Wednesday, October 29, 2003

It's Wednesday. I've caught up.

Came into work and everything seemed fine by our house. A couple hours into the day, though, and all hell broke loose. Part of Interstate 5 (which I must take to get home) was close off by our house and there were major flare-ups around Six Flags Magic Mountain, a popular amusement park by our house.

Julie is freaking out just a little. And with good reason. I'm going to leave work early to fight traffic and try and get there to be with my family.

I feel terrible for my friend Tony. Today was the first day he said he felt like he had no confidence that their home would be spared. The fires in Lake Arrowhead are literally a hell on earth and there is no way they'll be able to stop those fires because there are just TOO many dead or dying trees up there. On top of that, the smoke has become too thick for planes to fly overhead and drop water/retardant. This is a tragedy.

I've sent out word to Robert (my running coach) to get his opinion about training. The mail has even been held up because it's unsafe for anyone to be outside walking around.

Needless to say, Vill and I had to cancel the final audio layback of "King's Highway". There is an optimistic part of me that says that all of this will pass and that soon everything will be restored as it was before. But then I look up at where Tony and Cindy live and I feel betrayed by those feelings. My stomach is turning as I write this.

I'm also a bit concerned about this trip back to Ohio. What if I can't go? And what version of the film will I be screening? These are meaningless in the grand scope of everything that is going on. I know.

Here is just a tidbit about what has happened today. This is from the LA TIMES website...


By Zeke Minaya, Mary MacVean and Marisa Lagos, Times Staff Writers

A firefighter was killed and two others were critically injured today while battling flames in the Cedar fire near the mountain community of Julian, northeast of the city of San Diego.

Meanwhile, in San Bernardino County, blazes were overtaking the Lake Arrowhead area and charging through miles of mountainous terrain around it. The fire was also approaching the city of Hesperia in the High Desert.

There were no official tallies, but as many as 300 homes in San Bernardino County were thought to have burned this afternoon alone, including in Cedarpines Park, Cedar Glen and Running Springs.

The San Diego death brings to 18 the number of people killed in the 10 wildfires that have ravaged about 900 square miles of Southern California in the past week. The Cedar fire, the most deadly, has claimed 12 lives so far. Assessment crews discovered one body this morning in the community of Alpine; the other 10 were discovered earlier in the week.

More than 2,000 structures have been consumed by flames in the four counties affected by the wildfires.

A San Diego Fire and Rescue spokeswoman said that she did not have details on today's casualty, but that the firefighters were not from a San Diego unit. Personnel from Julian, Del Gato, Sacramento, Montebello and Compton were also assisting in fighting the blaze.

About 3,330 firefighters have worked around the clock to keep the Cedar fire - which has devastated more than 233,000 acres of San Diego County - away from the historic downtown area of Julian, once a gold-mining town.

Authorities appeared optimistic this afternoon that they could save the small center of the town, but as many as 300 homes have been destroyed by flames in the surrounding area since the fire began its run in that direction two days ago.

But at 3 p.m., the winds were shifting and the fire was racing toward Julian and westward, in the direction of Ramona and Country View Estates.

In San Bernardino, blazes that entered Lake Arrowhead this morning were "engulfing the Lake Arrowhead area" by 3 p.m., said Carol Beckely of the US Forest Service.

With the situation so dire, there is not an accurate tally of destroyed structures, but she said close to 300 homes have burned this afternoon in the mountainous area.

Homes were also ablaze this afternoon in Cedarpines Park, west of Lake Arrowhead, and were approaching Hesperia to the north. There were no official estimates, but fire authorities said the damage in Cedarpines Park was comparable to that in Lake Arrowhead.

At 2:30, a fire had settled into the northeast corner of Lake Arrowhead. U.S. Forest Service spokesman Dennis Cross stood at the Mountains Community Hospital parking lot, warily surveying the plumes of dark smoke rising above the area.

"What's also troubling right now are these erratic winds," he said. "Some of them are blowing to the south. That's not good."

