Archive for the ‘dance’ Category

Thomas Fire.

December 17, 2017

The Thomas Fire started on Mon, 4 Dec at 6:26PM. This is (mostly) a collection of emails I sent as the fire grew…

Tue 5 Dec

I was basically unaware of the fire. I went out for a long run up Arroyo Burro and into the backcountry to 19 Oaks Camp and back. When I set out I could see a long plume of smoke flowing down the SB channel and I remembered I’d heard talk of a fire in Ventura. The plume seemed odd, the smoke was moving east to west, yet the wind I felt blew west to east.

On the way home, I started smelling smoke when I was halfway up the back side of Arroyo Burro, reaching the top there was smoke all over SB, I guess the wind shifted just enough that it no longer blew out to sea.

Wed 6 Dec, 10AM: Fire Near(ish) SB

You may have heard about the Thomas Fire currently burning in Ventura. It is about 35 miles from here and we are in no danger except from asphyxiation. Even though surface winds blow west to east upper level winds blown east to west, so there is a huge plume of smoke blowing right over us (and dropping down on us), but the low level winds push the fire away. It’s weird.

The fire is driven by wind and low humidity. These are expected to be a their worst on Thursday and start to taper off on Friday. So the situation is only going to get worse for a few more days. But, again, it is very unlikely to get this far.

If you are interested the best summary, together with a map can be found:

(You need to click on the “+” button of the “Statewide Fire Map” several times before it actually gets down to a scale where you can see the fire perimeter)

Anyway, I’m safe. The doors and windows are closed and I have an air filter going.

Wed 6 Dec, 9:40PM: Re: Fire Near(ish) SB

Well, I’m not quite a sanguine as I was this morning. The fire has spread about 1/3 of the way toward us compared to where it was this morning, and the air quality is appalling. They are starting to evacuate Carpinteria, about 15 miles from SB.

Fri, 8 Dec, 10:40AM: Re: Smoke

I am fine. There is marginally less smoke today, but still a lot. “Unhealthy” conditions today instead of “Hazardous” and “Very Unhealthy” for yesterday. Fire maps show no growth in my direction, but I’m not sure how accurate they are since the fire fighters claim there has been growth…

Sat, 9 Dec, 8:15AM: Re: Smoke

As far as I can tell the fire has not progressed in my direction in the last two days. Air quality is about what it was yesterday, but better than two days ago (that is “really bad” but no longer “horrendous”). Weatherman predicts that the winds will change tonight and the smoke will die down. Ash on the roof looks a bit like a light dusting of snow.

I’m going to venture outside for the first time in three days. I have a sword dancing rehearsal to go to (performance is next week-end; I’m not ready).

Sun, 10 Dec, 6:45AM: Re: Smoke

Well. Last night half the town of Carpinteria was overrun by fire. That’s the first time fire has been found in SB county. Another branch of the fire has run along the ridge line of the mountains toward us and it’s even closer though up higher (so it may not want to go downhill?). In Ventura the fire was wind driven. In SB we have no winds. But the area the fire is in has not burned since the 60s so there’s a lot of fuel there. They are saying the fire is fuel-driven now. That may be encouraging as we’ve had lots of fires immediately around SB in the last few years so a fuel-driven fire should run out of fuel as it gets closer.

I hope.

Air quality remains about where it was yesterday.

I am neither required not requested to evacuate, but evacation areas are getting closer. I’m going running down near Malibu today with friends. Said to be clear air there.

Just south of Ventura, looking back

Looking northwest from the Santa Monica Mountains

Sun, 10 Dec, 8:15PM: Re: Smoke

Either I misread the map, or it was misleading. The town of Carp was not overrun. The fire is burning west but north of the cities. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that the evacuation areas have moved to within 2 miles north of my house. But as with the fire the evacuation zones keep moving west and not south. In other words we are hoping it will just leapfrog over us.

When I went running this morning I packed a bag of essentials (passport, wallet, change of clothes, toothbrush, etc.) just in case and brought it with me. People I ran with thought this was funny. One of them has been evacuated, and the other three are in evacuation warning zones. I’m not (so maybe they were right to laugh).

I have a bigger bag packed. The cat carrier is ready.

Nichol has room in her car for me (actually I may end up driving her son’s car for her (son is out of town somewhere)).

I would like to leave town if I get evacuated, but I have this wretched sword dancing thing. The performance in which we play a small part is next week-end. I keep hoping it will be canceled, but as yet that has not happened so I must stay. I know one member of our sword dancing group at least has been evacuated.

