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Hard to believe that pockets of SoCal are continuing to deal with possible threats from still raging fires. Here in Murrieta (part of the Temecula Valley/Riverside County) we’ve got the San Diego County Poomacha fire about 15 miles to the south, and the arson-set Orange County Santiago fire northwest of us about 20 miles or so. Granted, we are not in any immediate danger, and for that we are eternally grateful, but continuing to see the enormous clouds of smoke from both fires is something that reminds you daily that even if they are that far away, it’s still too close for comfort.

View of the Poomacha fire from a hilltop in north Murrieta on 10/27/07 morning.

I’ve continued to trek up to a nearby north Murrieta hilltop to videotape the view west (where the now-contained Rosa/De Luz fire was), then down south (where the currently raging Poomacha fire is), and seeing the differences each day has been interesting. Click here for videos from three different days from the same area hilltop.

On Thursday, Rudy (that dog LOVES to go for car rides! :)) and I headed north on I-15 to see what the area was like with the Santiago fire about 20 miles northwest of us, still in Orange County, not yet dropping over the Santa Ana mountains into Riverside County. Just getting on the 15 and heading north from the Clinton Keith on-ramp (in Wildomar, just north of Murrieta), allowed you to see that the normally clear Santa Ana mountains were obscured by smoke, which quite honestly would normally lead one to believe that there was a heavy marine layer hanging over them. I snapped a few photos of the increasingly pink/orange color on the western horizon atop the mountains on the way north, then opted to only go as far as the exit (pictured below), where local favorite, Tom’s Farms, is located. The colors in the photos are quite accurate: very pink/orange/brown.

As I headed toward a dirt lot across from Tom’s Farms to let Rudy relieve that constantly full bladder of his, I could see a few fire trucks parked nearby, which always gives a jolt of reality to the entire situation.


After Rudy gave the area his “expert sniffer on the job” okay, and marked his new territory alongside a small dirt hill (to the right in the photo below, and also in the video), I popped him back in the auto and took out the camera. As had been the case a few days prior in Murrieta (although not the case on Wednesday and Thursday), the air so close to the fire was not smelling much like a fire at all, nor were ashes flying about. Again, those erratic winds, which were much calmer that day, quite often kept the polluted air at bay.

The video I took isn’t the best, but quite honestly it was hard to see what the camera viewfinder was focusing on, once it was immersed in the orange/pink smoke over the mountains. You can even hear the camera itself trying to adjust and focus in on what it was taping.

The yellow spot you can see in it is the very eerie smoke-covered sun doing it’s best to break through.

 

As we headed back onto the I-15 south we passed a small convoy of fire trucks headed in the same direction, and after I passed them I snapped this shot of them in my rear view mirror. Those fire fighters deserve more respect, love, and thanks than we could EVER possibly give them; truly amazing, dedicated individuals.

As of today, Saturday (10/27/07), the latest news is that the Santiago fire is continuing its trek, albeit a much slower one, through the Cleveland National Forest. As Rudy and I took another jaunt north to Tom’s Farms today, we saw the Martin Mars flying boat Canada sent to help us fight the fires (here’s a video someone else posted of it yesterday as it loaded up with water at Lake Elsinore), as it was heading south toward the Poomacha fire–thanks my Canuck friends! And more good news is that we did get a slight misting of rain this morning in Murrieta, as did other areas along the Santa Ana Mountain region, and one can only assume this HAS to help the fire fighting efforts. (THANKFULLY we just now (5PM PST) are getting some SERIOUS rainfall and I couldn’t be happier!)

This is a short video of what you can see of the Santiago fire from the Lake Elsinore Outlet mall, along with a photo below of the same.

Here are some interesting articles. Was extremely sad to read that two animals at the San Diego Wild Animal Park did perish, but happy to read others were born!

And last, here is an incredible video montage I found on YouTube yesterday. Take care, everyone, and please continue to keep the victims of the SoCal fires in your thoughts. I’m off to go revel in the rain!!!

The Southern California fires are striking closer to home (I took these pictures today), and sadly it seems that arsonists are now playing a part in some of the newer ones. It also appears that the Southwest Riverside County area (speaking of Temecula/Murrieta), along with the the northeastern most section of North San Diego County (speaking of Fallbrook/De Luz) are getting short shrift in the local media. As some are saying, it’s too far north to usually garner attention in the San Diego media, and too far south to do the same with the Los Angeles area media…sigh.