Cross was referring to the fact that there are more homes south of the fire. The fire was situated on the edge of a heavily populated area.

Several fires were also burning on the east side of the lake, about a mile from the shoreline.

Strike teams and sky-crane helicopters were attacking the flames.

The crews were drawing water from a Lake Arrowhead reservoir in order to fight the wind-driven flames, said U.S. Forest Service Spokesman Dennis Cross.

Evacuations have been ordered in more than 25 residential areas, including southern Hesperia, the Oak Hills-Summit Valley cluster, Telephone Canyon and Las Flores.

Overall, more than 900 buildings have succumbed to flames from the San Bernardino County blazes.

The fire is also rampaging in Cedar Pine Park, she said. "There is extensive damage there as well," Beckely said.

About 10 miles to the east of the lake, another flank of the Old fire was pinned down in the Santa Ana Canyon, held back from mountain resort towns in the Big Bear area.

Lake Arrowhead is nestled in a forest of pine, cedar and dogwood at an altitude of 5,100 feet, draws people year-round for camping, swimming and skiing.

Also today:

— Shortly before noon, authorities asked residents of Sunset Point, a neighborhood just south of Stevenson Ranch in northwestern Los Angeles County, to either leave or to stay inside - for safety and to keep out of firefighters' way. Fire closed in on homes along Interstate 5, which was closed in that area and where the thousands of homes in the Stevenson Ranch were built.

About six miles of Interstate 5 in Santa Clarita, a major north-south route, were closed for a few hours, but reopened this afternoon.

— Although the weather in Southern California continued to cool today, an increase in onshore winds prompted the National Weather Service to issue a "critical fire threat" in the foothill and mountain areas of the region early this afternoon.

Those winds, blowing from the west, were forecast to exceed 30 mph in the mountains on Thursday, which could render firefighting aircrafts ineffective.

— Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger was in Washington, D.C., a trip planned as a victory lap but transformed into a plea for aid in the fires.

Across the region, schools and businesses remained closed in many communities, as health authorities warned of the dangers of the poor-quality air. Thousands of people stayed in temporary shelters.

In San Diego, as 11 damage assessment teams fanned out throughout the county to record the destruction, officials said the number of homes destroyed by the Cedar and Paradise fires - about five miles apart this morning - is expected to exceed 1,200. Some areas were still considered too unsafe for damage assessment, officials said. A third fire, the Otay fire, was fully contained by this afternoon.

At least 30,000 customers were without utility service today in San Diego County, with some transmission lines expected to be fixed later in the day. Public safety officials also warned drivers that many traffic lights were out, and roads and guardrails were damaged all over the county.

More than 4,000 firefighters fought the blazes that stretched the length of the county, from Valley Center to the Mexican border. More than 300,000 acres have been blackened in San Diego County.

County Medical Examiner Glenn Wagner said he expected the county death toll to rise above the current 13 as investigators searched isolated pockets of destruction.

Ventura/Los Angeles

And the Los Angeles County Fire Department has 55 engines and hundreds of firefighters trying to halt the Simi fire, along with several aircraft that dump water.

The wind picked up today, gusting up to about 15 mph, giving momentum to a curtain of flames. Embers blew ahead of the fire and toward the larger development of Santa Clarita, which is northeast of Stevenson Ranch and about 35 miles from downtown Los Angeles. The best known landmark in the area is Six Flags Magic Mountain theme park.

Still, officials said they believe they can hold off the blaze. "We don't anticipate any homes going up in flames," said Edward Osorio, a county fire inspector.

Besides threatening homes, the fire at Stevenson Ranch endangered the Old Glory oak tree, where an activist spent 71 days nearly a year ago in an effort to save the tree from a road-widening project.

Times staff writers Faye Fiore, Louis Sahagun, Jesus Sanchez and Daryl Strickland contributed to this report.


I know that’s a lot for one entry, but I wanted to make sure this moment was recorded, somehow.

Let's pray for a better day tomorrow.


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