Every morning the weather forecast claims the wind will die down that evening, and every evening they update it to the following evening. I’m starting to believe the winds will never die and the fire will burn all the way west to the ocean.

Air quality remains “Unhealthy”.

Mon, 11 Dec, 6:50AM: Re: Smoke

No fresh disasters. Things are much as the were last night. Last night that was terrifying; this morning I’m just glad it is no worse.

I find I did not mis-read the fire map yesterday morning. Other people saw Carp covered with fire icons. The map apparently is not very accurate.

The fire has grown to 230,000 acres, making it the second biggest blaze in SB county. The biggest is the Zaca Fire which grew to 240,000 acres, but it took two months. This blaze has been going for 6½ days. The Zaca fire is California’s fourth largest recorded fire, and the Thomas fire (this one) is listed as fifth.

Adger, if I were to leave town, I would really leave. You have to go fairly far to find breathable air at the moment. I have no car. I’m not going to bike that far in this muck. The train doesn’t go to LA any more (route closed by fire), and the northbound route does not work for evening rehearsals.

Tue, 12 Dec, 7:30AM: Re: Smoke

Yesterday the fire grew by 4000 acres, while the day before it grew by 40,000 acres. So yesterday wasn’t as bad, but 4000 acres is a very respectable size fire, the Tea Fire in 2008 was half that size. So relative to itself it grew slowly, relative to most things it grew by a huge amount.

The fire maps do not show many hot spots at the moment.

Air quality remains “Unhealthy”. We had a couple of hours yesterday where air quality was “Unhealthy for sensitive groups” (which is better), but then things got worse again. The National Weather Service shows the smoke clearing on Wednesday, the Air quality board says Friday. I don’t know if either of those predictions can be relied on.

The problem is the wind. For the last week we’ve had hot, dry, desert “Santa Ana” winds blowing on the fire, this is what has spread it. The winds had calmed yesterday (they may pick up today) but they have not gone away. Today’s high is supposed to be 80F, humidity is 15% at the coast, inland much less. Even without wind the fire will keep chugging along. The Air Quality Board says we’ll get off-shore winds (cool, damp) on Friday. If true, that should help turn things around. But Friday is a long way off.

Normally Santa Ana events don’t last this long.

One of the people in my sword dance group has been evacuated. He’s an artist with a beautiful house filled with his paintings and far up a canyon. He was able to visit his house yesterday and helped firemen hose things down and remove more of his work. He seemed quite cheerful last night (more cheerful than I think I would have been). He thought his house would be safe — unless the wind picked up.

A canyon can act like a chimney in high winds, and funnel the fire through it.

They say the fire is 20% contained (yesterday it was 10%, the day before 15%). So some progress is being made.

I continue to think that it is unlikely the city will burn, there are thousands of firemen protecting it, and the fire is not moving downslope (whether that’s winds or human action I have no idea). No additional evacuations have been promulgated since Sunday (none has been lifted though).

Two of the trails I run have burned up, and some of a third.

Around SB the fire is entering the burn scars of previous fires, and that should slow it down (less fuel). The same is true at the northern edge (different fires of course).

So I guess we wait for Friday. And hope

Wed, 13 Dec, 8:15AM: Re: Smoke

Yesterday the wind picked up in the morning and then calmed in the afternoon. The air quality started as “Unhealthy”, climbed to “Very Unhealthy” in the early afternoon, dropped to “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” around 5 and then climbed back to “Unhealthy” at bedtime. Unusually for us the PM10 (big particles) was also “Unhealthy”, usually it’s just been “PM2.5” (small particles).
(When I say the wind picked up– SB has always been calm, we haven’t seen any wind in this wind driven fire, but the hills above get windy (I guess))
The farmers’ market was canceled yesterday.
The fire grew by 3000 acres. The fire is now 25% contained. The weather forecast shows no chance of rain for the next 9 days (including today) and only 5% chance on the 22nd. (That’s as far out as the forecast goes).
My sword-dancing friend was much less cheerful. Last he had heard the fire was heading toward his house, and although firemen were building a fire break around his neighborhood they didn’t know if they’d be successful or not.

