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 Post subject: Santa Barbara Fire Trip Report:
PostPosted: Mon May 11, 2009 12:46 pm 
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Joined: Tue Feb 21, 2006 1:57 am
Posts: 1111
Location: Santa Barbara, CA/Ashland, OR
I aplologize in advance for some of the blurry shots, shooting fire is difficult as is (just like shooting moving aircraft), and without a tripod I did the best I could. I also apologize for the picture size, but there's far too many for me to resize them all...unless someone knows a trick for resizing an entire album on Photobucket without having to do it one at a time..in which case I'm all ears!

So I was planning on going splitting this last weekend, when a change of plans changed my planned "route" :-)

On Cinco de Mayo I was heading out for a hike when I looked up at the trail I was planning on hiking and saw this:
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Being a regular hiker of this trail I knew the fire danger up there was high with dried out chapparal and manzanita over head high in spots. So needless to say I took the "6 foot step ladder route" to my rooftop to capture some of the action.

5/5/09:
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Within an hour air support started to show up (apparently there were politics involved!):
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Since the air support was about an hour too late, conditions got worse. Knowing I wasn't supposed to climb into deteriorating weather I continued the "roof route" hoping to salvage my planned outing:
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Winds were high 40 mph sustained gusts to 60 mph:
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Soon darkness fell and after a couple of "sunset" shots I was seeking refuge in a snow cave below the roof ridge:
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When I crawled out of my snowcave after a poor nights sleep due to worry and constant air battles within 1 mile from my house...er...."shelter" I saw the winds had died down a bit and the burn area was a bit more visable 5/6/09:
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Air attack:
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After a couple mellow hours on the rooftop things took a turn for the worse when the sundowners picked up again 42 MPH sustained and 60+ windgusts. The temperature gauge on my fence....er....backpack zipper pull said it was 100 degrees out at 3pm. :
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Having beened turned back by conditions twice now I got a few more shots of the "sunset" (while sitting on my roof with 5 other husband/dads whose wives and children had already evacuated):
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Part 2 including EVACUATION to follow...

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"Winter is not a season, it's an occupation."
-Sinclair Lewis


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 Post subject: Re: Santa Barbara Fire Trip Report:
PostPosted: Mon May 11, 2009 1:06 pm 
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Joined: Wed Mar 09, 2005 4:15 pm
Posts: 2564
Location: san diego CA
Looks like its that timeof year again. I better get the garden hose ready.

Hope you, your family, friends, pets and homes are safe


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 Post subject: Re: Santa Barbara Fire Trip Report:
PostPosted: Mon May 11, 2009 1:40 pm 
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Location: Santa Barbara, CA/Ashland, OR
Part II:

So after waking from another night of bullhorns warning of impending doom from the police...er..."ranger" I started collecting my things "just in case" them made the evac warning a MANDATORY evac notice 5/7/09:
Bullhorn wielding authority figure on my street:
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My packing list?
Laptop/Business docs
Important personal docs
Pictures from the walls
161 Mojo
158 Custom X
1 pair size 9 (too big) Burton Driver X Boots
All mountaineering and technical gear
1 shortboard
1 longboard
All safety meeting equipment :-)

My wife and girl were already evacuated ;-)