This is due west of Temecula/Murrieta and probably the De Luz/Rosa fire. The plateau to the right is part of the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve.

THANKFULLY the North County Times/Californian has bucked the trend of San Diego/Los Angeles media disregarding our area, and instead has done a FABULOUS job, with their reporters: Lauri Lockwood, Brian Eckhouse, Pete Zanko, John Hunneman (hope I’m not missing anyone!) taking turns staying up throughout Tuesday night(10/22/07) to post fire and evacuation information in the comments section of the North County Times story “Fire breaks out west of Temecula.” This truly was the ONLY “real time” and practical information (other than the Riverside County Fire Department site whose info was fairly static after the initial report) worried residents could get on the new “Rosa” fire, which broke out at Via Santa Rosa and Rancho California Road, west of Temecula, at approximately 11PM on Monday, 10/22/07. Readers could post information from their various locations, which helped others getting a better grasp of the constantly-changing situation. The reporters gave updates from the California Department of Forestry and also posted scanner information. The story and comments are continuing as of this posting, nearly 24 hours later! Thank you SO MUCH, North County Times/Californian!!

Poomacha/Palomar fire going south on I-15, just before the Winchester exit.

Poomacha/Palomar fire from the Winchester/15 intersection.

So I ventured out today after having spent the majority of yesterday indoors, and I have to say that seeing three different fires from a vantage point high atop a nearby hill in northern Murrieta (where I took most of these pictures) was a major dose of reality. As we all know, seeing something like the SoCal fires on TV NEVER comes close to capturing the intensity and shocking reality of seeing it in person. While I was many miles from any of the fires it was truly bizarre and jarring to see the actual smoke and crazy skies in person that I’d only been hearing about and seeing on television. I could see the immense cloud of smoke from what I believe to be the Poomacha/Palomar fire (Hwy 76/Pauma Valley in San Diego County) south of Temecula/Murrieta, along with seeing the smaller but equally frightening plume of smoke coming from what I believe to be the De Luz/Rosa fire (west of Temecula), and further north smoke from what I believe is the Running Springs fire in San Bernardino County. Three fires within view; disturbing and sad to see.

I believe this is the Poomacha/Palomar fire on the Hwy 76 corridor in Pauma Valley (San Diego County), south of Temecula/Murrieta (Southwest Riverside County).

Around 9PM this evening my poochie, Rudy, and I took a drive down the 15 (which was now open, but had been closed for a good chunk of yesterday and today), something, by the way I wouldn’t have done if there was ANY chance it would hinder any type of rescue efforts, but the fires had moved away and the I-15 was open and pretty deserted. I could see the red glow of the Poomacha/Palomar fire as I was heading south on the 15 from Murrieta, and as I got closer to Hwy 79 I could actually see the flames, but as I ventured south on the 15 closer to the Border Patrol check-point (for non-locals, there is a Border Patrol check point NOT at the US border…confusing, yes? ;)) you couldn’t see the fire at all. Moving a bit further south you could suddenly smell the smoke; something which had surprisingly been missing from the Murrieta/Temecula area over the past days since the high winds had been keeping it from us. I have to say I suddenly questioned what the heck I was doing driving down the freeway which had had the fire jump across it earlier, but realized it wouldn’t have been reopened if it wasn’t safe, and there was just something gnawing at me to see and experience the reality of what had been happening to my neighboring areas (without interfering with any rescue efforts or evacuations). I especially questioned not only my sudden trip down the freeway, but why the freeway was open when I came across a bright red glow which turned out to be a pretty decent sized fire flare-up about 100 feet from the freeway, just south of the Mission exit. No fire trucks were around, but there was some sort of police/sheriff/CHP car standing guard. Unfortunately there were also folks who for some reason felt the need to pull off the side of the freeway to gawk. Driving down the freeway and checking things out is one thing, but to risk the safety of anyone in your car or those in passing cars by pulling off the freeway is just nuts. Hopefully no one will be injured, and the flare-up will be knocked down soon.

Have to say it was great to see Nessy Burgers (locals know what I’m talking about ;)) still standing just off the 15 at the 76, since there were reports about nearby Pala Resort having suffered damage. In a way I’m glad I was around the area at night because I’m sure it would have been much more gut-wrenching to have seen places that are part of my history in this area, charred and damaged in the bright light of day. Although considering the heavy smoke that was still hanging around I wonder when the area will actually have a clear day again.

