Fireplaces and wood stoves simply are not as common as they were only a few decades ago. Because of modern building codes, most that get damaged by earthquakes get removed or replaced by pellet stoves. The orchards that once provided so much inexpensive firewood while they were being cleared for urban development are now gone. The wood yards in the relatively arboraceous outskirts of town are farther away. Many municipalities have established ordinances to limit smoke, although this is not a problem if well seasoned wood gets burned properly, and only means that fireplaces can not be used on ‘spare the air’ days.
Firewood can be purchased from tree services that need to dispose of wood anyway. Because it is only a byproduct of tree work, it will likely need to be stored and seasoned the year before it is needed, just like orchard wood. (Firewood from wood yards gets seasoned before it gets sold.) Some types of wood that are often mixed in leave a bit more residue in chimneys, necessitating more frequent chimney sweeping. Realistically though, chimneys should be cleaned regularly anyway.
Because firewood is perishable, it should be obtained annually, in quantities that will be used in a single winter. It can rot if stored outside too long. If stored in a shed or garage too long, it can get infested with rodents. Besides, too much firewood occupies quite a bit of space.
Synthetic logs (made from compressed wood byproducts and fuel) are an effective, clean and efficient alternative to real wood that do not need to be seasoned. Each log burns about as long as several real logs, and produces about as much heat, so only a few go a long way. They are always available from supermarkets, and can be brought home with the groceries. Pellet stoves that consume fuel pellets that look like stove food are even more efficient. However, there is no substitute for a fire with real wood in a real fireplace or wood stove.
The CZU Lightning Complex Fire got no closer than a mile and a half from here. Except for the ash and the aroma of smoke, there is not much evidence of a fire. The burn zone is within view from here, but the forest is just as green as it was prior to evacuation. I received news while away that smoking debris was falling from the sky here, so did not know what to expect when we returned. So many neighbors were not as fortunate.
1. Fire roasted leaves blew in from the fire. Some were still smoking as they fell. These are two madrone leaves at the top, three tanoak leaves at the bottom, and redwood below the middle.
2. Ash is everywhere! I left on the day prior to the yet unforeseen evacuation, with the intention of returning later, so left windows open. It now smells like a barbecued bacon burger in here.
3. Summer squash survived days of warm weather without irrigation. This was the worst of the wilt. There was nothing ‘ini’ about the ‘zucchini’. They looked like a herd of green dachshunds.
4. Pole beans were in reasonably good condition as well. They recovered rather efficiently after getting irrigated. The few beans that started to wilt and dry were just plucked and discarded.
5. Boxelder are suspiciously defoliating prematurely under a smoky orange sky. I do not know if it is associated with the smoke or the weather, but I doubt that President Trump is involved.
6. Blue gum that is still confined to a #15 can did not wilt any more than the summer squash or pole beans. I am impressed! It must have rooted into the ground below the bottom of the can.
Lightning is very rare here. For half of the year between spring and autumn, rain is also very rare. Summers are long and dry. Weirdly though, if a storm passed through between spring and autumn, it usually involves lightning, and is usually within only a few days of the Feast of the Assumption, on August 15. This time, it arrived just about an hour after midnight on August 16.
It was warm that night, so the windows were open at home. There was a gust of wind in the cottonwoods that sounded like the Santa Ana Winds of the Los Angeles region, and the electricity went out, likely because the same gust knocked a tree onto cables elsewhere. The lighting might have started earlier, but became visible without electrical lights outside. I heard no thunder.
Lightning worries us while the weather is so warm and dry. It came without rain. Previously, humidity had been minimal. There was a faint aroma of smoke in the morning, but nothing was mentioned about fires during the day. That was Sunday. Monday was warmer and less humid, and smelled notably smokier as I left for the Santa Clara Valley, where I have been since then.
Fires that were started by the lightning in Bonny Doon was finally mentioned in the news on Tuesday, but did not seem to be a major concern. By the next morning, Boulder Creek was being evacuated! Brookdale and Ben Lomond were evacuated later on Wednesday. By this morning, Felton and everyone at work were being evacuated! Scott’s Valley and environs could be next!
It all happened so fast and I am miles away. Even if I were not miles away, I would need to go miles away with everyone else who was evacuated. I was told that ash and burned leaves were falling from the sky around my home this morning. I have never seen so much smoke over the Santa Cruz Mountains, or filling the sky of the Santa Clara Valley. I hope to never see it again.
This reblogged post is from my other blog at ‘Felton League’.
What 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.
Do not work in the garden today if you happen to be in a region inundated by smoke from wildfires. The air is too toxic. The picture above was copied from the East Bay Times yesterday. It shows smoke obscuring much of the view of northern San Jose from the East Hills. It might be Milpitas. It is difficult to recognize.
The news says that this is the worst air quality recorded in the Santa Clara Valley, even worse than when we had smog back in the 1970s, and even worse than when there were serious fires much closer to home in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Even the smoke from the Lexington fire in 1985 was not so thick.
If you must work in the garden, do not use machinery that might ignite vegetation near wildlands. Something as simple as a weed eater striking a stone can make a spark that can ignite overgrown grass. Barbecuing out in the garden is something that should be postponed for better weather.
The breeze that might move some of the smoke out of the area also accelerates fires that continue to burn, and increases the fire danger. Any new fires that get out of control are very likely to spread very rapidly. All the rain last winter enhanced the proliferation of vegetation. Recent unseasonably warm and arid weather desiccated much of the vegetation. Now, there is an abundance of vegetative fuel everywhere.
Wildfire is part of life in California. Many of us know how fire is an important part of the ecosystem, and how many plants in the wild benefit from it. However, none of this is any consolation when so many homes have been burned.