The day started with a little promised as the winds had died down, but a forecast of even stronger sundowner winds loomed in our psyches...back to the rooftop ridge route I went:
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As things frequently do in the backcountry, conditions took a turn for the worse, 42mph winds, gusts to 65mph. It was hot and dry, 100 degrees at 3pm. Word came it was time to abort the summit attempt and retreat to the trailhead (aka "the in-law's place):
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This is NOT snow, in spite of my thinly veiled reference to touring...it's ash:
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Before I left, my neigbor and I decided to try and get a little closer look...2 blocks from my house, the flames so close you could feel the heat wafting off of them while the residents of this block scrambled to evacuate, the Interim Fire Chief (welcome to the job Chief Dimizio!) said this night was the night "all hell broke loose":
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I didn't sleep once again due to the fact that at 2am the reports of the fire trying to cross foothill road under the San Roque bridge were prominent. At that time it was still 90 degrees out and the wind was blowing 45-50 gusting to 70mph!!!
San Roque bride is about 1000' from my house. The next day I talked to my buddy who was fighting the fire in our neighborhood the night before and he assured me our neighborhood was going to be alright...I snuck past the barricades to check on things and it was eerily empty save for a couple residents who stayed and official personnel:
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The next morning 5/9/09 I took a "tour" up the street I had shot on evacuation night...one neighbor was still in the area and I brought him some ice since his power went out his house was on a ridge and the canyons on both sides of him had burned out while his house miraculously did not (thanks to firefighters):
His house is to the right of my subi:
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Canyon to the left of my subi; sight of a torrential firefight where this particular neighbor claims the firefighters prevented the fire from burning virtually the whole city of santa barbara, to put things in perspective, this canyon ends at foothill road, about 300' from our house...which is TRACT HOME!!!! The painted cave fire swept almost to the ocean in 1990, so he's probably right about the consequences of them losing this battle:
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The Canyon to the RIGHT of his house:
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One unlucky neighbor:
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One other VERY lucky neighbor, note that everything but the house burned and firefighters are still on scene putting out hotspots:
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Other random damage:
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Our neighborhood is back home and safe (but dirty as hell from all the ash), but Painted Caves community and some montecito residents are still worried. More winds expected this afternoon, but I think Firefighters are confident they'll have SB protected by nightfall tonight. When you see the damage and realize these guys stayed on a property with fire on all sides, and defended it to the death, it's not hard to see why these guys are considered heroes. Thank you fire and emergency personnel for risking your health and safety to save our homes!

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"Winter is not a season, it's an occupation."
-Sinclair Lewis


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 Post subject: Re: Santa Barbara Fire Trip Report:
PostPosted: Mon May 11, 2009 1:49 pm 
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Joined: Tue Feb 21, 2006 1:57 am
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Location: Santa Barbara, CA/Ashland, OR
Ironically, the fire damage to the tree in this shot happened 2 winters ago during a freak lighting storm (the only one I can remember in our neighborhood), when this mexican fan palm was struck by lighting and burning like a candle...! My daughter was 2 at the time (almost 5 now) and she still talks about the night the tree caught on fire. The bolt was the loudest think I've ever heard, and fried our phones, and other electronic equipment!

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"Winter is not a season, it's an occupation."
-Sinclair Lewis


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 Post subject: Re: Santa Barbara Fire Trip Report:
PostPosted: Mon May 11, 2009 1:58 pm 
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Joined: Fri May 13, 2005 8:05 am
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Location: 395
This guy's not lucky, he's smart. Fireproof materials and no large vegetation around the house. There are still a lot of clueless people who live in urban interface areas. The house in pic above this was only a matter of time victim. If I lived anywhere in SoCal I wouldn't have any vegetation within 100ft of my house.

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 Post subject: Re: Santa Barbara Fire Trip Report:
PostPosted: Mon May 11, 2009 2:59 pm 
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Location: moving
Glad to hear the whole fam and your property are all safe! :D

The gear would have been part of my evacuation kit too :thumpsup:

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Chris

165 Venture Divide, Spark Franken-Burner, LaSportiva Spantik
163W Jones Solution, Phantom Alphas, Dynafit TLT5


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 Post subject: Re: Santa Barbara Fire Trip Report:
PostPosted: Mon May 11, 2009 3:14 pm 
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Joined: Mon Mar 23, 2009 2:08 pm
Posts: 41
Location: San Diego
EEEsssshhh. That is some nasty nasty. Glad you are OK. People from my work are just now moving into their houses after rebuilding from the fires down here.

It's gonna be a long season...


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 Post subject: Re: Santa Barbara Fire Trip Report:
PostPosted: Mon May 11, 2009 3:37 pm 
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Location: Santa Barbara, CA/Ashland, OR
BGnight wrote:
This guy's not lucky, he's smart. Fireproof materials and no large vegetation around the house. There are still a lot of clueless people who live in urban interface areas. The house in pic above this was only a matter of time victim. If I lived anywhere in SoCal I wouldn't have any vegetation within 100ft of my house.