Short video I took from a Murrieta hilltop the afternoon of 10/23/07 of the Poomacha/Palomar and De Luz/Rosa fires. (The plateau to the right is part of the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve.)

View from a similar Murrieta hilltop the morning of 10/24/07 showing the overwhelming smoke filling the skies from the Poomacha/Palomar and De Luz/Rosa fires.

10/27/07 view of Poomacha fire from same area hilltop.

I would ask that those of you reading this blog entry, whether you’re a local just trying to keep up on the latest happenings in our area or former local concerned about your past stomping grounds, please continue to keep everyone involved in these horrific fires in your thoughts (1 in 6 San Diegans are currently evacuated!), and know that this is not something that will be “done” once the fires are finally out, but something that we will all be in for the long haul, helping our neighbors rebuild, renew, and recapture their lives. Be safe everyone!

Previous related blog entry: Southern California fires/resources (updated links/info)/Larry Himmel videos

Witch Creek Fire-nctimes.comWhat a difference a day makes; a huge chunk of my dear SoCal landscape has erupted in fire, most heartbreakingly the area where I’ve spent most of my life, San Diego County, with 250,000 500,000 (as of 10/23/07) people being evacuated so far! It’s jarring to hear about fires forcing the evacuations of friends, fires lapping at my alma mater, CSUSM, and especially fires endangering already endangered animals at the San Diego Wild Animal Park; a place which holds countless fond memories for me from the past two decades.

I’m currently living in Southwest Riverside County, pretty much in between all the chaos, and can hear the winds whipping at my wind chimes as I look out my window and see the smoke-filled hazy skies, but oddly enough I don’t smell the fires like I have in the past. At times like this, when you wonder if somewhere down the road you might have to evacuate at a moment’s notice, it makes you think hard about what in life is really important. I can tell you right now it’s not the material things, the things you can easily replace, but instead it’s the friends, family, and pets, that are what bring true joy to your life and could never be replaced.

I’ve been getting phone calls/emails from friends today wondering how I’m doing, how close the fires are (closest one to me right now is about 15 miles south in Fallbrook), etc., so I thought I’d post a few resources below which I’ve come across today while trying to access information. CNN seems to be doing the best job on a national level in covering the fires, by actually showing ALL the areas affected (live feed), and not just the Malibu fire which most networks seemed to be focusing on for obvious high rating reasons (star homes, etc.). I hope the resources I’ve assembled below will help those of you out there trying to find out information. I’ll update it if I find more.

I would ask all of you to let those you love know that you do, and please, please, PLEASE keep my fellow Southern Californians (and domesticated and wild animals!) in your thoughts, most especially those in the path of danger and those heroic firefighters putting their lives on the line.

***10/23/07: I’m updating and adding links as information changes, and also added this new post:California fires: Murrieta/Temecula perspective (pictures/video) AND Kudos to the North County Times/Californian for being a local lifeline for information***

Riverside County/Inland Area

Camp Pendleton

San Diego County

Los Angeles Area

Government

American Red Cross

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Added on 10/23/07

  • Fire breaks out west of Temecula“-nctimes.com (The Californian) This was the ONLY way for local residents to get information throughout the night on the “Rosa” fire which was reported at 11PM 10/22/07. An incredible job was done by the reporters who kept a real-time update constantly flowing in the comments section, along with allowing readers to add their personal experiences and information. Kudos to the North County Times/Californian!!
  • Fires force more than 500,000 from California homes“CNN.com
  • Videos of KFMB Channel 8 reporter Larry Himmel as his home burns in one of the San Diego fires, and a follow up later. This was especially heartbreaking to view since I’ve been watching Larry over the past couple of decades in San Diego. For those from the area you are well-versed on Larry’s humor, his touching and heartwarming “about town” stories, and probably also memories of his “Biff and Skippy” episodes from WAY back in the day. While anyone losing their home is a terribly sad situation, there’s something which tugs at the heartstrings more when it’s someone you feel you have a connection with, even if it is just via the television. The thoughts and good wishes of many fans are with you and your family, Larry.

Larry Himmel in front of his burning home.

Larry Himmel walk-through of burned out home.

Sniffin’ out the info

Photobucket

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