This morning, for the first time in more than a week, I can see blue sky when looking west, and the mountains are clear (looking North). Looking East all is grim. The air appears clear for once. However the small particle concentration remains “Unhealthy” although the large particle concentration has dropped to “Moderate”.
No new evacuations. No old evacuations lifted.
Last night we moved into the theater and, for the first time, I made sense of most of the play of which we form a small part. It is based on an event mentioned in Dana’s “Two Years Before the Mast”, the wedding of Doña Anita de la Guerra de Noriego y Corillo in January 1836.
Dana spends 2 paragraphs on this event (He spends almost as much text describing the difficultly on landing a rowboat against the Santa Barbara surf). Somehow this has been blown up into a full play.
Our play does not follow Dana’s account closely. In the book they land in January, in the play on the winter solstice. He describes how badly the women of Santa Barbara dance, and how the American sailors will not dance at all. Somehow this has morphed into the Barbarians dancing well, and Dana and the captain too. Dana says there were no other ships in SB harbor, yet in the play a Scottish ship lands a bunch of mummers and 6 sword dancers.
The leads do not yet know their lines (we open Friday), at least one of our cast members has been evacuated to LA by his parents. The theater’s box office has been closed because of the fire, a quarter of the city is evacuated, who is going to come to the show?
We sword dancers seem to me to be competent in our bit.

I suppose one good thing about the play is that it got me to skim through “Two Years” again just to refresh my memory. Dana’s first description of SB seems awfully appropriate:

“In the middle of this crescent, directly opposite the anchoring ground, lie the Mission and town of Santa Barbara, on a low plain, but little above the level of the sea, covered with grass, though entirely without trees, and surrounded on three sides by an amphitheatre of mountains, which slant off to the distance of fifteen or twenty miles. The Mission stands a little back of the town, and is a large building, or rather collection of buildings, in the centre of which is a high tower, with a belfry of five bells. The whole, being plastered, makes quite a show at a distance, and is the mark by which vessels come to anchor. The town lies a little nearer to the beach,— about half a mile from it,— and is composed of one-story houses built of sun-baked clay, or adobe, some of them whitewashed, with red tiles on the roofs. I should judge that there were about a hundred of them; and in the midst of them stands the Presidio, or fort, built of the same materials, and apparently but little stronger. The town is finely situated, with a bay in front, and an amphitheatre of hills behind. The only thing which diminishes its beauty is, that the hills have no large trees upon them, they having been all burnt by a great fire which swept them off about a dozen years ago, and they had not yet grown again. The fire was described to me by an inhabitant, as having been a very terrible and magnificent sight. The air of the whole valley was so heated that the people were obliged to leave the town and take up their quarters for several days upon the beach.”

Wed, 13 Dec

The problem with packing essentials into an evacuation bag is that the things are, well, essential. I keep taking them out to use them.

I decided to check my HEPA filter, so I opened up the machine and found the filter was still wrapped in its plastic bag. Oops.

Thur, 14 Dec, 8:30AM: Re: Smoke

Yesterday the wind picked up (again) and we were (again) in “Red Flag” territory (most dangerous fire conditions). Or rather, SB didn’t but Ventura did and the fire did. The fire grew by 5000 acres, it is now the fourth biggest wildfire recorded in California since size estimates began in the ’30s. (The top 5 biggest wildfires have all been after 2000, which suggests a link to climate change right there, the 6th biggest was in 1932).
Fire is said to be 30% contained.
Evacuation conditions are unchanged.

Yesterday the sky was blue for the first time in 10 days, when I woke the low level air was also clear, but it became murkier as the day went on. Air quality continued “Unhealthy” in spite of blue skies.
This morning I woke to blue skies, murky lower air (can’t see the mountains) and an air quality which is merely “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups”.
Having bluish skies makes it feel that things are better, even if the intangible air quality is not.

Last night at rehearsal we were warned how to behave if the power went out during a performance (The fire makes this a distinct possibility, we keep having minor outages erratically — and we haven’t had a major outage for a week, but high winds+fire makes that a possibility too).

The air quality board continues to predict that the air will improve Friday. Maybe….

Thur, 14 Dec, 11:47PM: Re: Smoke


The house pictured in the above article is the house of my sword dancing friend. There is an extremely impressive blaze behind it. Luckily that blaze was set as a backburn by fire fighters, but I didn’t realize that when I first saw the picture. Rather frightening that.

Fri, 15 Dec, 8:00AM: Re: Smoke

As predicted, the winds picked up again yesterday and so did the fire. The winds are supposed to be bad again today (Another Red Flag day in Ventura).

The fire grew by 10,000 acres yesterday. That one day growth is more than the total size of many past wildfires here. The fire is said to have burned 252,500 acres. That’s almost 400 square miles. Another day like that and this will be the third largest recorded burn in California.

