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GreatsavebyGerber

Wildfires, specifically Yorba Linda: now very close to home

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Exceptionally eerie to see a driveway that leads to nothing

That's so true, Legend, and it's just what Mr. G was thinking when he photographed those scenes from his car.

Amazingly, no lives have been lost to these firestorms. That's by far the most positive news so far. And, yes, I'll continue to post info as it comes in via news-media sources.

Jan/GSBG

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If it's not one thing, it's another: Weather forecasters are predicting heavy rain for most of next week. That sounds like a positive turn of events, but it's not, given that the fires were contained only this Wednesday. Rainfall so soon after these fires -- especially as steady as this upcoming week's is likely to be -- could likely trigger life-threatening mudslides in the area. :unsure:

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http://sciencedude.freedomblogging.com/200...ent-fires/8822/

ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

Nov. 22, 2008

Science Blog

ONE INCH OF RAIN COULD FALL ON HILLS CHARRED BY RECENT FIRES

A warm storm out of the western Pacific will move ashore Monday night and drop up to one inch of rain over a 48 hour period, with much of the precipitation falling on the slopes and canyons of northeastern Orange County that burned in the recent Triangle Complex fire.

The National Weather Service says it will closely monitor the storm to see if it produces that sort of downpours that can cause mud slides in Brea, Yorba Linda and the Anaheim Hills, which lost vegetation in the fires.

"It looks like it's going to be wet most of the week," says James Oh. "We'll have a break on Thanksgiving day. But we could get more rain on Friday. The first storm is coming straight from the west and could tap into some sub-tropical moisture."

Orange County desperately needs rain. Since January 1st, John Wayne Airport has received about 5.65 inches of precipitation, which is more than 4 inches below normal. The previous year was even drier. The lack of rain has many cities and districts considering whether they should impose mandatory water cutbacks, and one federal analysis says the county has gone from being in a moderate drought to being in a severe one.

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Jan/GSBG

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http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2008...lide-fears.html

LOS ANGELES TIMES

Nov. 22, 2008

L.A. NOW/Southern California ... this just in

WITH RAINS COMING, MUDSLIDE FEARS IN ORANGE COUNTY FIRE ZONE

The National Weather Service issued a special weather statement this morning warning of several storm systems expected to hit Southern California with rain beginning early next week. And that forecast is particularly concerning in the fire burn areas.

Not even a week after the Freeway Complex fire burned thousands of acres in northern Orange County and surrounding areas, Yorba Linda officials warned residents that neighborhoods near the burned hillsides were at risk of serious mudslides.

The fire, which destroyed 118 Yorba Linda homes, burned off nearly all of the vegetation on the hillsides north of the city into Chino Hills State Park, officials said. If the rain predicted for next week is heavy, it could cause water, mud, boulders and other debris to course down into residential areas.

"While our city is already in the process of cleaning up, we must address another critical issue immediately," said Yorba Linda Mayor Jim Winder. "These mudflows may result in significant property damage, and even life-threatening emergencies."

Winder warned residents to be prepared to evacuate.

Residents should put sandbags around their property, Winder said; the city will distribute free sandbags to residents. Volunteers will begin moving sandbags to the burned areas today, and city employees will install concrete barriers around the city to redirect any mudflows.

The Weather Service says clouds will begin Monday with rain expected by early Tuesday morning. Sounds as if wet conditions could continue through Thanksgiving and beyond. Here's the statement:

A SERIES OF STORM SYSTEMS IS FORECAST TO IMPACT THE AREA NEXT WEEK ... WITH THE POTENTIAL TO BRING COOLER AND WET CONDITIONS TO SOUTHWEST CALIFORNIA. COOLER AND CLOUDY CONDITIONS WILL LIKELY DEVELOP ON MONDAY AHEAD OF THE STORM SYSTEM ... WITH PRECIPITATION POSSIBLY MOVING OVER THE AREA AS EARLY AS MONDAY AFTERNOON OR MONDAY NIGHT. PERIODS OF RAIN SHOULD DEVELOP OVER THE AREA ON TUESDAY ... POSSIBLY CREATING HAZARDOUS CONDITIONS TO THE BURN AREAS OF SOUTHWEST CALIFORNIA. RAIN WILL LIKELY CONTINUE AT LEAST THROUGH MID WEEK ... WITH COLDER AIR PUSHING INTO THE AREA BY WEDNESDAY.

Residents in burn areas are urged to keep an eye on the forecasts because heavy rains could produce debris flows.