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Your point is very valid, but this is a stucco house with a wood frame, it is not fireproof, it was (as you allude to) his "defensible space" work. I spoke with the captain who was in charge of the crews protecting this street while standing next to a house that survived, and asked him why the one right next to it burned and he said exactly that: the survivor had no low growing ground fuel and was surrounded by succulents for 100+' and the other one had some (but not a bunch) of hot burning trees around the house. He (and virtually every public statment on the issue agrees with him) said that SB homeowners were to be commeded for their fire preparedness. One public statement said that without that preparedness, hundreds of homes would have been lost instead of dozens (though the final counts are still being made). Santa Barbara fire code REQUIRES annual inspections of all these homes, and if the owners don't clear them to 100' of defensible space, the county does it for them and sends a bill! I personally worked the berkeley hills fire in the 90s where 3500 houses burned, and I can guarantee you that if your house is more defensible than your neighbors that's the one more likely to be saved...but that said, fire is even less predictable than avalanches and plenty of responsible owners had their house burn while several irresponsible ones didn't. We all play this game in life...and in the backcountry, sometimes bad things happen to good people and there is no blame neccesary. That "matter of time" house you referred too survived the coyote fire back in '64 while his neigbors did not.

I agree with you that this guy was smart, but there were several well maintained properties that burned...so he was lucky too! I have 2 friends (that I know of so far) who lost their homes, and both were responsible owners, one of which whom I even helped to clear brush just this year!

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"Winter is not a season, it's an occupation."
-Sinclair Lewis


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 Post subject: Re: Santa Barbara Fire Trip Report:
PostPosted: Mon May 11, 2009 3:40 pm 
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Location: Santa Barbara, CA/Ashland, OR
tudorSD wrote:
EEEsssshhh. That is some nasty nasty. Glad you are OK. People from my work are just now moving into their houses after rebuilding from the fires down here.

It's gonna be a long season...


You are right, we had 58% normal precipitation this year, after a dry season the year before. The only good news for us in SB is that there's just not much fuel left to burn in the front country.

Thanks for the well-wishes everyone!

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"Winter is not a season, it's an occupation."
-Sinclair Lewis


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 Post subject: Re: Santa Barbara Fire Trip Report:
PostPosted: Mon May 11, 2009 8:21 pm 
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Location: 395
People just dont understand the dynamics of fire. Unless they are a wildland firefighter (not structure, they don't know shit either) they just won't understand. That house is midslope, in a drainage w/ 20 foot tall brush less than 50 feet from the downhill side of it. Game over

As far as avalanche analogies. May as well traverse across a windloaded, convex slope on an Extreme danger day


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 Post subject: Re: Santa Barbara Fire Trip Report:
PostPosted: Mon May 11, 2009 9:22 pm 
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Location: san diego CA
Clearing a good defense line is paramount in Southern California, but what they have learned from the last fire down here is wind at 60-100 mph carries burning embers into the attic of a house through the roof vents under the eaves. The building codes have changed here making shielded eaves mandatory on new construction


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 Post subject: Re: Santa Barbara Fire Trip Report:
PostPosted: Tue May 12, 2009 7:51 am 
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Joined: Tue Feb 21, 2006 1:57 am
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Location: Santa Barbara, CA/Ashland, OR
Yeah Tex, one of the houses lost was exactly that. Firefighters had moved on thinking the house was safe while the embers smoldered and eventually burned it down starting in the attic.

I removed the pic of the house that burned. I recently read that some of the owners don't want pictures of their house on the internet and I hadn't really thought about that side of it.

Thanks for the well wishes Avs...

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"Winter is not a season, it's an occupation."
-Sinclair Lewis


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 Post subject: Re: Santa Barbara Fire Trip Report:
PostPosted: Wed May 13, 2009 3:04 pm 
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Location: Santa Cruz, CA
Wow, scary stuff! Glad you're OK and your home was spared.


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