Category Archives: California History

California wildfires. Enough already…but we’re just getting started!

I’ve been reluctant to write about the current California wildfires. For one thing, they’re ever-present.

Once it was assumed that the biggest fires were in “fire season,” the fall months when the Santa Ana winds kick up. But this week I’ve heard at least a dozen different news reports refer to the reality that in very dry California, wildfire season is now year-round.

In early June I looked out my office window and watched a tiny spot of white smoke rapidly turn black and the small blaze shift to an out of control wildfire in the foothills above Azusa and Glendora.

The Sand Fire in July wasn’t all that close to home, but the wind patterns sure made it look like it was just up the street!

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The most recent Southern California fire, the Blue Cut Fire north of San Bernardino, is now nearly contained with all evacuation orders affecting more than 82,000 people lifted yesterday. Utility companies are working hard to get service back up.

Very fortunately no deaths were reported in this fire, but at least 105 homes were destroyed.

At this time there are very dangerous wildfires in many western states, including Washington, Oregon, Wyoming and Montana. I’m sure there could be more.  On average, more than 100,000 wildfires clear 4 to 5 million acres of land in the United States every year.  There are six major fires currently being tracked by Cal-Fire, a 100-year old Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention known to respond to an average of more than 5,600 wildland fires in California each year.

I’m deeply concerned when I read about fire anywhere, but when we’re speaking of the California fires I have associations with the locations and I can envision the towns affected.

Right now I’m very concerned about the scope of the 27,500-acre Chimney fire in San Luis Obispo County. and the Soberanes fire, further north toward Big Sur. Both of these areas are very special to us and to anyone who knows them!

I’ve written before about Hearst Castle and our love for the beautiful Central Coast. And Big Sur was once the location of our yearly family reunion. We loved going to Big Sur once a year, but it was a large wildfire a few years back that prevented us returning one year, and then following that fire some of the roads and campgrounds were nearly impassable for at least a year following.

 

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One view of Hearst Castle

First concern is always the lives that are endangered, and there have been a few lost lives; some people have refused to evacuate their homes and have stayed too long. The firefighters are always uppermost in our concern. But it’s also tremendously challenging to those with pets, livestock, and in some instances, we’ve seen major evacuations of exotic animals.

In June, the Sand Fire threatened The Wildlife Waystation, a 160-acre exotic animal sanctuary in the Angeles National Forest just north of Los Angeles, forcing the evacuation of about a dozen big cats as well as other exotics, but they represented just a fraction of all the animals needing rescue. There are wonderful examples of community and private action to help support the care of animals.

The toll to wildlife in the burn areas and the dramatic change to their habitat should they survive in the first place, simply hurts my heart.

I’ll conclude with a few photos from the gorgeous San Simeon/Hearst Castle area we love so much. There are animals there, too, including zebra and off-spring from other animals once part of William Randolph Hearst’s private zoo.

If you’re inclined, a prayer or two would be nice. Fire season is just getting started.