No new evacuations. No evacuations lifted near me.

Air quality remains “Unhealthy”
On a happier note, I made a (poor) video of our sword-dance rehearsal last night.

I had to set it up long before we entered so I didn’t realize how overexposed our white shirts were. I’m fifth in line, in case you can’t tell.

I know I’ve been down on the play, but I find I’m kind of proud of our little dance. I’d be much more cheerful about the whole thing if it weren’t in the middle of this fire…

Fri, 15 Dec

Blue skies and ashes got me down,
And the wheat straw in the wind keeps burning upward bound.
Miles full of charcoal stumps is all I’ve found
And the smog says you may not move along.

Sat, 16 Dec, 8:30AM: Re: Smoke

This morning the air quality was predicted to be “Good”, but turned out to be “Moderate”. That’s still better than it has been and better than it is supposed to be for the next few days so I went out for a run. The sky was clear, and the PM2.5 below the federal standard, but I still wore a mask (I doubt it does anything, but one feels better). To the east and south was a black cloud of smoke, which I guess is blown out into the SB channel at the moment. As I was running I noticed a huge plume of smoke rise in the mountains above Montecito.
Now there are two explanations I can think of for this either 1) The wind changed and the firefighters were able to set a backburn, or 2) The wind changed and the fire escaped its containment line and is off and running again.
As I ran I watched the smoke climb and then start blowing south. When I got back home I collected my camera and ran out again. It looked more like a cloud at this point.

Yesterday the fire grew another 7000 acres making it the 3rd biggest California wildfire since 1932. Containment was up to 40% (that was before the smoke plume). Air quality still “Moderate”.

The winds are supposed to pick up (again) tomorrow. The LA times has started speculating that this fire may grow to be the biggest ever in California. Just great.

Sat, 16 Dec, 8:39AM: Re: Smoke

Not a backburn. They’ve just issued a new manditory evacuation for the rest of Montecito.

Sat, 16 Dec, 11:20AM: Re: Smoke

After I got back from my run my phone (which has no SIM card and no service contract) rang to let me know that Montecito was being evacuated. I stopped what I was doing and rushed off to the farmers’ market.
The market was going to be open today, but with these new evacuations I figured some of the vendors might need to leave. And I really needed to go because it had been closed on Tuesday and between the fire and Christmas/New Years I wasn’t sure if there would be any other markets for weeks.
For once there was wind. Very gusty, but very strong. All the old ash was blowing into my eyes as I biked.
I got there and about half the vendors were missing, a quarter of the others were packing up to leave (the market had just opened, but the smoke was now over this part of the city and you could see the mountains burning). So I rushed through before people left (One farmer kindly unpacked a box which she had just repacked so I could get raisins. I got 8lb of raisins, just in case :-). There were very few customers too. Everyone was wearing masks. I bought more than I usually do, partly stocking up, partly because I wanted to support the farmers who were there. Frozen stew beef will keep… Farmers also had less produce than they usually do, as one guy explained last Saturday, “The workers had to spend half their time fighting fires rather than picking”.
Riding back home was strange. Downtown the light was orange the sun hidden by smoke, the hourly air quality had shot up from “Moderate” to “Hazardous”. Wind was gusting all over. But the smoke plume didn’t go over my house, there’s no wind here, and I’m guessing AQI is still moderate. (I’m halfway between the Goleta and SB AQ monitoring stations, one reads “Hazardous”, the other “Moderate”)
I let the cat out for the first time in weeks. He wasn’t interested. Poked his nose out the door and came back inside.

As far as I know our performances are on for this afternoon and evening, which will take me back into the smoke. So much for what was supposed to be the day with the best air quality in weeks.

Sat, 16 Dec, 11:30AM: Re: Smoke

More evacuations. Mandatory evacuations within 2~3 miles, voluntary evacuations within a mile. Time to repack my bag.

I seem to be in a little island while all around me is under voluntary evacuation warnings. Someone suggested this was because they really don’t want to evacuate Cottage Hospital. I’m not sure how I feel about that. It might be good: Protecting Cottage is a high priority. It might be bad: We should have been evacuated but weren’t because evacuating Cottage would be too difficult.

Sat, 16 Dec, 12:30PM

View out the back door.

Sat, 16 Dec, 12:50PM: Re: Smoke

The theater is under a voluntary evacuation (this is downtown SB, I would not have thought it) and performances for this weekend have been canceled. They say “postponed”, but I’m not happy at the thought of wasting another week-end on this show.