-- My-Thuan Tran and Shelby Grad

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A few minutes ago, one of our local TV news stations mentioned that residents living in fire-ravaged areas, specifically Yorba Linda, are putting sandbags around their homes in hopes of lessening potential mudslide damage. As before, I'll keep you posted on the situation here.

Jan/GSBG

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Yes, we've had some rain last night, but nowhere near as much as weather forecasters and residents here feared. Bracing themselves for the worst, some folks living along a street that's part of my hill-run course put sandbags in front of their homes and near the street itself.

Here's the most recent update on our situation. As if widespread wildfires and mudslides aren't enough, let's throw in an earthquake to make things even livelier: :unsure:

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http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-mu...0,7689703.story

LOS ANGELES TIMES

Nov. 26, 2008

12:08 p.m. Pacific Time

WITH NO MUDSLIDES THREATENING, EVACUATION ORDERS LIFTED IN THREE YORBA LINDA NEIGHBORHOODS

Box Canyon, Brush Canyon and San Antonio residents are allowed to go home. A mandatory evacuation in North Fairmont remains in place.

By Paloma Esquivel and James Wagner

Thousands of residents in three Yorba Linda neighborhoods will be allowed back into their homes this morning as possible mudslides in the city have so far failed to materialize.

A mandatory evacuation in one neighborhood remains in place, and a minor mudslide in San Clemente was reported this morning but did not appear to endanger any residents. A similar evacuation order will remain in place for portions of Santa Barbara County through at least tonight.

In Yorba Linda, thousands of residents were roused from their sleep at 2 a.m. and ordered to evacuate because rain was falling at a rate of half an inch per hour, said Capt. Greg McKeown of the Orange County Fire Authority. The National Weather Service's flash flood warning for the area also prompted the response. The warning was canceled later in the morning, but a flash flood watch remains in place.

By 10 a.m., mandatory evacuations were lifted in Box Canyon, Brush Canyon and San Antonio neighborhoods after the fire authority and city officials examined the area, said Mark Aalders, assistant to the city manager in Yorba Linda. Volunteer evacuations remain in place in these neighborhoods.

A mandatory evacuation in North Fairmont also remains in place because fire officials are concerned about the possibility of mudslides in the area, Aalders said.

About 3,400 people were affected by the evacuations.

"Fortunately, at this point, it has been all good news," said Aalders, "however, we do need to reevaluate those slopes (north of Fairmont Boulevard)."

An evacuation center at the Thomas Lasorda Jr. Field House, 4701 Casa Loma Ave., will remain open as long as volunteer evacuations are in place, city officials said.

Sandbags and concrete water barriers that were put in place before the rain began to fall successfully diverted water away from homes, McKeown said.

"That preemptive work really helped," he said.

Meanwhile, a 3.0 earthquake hit several miles east of Yorba Linda this morning, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The quake, which struck at 11 a.m., was centered seven miles southeast of the city.

No damage has been reported, but the city had received preliminary reports of possible fissures in the North Fairmont area, Aalders said (boldface added).

In San Clemente, a minor landslide behind an apartment complex overlooking the beach did not appear to endanger the building or its residents, said fire authority Battalion Chief Kris Concepcion.

About 500 to 600 feet of hillside slid down behind the building in the 1300 block of Buena Vista about 8:30 a.m., Concepcion said. Less than an hour later, fire officials had determined that residents could be allowed to stay in the building, he said.

About 2 inches of rain fell on the county this morning, fire officials said.

In Santa Barbara County, residents recovering from the Tea fire were left unscathed by the rain. A mandatory evacuation order has been in effect since 5 p.m. Tuesday and will remain in place until as late as tonight, officials said. A reverse 911 service called 2,280 phone numbers for the mandatory evacuation, officials said.

The worst of the mudslide damage was confined to large boulders blocking the roadway in the Mountain Drive area, said Geri Ventura, a spokeswoman for the Montecito Fire Department.

"Mother Nature didn't come down on us," Ventura said. "We caught a break."

In Los Angeles County, Olive View-UCLA Medical Center in Sylmar, which was damaged by the recent Sayre fire, went untouched by any mudslides, a hospital official said.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich had expressed concern about the hospital at Tuesday's board meeting. But Antonovich was reassured by John Schunhoff, interim director of the county's health services department, who told the board that hospital and county public works staff had installed 400 feet of rails outside the hospital to divert flood water.

Public works staff told the board that drainage engineers had visited the hospital and were supervising construction of temporary structures to contain possible mudflows, while exploring the possibility of reseeding the area.

The board directed Schunhoff, county CEO William T. Fujioka and the director of public works to make necessary repairs and report back to supervisors in two weeks about the effects of the rainstorms on the hospital.

