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Message #3506 of 3810  *NEW*
Smoke Story - photos taken during the So Cal Wildfires
10/25/07, 9:12am (Last Edited: 10/25/07, 9:44am)
All day Sunday Todd and I hunkered down inside because it was extremely windy outside and watched on TV the fires burning in Malibu and near Castaic Lake. On Monday morning I reported to work at the Mill Creek Ranger Station near Redlands, CA. On the drive to work I noticed a little bit of smoke coming up over the mountains in the vicinity of Lake Arrowhead. I hadn't heard about a fire up there yet and I dreaded the thought of something starting up there with the high winds we were experiencing. I must have passed at least a dozen overturned big rigs along the highways that morning.

I talked to my mom and dad who live near Escondido, CA north of San Diego. Mom couldn't get to work because they had closed I-15 due to a wildfire near Poway. Turns out that was a good thing because her work site was evacuated later that day. Dad at first headed to work but after passing a wildfire burning near Fallbrook he turned around and went home.

Around noon I got a call from my employee over at the Lytle Creek Ranger Station - they were being evacuated due to a fire at the base of Cajon Pass.

In the evening I was requested to work at the Devore CDF Station in support of the Cajon Fire, but I never made it. I was stuck in traffic on the 215 freeway for over 3 hours. They closed the freeway first for a wildfire burning near San Bernardino State University then later for downed power lines. I literally drove through the fire, it was still flaming on both sides of the 215 freeway as well as in the median as they started to let us through. But they weren't letting anyone through where the downed powerlines were so I eventually had to exit the freeway and drive home. On the way I passed thousands of cars stranded because of 215 and 15 being closed.

These are two photos I took while stuck in traffic that Monday evening...

I was up bright and early on Tuesday morning and again drove through a fire, this one burning at the 15 and 210 interchange. I snapped the following ominous photo of the sunrise through the smoke coming from the fires near Arrowhead from the Lytle Creek Ranger Station, which thank goodness is still standing. The Santa Clara/Mojave Rivers Ranger Station wasn't so lucky. It was destroyed by the fires near Castaic Lake.

On Tuesday I was able to make it to Devore, thank goodness, and I worked all day and into the evening in support of the IC on the Cajon Fire. This fire was to be 90% contained by the end of the day. But the fires up near Arrowhead were raging out of control. From the County Fire Station in Devore I snapped these shots.

In the morning on Tuesday the smoke was mostly blowing south but in the afternoon there was a distinct wind shift and the smoke started blowing west. It was about this time that I heard from my mom and dad. They had been evacuated and were preparing to leave.

About an hour afterwards my parents' mandatory evacuation order became a voluntary one and so they didn't leave and as of this morning still are there just north of Escondido.

On Wednesday I reported to work at Mill Creek. It was exceedingly smokey on the drive there but the station was clear... at first. Later it got very smokey and since we didn't have phones or internet we decided to close the station. I then headed to the Supervisor's Office in San Bernardino and worked at the main fire info line call center. Man, that was exhausting! Phone call after phone call, mostly from evacuees, wanting to know if there house was still standing and when they would be allowed back up there. As of Wednesday evening one of the fires up near Lake Arrowhead was 30% contained but the other was still at 0% containment.

This morning I woke up at a more reasonable hour and here are two photos I shot about an hour ago from the vicinity of North Fontana. This is looking towards San Bernardino, San Gorgonio, and San Jacinto Peaks.

Today I may go back to the call center to work again. I am worn out but very glad to be of any help that I can anywhere they want me to be. Back when the same thing happened in 2003 I felt so helpless that I couldn't be down here helping out, especially in San Diego where I spent the latter part of my childhood.

The mountains are calling and I must go. ~ John Muir ~ www.tarol.com

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