Now the question is should I leave, and if so, how, and where.

I still believe that the fire is soon going to bump against the burn scars of two old fires in another mile or two and that there will be far less fuel for it there. The air quality at my house is (currently) pretty good, all the nasty smoke is blowing out to sea in a haze to the east of me. The current winds are supposed to die down this evening. At the moment I think I’ll stay.

Sat, 16 Dec, 1:30PM

Sun, 17 Dec, 7:30AM: Re: Smoke

After yesterday’s excitement everything seems to have calmed today. Last night when I went to bed I could see flames (well, patches of light, too far to see individual flames) on the mountain. When I got up this morning at 6 I could not. At first I assumed that meant there was a lot of smoke, but now, at 7 I see that the air is relatively clear and the air quality is only “Unhealthy for sensitive groups” which is better than I expected (better than it has been).
The fire grew by 10,000 acres yesterday, most of it right above me. Another day like that and the Thomas Fire will be the biggest fire in California since 1932 (there was probably a bigger one in 1889, but size estimates weren’t very exact back then, so they don’t count it). The map below shows the stages of growth of the fire:
Thomas Fire growth

In spite to yesterday’s growth, the fire remains at 40% containment. I’ve always assumed that this number reflected the percentage of the perimeter that was protected, but I’m beginning to doubt that. Not sure what else it could be though.

There used to be 6 trails within an hour’s bike of my house, there was a seventh about an hour and a half away. The furthest one burnt up about a week ago. Four days ago another burnt. Yesterday two more burnt. I talked to a Forest Service guy yesterday and he didn’t think there would be any way to stop the other three going up (the containment line that burned up yesterday was the last good spot). Of course it all depends on the winds. Today the winds have switched again and SB is calm while Ventura is windy. In the last 13 days, every day has had a “Red Flag” event either here or in Ventura. That turns out to be a record run. Unfortunately the forecast is that this will just continue. Forecast shows no chance of rain until Christmas Eve, when the chance is only 20% (and the way long range forecasts go that will probably evaporate into 0% by tomorrow).
If all the trails do burn up, I’m not sure what I would do if I were to stay here. It’s easy to say I should leave (I probably should) but where would I like to live?
Ironically I just signed up for another term of pottery last week.
Last night I was fairly sure I should evacuate too (I was assuming today would be all over smoke and fire again), today everything seems calm and peaceful. If I were to leave all the native plants I planted a month ago would dry up in their pots.
Easy to say “Away” harder to say “To”. Where could I go that will take me and my cat? Could I rent a car in SB now? Would they let me drop it off in LA or SLO if I did so? The train claims that it has resumed service here (starting yesterday, so I wonder if they changed their mind and haven’t posted it). Amtrak says it takes pets on (most) trips under 7 hours. Or I could just grab a ride with Nichol, but she isn’t ready to leave yet. She has 2 dogs and 2 cats so her pet problems are worse than mine.
No answers.

I am safe and at home this morning.

Mon 18 Dec, 8:15AM Re: Smoke

Yesterday was all blessedly calm. As is this morning. No sign of any hotspots near SB on the fire maps. Fire grew by 1,500 acres yesterday (OK that’s almost as big as the Tea fire, but it’s tiny for this fire). Evacuations unchanged.
Air quality… Well the air quality site is having problems. All I could get is the hourly air quality for Goleta (which was “good”). Goleta AQ has been slightly better, on average, than SB (unless a plume of smoke was directed at one or the other, but no smoke plumes today), so I’m guessing that SB is at worst “moderate”.
I went out for a short run again this morning (with mask).
Bright, sunny day. 10day forecast shows no chance of rain ever.
We have had no rain for more than a month. 85% of Decembers are wetter than this. 97% of years (Sept-now) are wetter than this.

Current rainfall is the dark line at the bottom. Mean rainfall is the blue line, median the green.

Over the week-end three performances of ours were canceled. They have decided to reschedule us for Tuesday night (Theater fully booked next week-end). The theater is in an evacuation zone — OK, if the weather continues as it has been these last two days that fact is irrelevant — but it is ironic.
But I did have some other plans for Tues eve, that’s when we have the final kiln opening of the year — unless it gets canceled.

Mon 18 Dec, 5:00PM

A real sunset, no smoke.

