P81104K.JPGWhat a surprise. There was none when I went in to use the computer as the sun came up into a clear blue sky this morning. When I came outside just a few hours later, it was everywhere. It was so thick and so aromatic that it was obviously very close, but it did not smell like it was in the ponderosa pines around Scott’s Valley where I happened to be at the time. Once I got on the road back to Felton, I could see that besides the monochromatic ambient smoke that obscured the surrounding hills, a prominent and much thicker brown cloud of smoke hovered low over the San Lorenzo Valley. The smoke was even thicker in Felton, and obscures the range to the west where Bonny Doon is. As I write this in Felton Covered Bridge Park, ash is falling onto the computer screen.
The fire has apparently been burning since last night in the Pogonip, closer to Santa Cruz, and is now contained. Paradise Park has been evacuated. Highway 9 is closed between here and there. Sirens announce the arrivals and departures of firetrucks as they migrate into town from the south on Highway 9, and back south toward Santa Cruz on Graham Hill Road and Mount Hermon Road, as if even they can not get through on Highway 9. Heavy helicopters can be heard but not seen off to the south. A cumbersome airplane is circling the area.
There is not much of a breeze. It seems as if it has not gotten as warm as predicted for today. The smoke and sirens sets the mood. It is not good, even though we know that the fire is contained.
Fire is part of life here. Clear cut harvesting of redwood more than a century ago allowed more combustible specie to proliferate over the area and among the redwoods as they recover and regenerate. The forest is now more combustible than it has ever been, but can not be allowed to burn with so many of us living here. Without burning, it becomes more combustible.

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30 thoughts on “Smoke!

  1. Oh, no — the season never ends these days! I hope there’s a lake nearby to fill those heavy helicopters, which are probably water droppers — and I hope the cumbersome airplane is carrying a load of Phos-chek! The thick brown smoke means active burning — hopefully you have heard that the fire is contained or will be soon. It’s a vicious cycle we’re in! Best wishes — and stay safe!

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    1. The fire is contained to a relatively small area. The smoke seems to be concentrated here in the Valley.
      Since posting this though, there was news of another fire just a few miles away, outside of Scott’s Valley, literally a block or so from where I was when I came outside to see all the smoke. It is also contained, within just about three acres. This is supposedly the third suspicious fire within a day. I do not know what the first fire was.

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      1. That’s not a good sign. While I’m glad that the 3 fires were contained quickly, I also hope they can stop what/whoever is starting them before a larger fire gets going! Stay safe, and best wishes!

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      2. Sadly, on one of our local Facebook pages, the local homeless Community is already being blamed for the fire. There has been at least one arsonist active in the region for quite a while, and we all know it, but the homeless still get blamed. No one ever bothers to mention when an arsonist or other sort of criminal happens to live in a home, and then deduce that all people who live in homes are such criminals.

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      3. That is unfortunate — there have been several fires in this general area that began in homeless encampments, not deliberately, but unattended cigarettes or campfires. There are so many other ways that fires begin, and so many other places arsonists might show up that it’s really not fair to blame the homeless without specific proof!

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      4. It saddens me more that there are those who harass and pursue the homeless for sport, and compel them to live farther out into the forests where fires are more likely, and more difficult to contain once they get going. They are the same who complain about problems such as this, rather than trying to provide safer situations in less combustible regions.

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      5. Unfortunately, the “homeless problem” has been allowed to grow into a difficult issue that has no easy solutions, and few good ones. It seems to be one that must be solved differentially on an individual basis, which is something we are not good at doing.

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      6. The ‘homeless problem’ was not ‘allowed’ to grow. It just did. In our region, there are only more homeless people because there are more people. What I mean is that the homeless populations is still only about 1% of the population, but now that there are twice as many people living in and around town, there are twice as many homeless people. We are very fortunate that our Community is so remarkably compassionate. However, there are a few haters who make things worse than they really are. . . . . Well, this is material for a completely different blog, which I may write someday. Our Facebook page has been quite insightful for those interested in the local homeless Community.

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      7. Yes, definitely material for a different blog post! I hope the homeless are not responsible for your fires — the important thing is that the fires are put out, and that the cause is identified and dealt with appropriately before people are put at risk along with more of your beautiful forests!

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      8. The steep terrain justified the process of letting it just burn itself out. Sadly, a few secondary redwoods (that grew from the stumps of harvested trees) fell as the old stumps smoldered out from under them. Falling trees made it very dangerous for anyone to get close.

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      9. Firefighting has become a true science! I’m sorry to hear that trees were lost, but glad it was a small fire that could burn itself out! Hopefully there won’t be more!

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      10. There has been considerable arson activity here recently. An arsonist was apprehended in the same region just a few days ago, and then several small fires were set in the few days afterward.

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  2. As you were listing the increasing number of fires, my thought was of an arsonist. There have been a few this year. If there’s any good news, it may be that increased awareness will lead to an arrest, if an arsonist is the cause. Beyond that, you’re certainly right about the rock-and-a-hard-place nature of the situation regarding fuel and fire.

    I follow Cal Fire on Twitter, which is a good way to keep abreast of news, and the San Jose Mercury News posted a good article with a map.

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    1. There had been a few small fires like these through the worst part of fire season here. An arsonist had been suspected prior to the fires that burned today. A home in Mount Hermon burned recently as well. It too is thought to have been ignited by an arsonist, although not likely related to the fires that developed out in the forests.

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