt orange through the haze, and the outdoors smells sickly of smoke; the odor of destruction on a massive scale. And today, I learned a new word to describe clouds - pyrocumulus. These are the bizarre, massive, and foreboding clouds formed by wildfires. Dirty brown on the bottom and white on top. Like nothing you have ever seen. Over just the past three days, the Station Fire, as it is now known, has grown from a puff of smoke just north of La Canada, then to 1,000 acres, then 5,000 acres, and as I write this on Sunday night, is listed at just over 40,000 acres. Stunning. A force of nature.

I have lived within 10 miles of this fire area for all of my 51 years, and I have never seen a fire of this size and scope in my life. We have friends whose homes are threatened. Our family has taken time out to drive several miles north of our home to observe the fire progress over the past several days. It is truly massive in scope, and I have thought also about the massive carbon footprint this has created.

Two thoughts. First, I recall that a lack of controlled burns created similar massive problems at Yellowstone National Park in years past, and lead to a reassessment of fire control policies. Could this be applicable to Southern California?

Second, hats off and prayers for safety for the piloting skills of both fixed-wing and helicopter fire fighters. I have been watching them work at a concentrated pace the past several days, and have been thoroughly impressed at their accuracy, tenacity, and determination to save the homes of people they will likely never meet.

Also, fire agencies from all over Southern California and the West have joined the fight on the ground to protect homes. Just as on 9/11 - these brave souls see danger, and do not run away. They come running.

I am humbled by their efforts.

This last photo was taken about two hours ago by my daughter, Heather.
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