Tue 19 Dec, 6:30AM Re: Smoke

Yesterday was another calm clear day. The evacuation for downtown SB was lifted, and some coastal evacuations were lifted in Montecito. Hourly air quality fluctuated between “Good” and “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” with the 24 hour average at “Moderate”. No hot spots near SB. One hot spot on the back side of our mountains, but it went out.
Fire grew by 1000 acres, from the looks of things mostly north of Ojai. Fire map shows a large new burn northwest of Ojai that might be a spot fire connected to Thomas, or might be its own thing (or, possibly, is an illusion of the fire map).
Containment is at 50%.
Weather forecast says SB will have a “Fire watch” on Wednesday night. With luck things will have died down enough that this will not cause another growth spurt.
10 day forecast shows no chance of rain. Coastal areas to get fog tonight, don’t know if that will extend to the fire, or to how much it will extend.

I think I shall stop sending daily updates now. I’ll send an update if something happens, but don’t worry if you don’t hear anything tomorrow morning (rather, worry if you do).

Thu 21 Dec, 6:30AM, Re: No Smoke

Yesterday the wind picked up (again). It was by far the windiest day at my house. The fear was that this would stir up embers which might jump containment lines. This did not happen. Technically we are still under a red flag warning for another few hours but it is now calm (here anyway).
The fire maps show no hot spots near SB. There are a few on the north and east sides. Unfortunately the wind, which is dying in SB is supposed to pick up in Ventura and may cause those spots to grow. They are far from any cities.
Air quality is “Good”.

Tuesday night we had our rescheduled performance. It was almost full, which surprised me. The city is still half evacuated, and can people change plans on one or two days notice? It was trying to squeeze ticket holders of three performances into one, which must have caused interesting problems in the box office (glad I didn’t have that job). Our dance lacked a little flair, I thought, but had no major flaws.
The show is called “The Revels”, and at the end, back in our changing room I said “Our revels now are ended”, but no one caught the reference. I’d been waiting for months to say that…
When I came out there was condensation on my bike. That meant there was finally some humidity in the air, I hoped that would keep the fire down.
Yesterday morning (long before the wind picked up) I looked at the fire map — no hot spots, checked the air quality — good, checked the humidity — high, checked the wind — none. I’d only be out for an hour or two, there wouldn’t be time for the fire to jump that far. It seemed safe. I decided to go out for a trail run.

Small Wirelettuce

The run I did was mostly in a mandatory evacuation zone, but I was more concerned about whether it was safe. I went by one house on the run, and saw the inhabitants drive up, so they thought it was safe too. I got up and back safely.
But some of my friends later pointed out that it was immoral to go for a run though a mandatory evac when there were people who could not go home. That way of looking at things hadn’t occurred to me, and I still don’t really grasp it.

10 day forecast shows no chance of rain.

Thu 21 Dec, 9:400AM

All evacuation orders for SB county lifted.

Fri 22 Dec, 7:00PM

Thomas fire becomes the largest fire in California since reliable records began in 1932.

Sat 23 Dec

Dust the rooves with flecks of ashes
Fa la la la la, la la la la
All around the high wind dashes
Fa la la la la, la la la la

Don we now our HEPA sashes
Fa la la la la, la la la la
While we watch the fire’s flashes.
Fa la la la la, la la la la

Fear a blazing Yule before me,
Fa la la la la, la la la la
Pack the bag and then I must flee.
Fa la la la la, la la la la

Now back home in merry measure,
Fa la la la la, la la la la
While I tell of Yule-tide treasure.
Fa la la la la, la la la la

Sun 24 Dec, 4:00PM

Signs went up at all local trails (even those untouched by fire) announcing that they were closed.
Before the signs were posted, I hiked up to look at the burn on Cold Spring trail

This tree still smoldered.

In some places the fire cleared the undergrowth, leaving a park-like appearance

Other places landslides covered the trail

Or trees covered the trail

Nothing left

There used to be two signs here, one made of wood. You can see the hardware that held it up. The other made of ¿fiberglass? You can see the fibers

These yucca plants look like Buddhist wats to me. (They aren’t dead)

(Non-native trees)

Bobcat I think. I wonder what s/he’ll find to eat. There were a few birds, but not much else

I assume this is bobcat scent-marking to proclaim territory. Who would want this territory now? Ringtail lemurs were very territorial in rich environments, but didn’t bother in poor ones.

Panorama from the top of Montecito Peak

Hydrophobic soil. This drop of water (about 1ml) stayed on the ground for several minutes before being absorbed.

One bloom on the entire trail. This bush poppy somehow escaped the blaze.

