Nary An Unpublished Thought







October 23, 2007: The Morning After -- And It's Still During

Tuesday morning and the ash is still flying, the air is full of smoke, evacuations continue all around us, but -- and this may be the most important -- the winds have died down.

The importance of the wind cannot be overstated. Yesterday, wind gusts were blasting at 50, 60, 70 mph and faster. When that happens, the flames begin to move horizontally. In other words, the tips of the fire were going sideways, sometimes as far as 100 feet high/long. That's how it jumps an 8 lane highway. The other way it jumps a highway is with embers. Most people think of embers as the nice looking red remnants in their fireplace. In this kind of a situation, embers are like flaming baseballs that can go 1/3 to 1/2 mile, land, and start burning whatever they hit. Meteors. When they land on a roof, the house can burn. When they land in open areas, whole fields of dry brush and wildland can go up in a flash.

So, when we looked out this morning as light broke over the mountains east of us, and when we saw smoke going more vertical than horizontal, we were encouraged.

For me and my family, the Harris fire is the one that threatens our community. On the map it looks like a right-handed mitten reaching towards the Pacific Ocean. The bulk of the fire has gone just north of us (by "just" I mean less than two miles) and the thumb is to our south. At the base of the thumb is Otay Lake Reservoir. We are not in immediate danger, but if the winds shift and the fire circles back around we could be pinched.
harris fire This picture was taken at about 9:00 p.m. last night. I was standing on the front porch of my home, looking across the street. The flames are probably 3 - 4 miles away. The hill that was burning is not visible in the picture, but the line of flame extended a length beyond the roof of the house.

By  morning, the visible line of fire had moved to the right (or south) from 10:00 a.m. position to a 12:00 noon position, with the actual flames being closer to a 1:30 p.m. position (that was below our sight line). That's a 4-5 mile move overnight.

This morning, I have had several calls from people asking, "What can we do to help?" First, thank you for praying for us and reaching out to us. Clarke Cowden's piece on Presbyweb this morning is the best information on how to make a difference. We're still in the midst of this thing and it is too early to sort out specific needs from this position.

One last word: the firefighters, media, and government officials have been amazing. The lessons learned last time have clearly made a difference.