Fire: Comes With The Territory


SoCal is dry. It’s like living in a match factory. Everything is in place for major fires. One spark.

We got one this morning.

Dubbed the “Colby Fire,” the blaze started at around 5:50 a.m. Thursday morning and may have been started by people.

Glendora police arrested and charged three people with recklessly starting a fire. – Huffington Post

In other words, criminal stupidity!

Glendora, like Pasadena a few miles west, sits at the south end of the San Gabriel Mountains and Angeles National Forest.

Within a few hours the fire grew from campfire to 1,700 acres–twice the size of New York’s Central Park! Around a half dozen very expensive homes quickly burned to the ground.

You get your family and pets and you get out!

As spread out as SoCal is, there are huge chunks of land owned by the government. Lots of wilderness, the way it was when settlers first arrived. These are immense tracts in remote locations with steep canyon walls. Very difficult to reach, especially when on fire!

colby-fire-live-shotThis afternoon on TV it was plane after copter after copter after plane dropping water and chemicals on the blaze. Each individual bucketful, ineffectual. It will take dozens and dozens of drops to tame this fire.

This sort of thing can happen anywhere. Obviously, the more buried in the woods you are, the more likely you are to fall victim. From my minimal knowledge of that area, the homes that burned today had spectacular views and lots of privacy. They will be rebuilt.

Driving over the 405 this afternoon, the smoke layer trapped in the mid regions of the atmosphere was quite visible, though 25 miles north.

This is part of SoCal life. It comes with the territory.

Fire In The Pass

If there was news like this every night more people would watch TV news.

Stef called this evening. She is in Hollywood watching a fire burning just west of her. Not normally a TV news viewer, she found this very compelling. Fire coverage in Los Angeles is well choreographed.

There was a time when Channels 3 and 8 had helicopters here in Connecticut. Very expensive. Too expensive&#185. Gone.

The expectation of TV helicopters in Los Angeles is so high they might as well be considered required! Some days it’s like there’s a broadcasters Air Force overhead!

When the market is so much larger in area and revenue it’s easier to amortize the copter’s immense cost. The L.A. stations use theirs every day–often enough to be proficient.

The copters are up and doing themselves proud this afternoon. There is a brush fire along the 405 in Sepulveda Pass. That’s the scene of LA’s infamous “Carmageddon,” a potential traffic tie-up so monumental everyone stayed away. The 405 (actually I-405) is the main gateway from L.A. to the Valley.

The fire is newsworthy because of the 405, because the Getty Museum is nearby and because the fire threatens homes in Bel Air (where the current average real estate listing is $3.7 million).

I had KCBS-TV’s live stream on for a while until I realized FoxCT’s co-owned sister station KTLA was also available. They have both done an exemplary job. Both have a bunch of ground based cameras aimed at the fire, plus a chopper.

The real show is Los Angeles Fire Department’s version of an Air Force: five firefighting helicopters on-scene plus two Bombardier CL415 Superscoopers leased from Quebec for the brush fire season. Each holds 1,620 gallons of water–seawater scooped from the Pacific.

Both stations’ copters captured the firefighting aircraft hugging the ground then dropping their loads while flying into a blinding column of smoke and steam. Air-to-air video with image stabilized cameras is a thing of beauty.

Firefighters on-the-ground and in-the-air made quick work of this blaze. When I tuned in flames dominated. When I left they had been beaten down. There will be dozens of small fires like this in Southern California this year. A few larger ones too.

If there was news like this every night more people would watch TV.

Photos are clickable for a larger version.

&#185 – I always thought the money would have been better spent on hiring more reporters/photographers. No one asked for my opinion.