Common Kingsnake

Mon 26 Dec

On the ninth day of Christmas the climate sent to me
Nine closéd trails,
Eight choked streams,
Seven barren hillsides,
Six wandering deer,
Five golden embers,
Four croaking ravens,
Three starved lynx,
Two charred stumps,
And a wildfire on a burned land.

Wed 27 Dec

A sense of scale… At 440 square miles the Thomas Fire has burned roughly a tenth of the combined area of Ventura (1840 mile²) and Santa Barbara (2740 mile²) counties.

Fri 29 Dec, 7:00PM Re: No Smoke

Today they officially reopened the trails which were not touched by fire. So I went out for a run.
(The trails may be supposed to be open, but they still have signs saying they are closed)
It was a very hot day. My cell has a thermometer and I had it recording. It got as high as 96 on one occasion. Moderately dry too 15-30% humidity.
The fire flared up again (not surprisingly), but well within containment lines. I saw no smoke. First I knew of it was on my way home I kept seeing helicopters, and as I drew closer to the end of the run I realized that the copters were flying to the settling basin for the water treatment plant (which is at the end of the trail). As I unlocked my bike I watched a copter drop a bucket down into the water and take off again. Impressive control. Bucket on end of long string.
As far as I can tell this isn’t a danger and things like this are to be expected.
Rather a shock though.
(First contra dance in weeks tonight!)

God rest you wary, gentlemen
Lest fire you dismay.
Remember Tom, destroyer,
Was born Saint Clement’s day
To burn us all with his great ire,
If we should hike astray.
O tidings of sorrow and fear, sorrow and fear,
O tidings of sorrow and fear.

Wed, 3 Jan, 9:15AM: Before the feast of the Epiphany

Thomas, king of fires by far,
Bearing flames I traverse afar,
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
Driven by yon zephyr.

O flame of terror, flame at night,
Flame with dang’rous beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Raze all to thy perfect blight.

Smoke is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes a life of gathering gloom;
Coughing, choking, burning, smoking,
Trapped in a flaming tomb.


Charcoal stumps to offer have I;
Havoc shows the world’s awry;
Blackening, razing, the air hazing,
Flee from me, flame most high.


Born a blaze on Ventura’s plain
Golden flames shall crown me again,
King forever, burning ever,
Over you all to flame.


Tue, 9 Jan 7:00AM; Mudslides

(I’m fine, I’m not in a drainage basin that the fire touched)

The weather forecast was predicting a big storm for yesterday and so they issued evacuation warnings because of the danger of mudslides from lots of rain on hillsides denuded of vegetation. Sunday they said we’d get three inches of rain on Monday. But we only got a quarter inch. Then overnight we got an inch. Not what was predicted, but enough that it caused mudslides in areas directly south of the fire’s perimeter, it even closed the freeway last night. We are supposed to get more rain today.
So we need rain to put the fire out and to cause the vegetation to regrow, but it also causes erosion until the vegetation has regrown.
Mudslide article

On the fourth day of Epiphany the Magi gave to me,
One massive mudslide,
A little rain,
A little fog,
And a new evacuation order.

Wed, 10 Jan 7:00AM; Mudslides

Report from emergency services on Montecito (I’m not in Montecito and am fine)

Montecito Flood Update 4:30PM Tuesday Jan 9

There are now 13 confirmed deaths (both adults and children) with at least 20 still missing and unaccounted for.

At least several dozen homes have been destroyed

The rainfall between 3:00 AM and 4:00 AM Tuesday morning exceeded all predictions.

In 5 minutes over 1/2“ fell and in 15 minutes .86” fell and this overwhelmed the capacity of flood channels between Cold Springs Canyon and Toro Canyon and brought debris across the freeway and railroad tracks and to beach in several areas¹

Health risks abound in the storm water areas so stay out of the water if possible, including the ocean

The main water lines for Montecito Water have been compromised so all Montecito Water must be boiled before being potable

Some portions of the Montecito Area will be designated a “rescue area” where all unauthorized persons will be arrested.

The mandatory evacuation zones are fluid but anyone in an exposed area who has not yet evacuated should evacuate now!

Some 30 or so people remain trapped (but safe for now) in Romero Canyon

¹ This statement turns out to be misleading. The two rainfall measurements occurred in different places. In the hills above Montecito .5″ fell in 5 minutes, while in Carp .86″ fell in 15. So take the rest of the quote with a grain of salt

The rain stopped yesterday afternoon. I went down to the farmers’ market which was about 1/3 its normal size. I had not realized how many vendors came from the east and south.
The 101 freeway remains blocked with 3ft of mud, I think for miles. Any alternate routes also appear to be blocked. To get from Carpinteria to SB (normally a drive of a dozen miles or so) is now more than 200 having to go to the extreme north of the county to find an open east-west route. And the 100 mile drive from LA has trebled in length. Cottage hospital has rented a local whale watching boat to ferry its employees from Ventura to SB and will put them up in a hotel until the freeway opens again (I can’t find any guesses as to when that might be.
I live right next to Cottage, and all day there was a constant stream of life-flight copters ferrying people from the mudslide to the hospital (ambulances could not get into the mud). My housemate (a nurse at Cottage) came home exhausted and is working an extra shift today.

Wed, 10 Jan

I went out on my bike to see how close I could get (legally) to the mudslides. I found that near the mountains I could get right up to the western edge (within 100 feet or so of Cold Spring trail), but near the beach (or, perhaps more accurately, near the freeway) there were barricades and police about half a mile out.

This used to be where Mountain Dr. crossed Cold Spring creek. It used to be the Cold Spring trail head. The road is gone, the trail is gone, many trees are gone and the lay of the land is altered.

Mud, mud, dangerous mud
Nothing quite like it for making a flood,
So follow me, follow,
‘Way from the hollow
Lest we should swallow,
That dangerous mud.

Nothing really to do with the Thomas Fire (because I could not get close enough to see anything), but this is what our beaches look like after a storm: Littered with shipwrecks (I found 3 in a half mile), and with several feet of sand washed away leaving cliffs at the high tide line.

Thu, 11 Jan

Amtrak reopens train service to LA. And the whale watching companies offer ferry service to Ventura (but not very frequently).

Fri, 12 Jan

Fire said to be fully contained today.

The freeway will not reopen on Monday as originally hoped. It seems that Montecito creek has rerouted itself and is now flowing into the freeway (rather than under it). This means there is more water on the freeway than there was right after the flood. They need to find where the creek goes astray, and return it to its original route before they can do much with the freeway. Noozhawk article.

Sun, 21 Jan

101 freeway reopens after 2 weeks of work.

Wed, 23 May

US Forest Service announces it will reopen trails in the closed area on 24 May. Forest Service

Thu, 24 May

County/City of SB announce the re-closure of Cold Spring trail. Oh well.

Fri 1 June

“Los Padres National Forest officials today announced the Thomas Fire has been declared out. Work continues however, as crews and equipment repair roads, trails and fences damaged by the fire and by suppression actions. There have not been any hot spots detected within the fire perimeter for more than two months.” — Edhat

I wonder why the burn area was opened a week before the fire was declared out?

Mon 7 Aug

Before Thomas, the record for the largest fire was the Cedar fire of San Diego in Oct 2003, before that it was held by the Matilija fire in 1932. After Thomas the record for the largest fire was set by the Mendocino Complex on Aug 2018.
71 years from Matilija to Cedar
14 years from Cedar to Thomas
<1 year from Thomas to Mendocino


Sword Dancing 1

October 17, 2017

Back in August the local sword-dancing group asked me to join them, one of their number was ill and they needed a sixth man. We had our first practice last night (~2 months later).

In the interim I worried. I worried about dancing while waving an object designed to kill people. They tried to reassure me that the swords were not sharp. But that still left open the possibility of bludgeoning someone. Or being blogeoned by someone… To say nothing of my own inability to keep track of my feet when dancing— after the third waltz count I am lost— suppose I thrust my sword out at the wrong time, in the wrong place…

Our first practice took place at the home of one of our number, who turned out to be an artist, and who had us practice in his studio. Which added another worry… slicing up one of his canvases by mistake.

The “broadswords” in question turned out to be tongues of steel about 3 feet long, one inch wide and maybe 3mm thick. The edges were smoothly beveled, and it was a pointy as a spoon. No fuller, no guard, and a wooden grip. I stopped worrying about cutting someone…

The dance (or the bits of it that we practiced) consisted of moving at a fast walk, often in circles making interesting patterns with the swords which interlocked in various ways.

I still feel a bit like a rabbit in headlights, but I think it will be fun.

Oh, I did not seriously injure anyone, or any canvas. A sword did slip out of my hand once and bop someone on the head (OK, I kind of dropped it), but he wasn’t harmed.

My wrist isn’t used to holding a sword. It ached a bit.