During the Sayre fire, flames reached the hospital's edge, knocking out power and leaving Olive View dependent on a generator and self-contained power plant that failed even as 200 patients were in the hospital. Hospital and county officials traced the problem to a fuel pump at the power plant but are still investigating why it failed.

Esquivel and Wagner are Times staff writers. Times staff writer Molly Hennessy-Fiske contributed to this report.

Below: Yorba Linda residents Hiromi Imai, left, and Debbie Burdick play with Burdick's cat, Mr. Whisper, after they were evacuated to the Thomas Lasorda Jr. Field House at 2 a.m. The mandatory evacuation order came after intense rain in areas affected by recent fires raised the threat of possible mudslides.

YLfireevacuees_01.jpg

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Jan/GSBG

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Here's more from the fire: a look at Chino Hills, an area only about 10 miles from our home:

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http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-ch...9868,full.story

LOS ANGELES TIMES

Friday, Nov. 28, 2008

Local

DISBELIEF OVER A CHARRED CHINO HILLS STATE PARK

Residents and park officials mourn the loss after more than 95% of the 14,100 acres burned in the Freeway Complex fire, leaving little but a blackened landscape behind.

By David Kelly

For more than 20 years, Chino Hills State Park has stood as an island of wilderness circled by freeways and untrammeled development. Swaying grasslands and remote canyons offered solitude to hikers and bikers. Rare plants and wildlife flourished.

That all changed recently when a tidal wave of wind and fire swept through, with flames shooting 80 feet into the sky. More than 95% of the park's 14,100 acres -- including old oaks, stately sycamores, bridges, rabbits and grasslands -- were incinerated, leaving little but ash behind.

The breadth of destruction has left many numb.

"I don't know if I even want to go in yet because the emotional impact would be too great," said Claire Schlotterbeck, executive director of Hills for Everyone, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting the Puente-Chino Hills natural environment that helped create the park in 1984.

"It is just devastating," she said. "There has never been a fire in these hills that consumed all these acres in one fell swoop. It's just a moonscape."

The park will remain closed until it can be cleared of debris.

The 31-mile-long tableau of undulating hills and canyons touches Riverside, San Bernardino and Orange counties and is within a half-hour's drive of 15 million people. It is part of an important wildlife corridor that connects to the Santa Ana Mountains and is home to bobcats, mountain lions, reptiles and 200 species of birds, including the threatened least Bell's vireo.

Park Superintendent John Rowe watched the park tragedy unfold shortly after the Freeway Complex fire began in Corona on Nov. 15.

"It took about 20 minutes to get from the point of origin to the park," he said, as his truck bounced up Scully Ridge recently with nothing but black scars of ash on either side. "Once it passed Green River, I knew we couldn't save the park and the focus would be on structure protection."

He hopped out with binoculars to scan the hills for signs of life. Red-tailed hawks and turkey vultures wheeled tightly overhead. A rabbit dashed for cover in a blackened thicket. There were few places left to hide. Scavengers found easy pickings among the animal carcasses littering the park.

Rowe walked across a landscape reduced to broad sheets of charcoal, past skeletal remains of sycamore trees near Aliso Creek. Some, he said, will be left as wildlife habitat. Others are being evaluated by park service foresters, who will decide if they should be removed. Small pockets of trees, including the rare black walnut, escaped the fire along with some coastal sage.

"You are within three of the most populous counties in the nation here, but when you are down in these canyons you can't even tell you are in Southern California," Rowe said, crunching along through cinders. "Stop and imagine that this fire didn't happen. Look around you. You can't get this anywhere else."

A yearning for nature and isolation may account for why so many homes have sprung up around the park in recent years, closing in on it from nearly every side.

"I look at this as the cumulative effect of really bad land-use decisions. The park was there and cities and counties built right up to the edge of it, leaving no buffer," Schlotterbeck said. "The park has never started a fire, but the consequences of these land-use decisions were borne by the park, the wildlife and the taxpayers."

She said a housing project in Brea, with 165 homes, is planned for a ridge overlooking the park.

"How ludicrous is it to put people in harm's way like that?" she asked.

Fire isn't new to the park. One burned 3,000 acres five years ago, and smaller ones have erupted from time to time. Though wildfires are part of life in Southern California, they can cause permanent damage, scientists say.

"Within Chino Hills State Park, and regionally, we are having fires burn at shorter intervals than would occur naturally, and these habitats cannot recover from repeated fires," said Ken Kietzer, environmental scientist for the Inland Empire district of California State Parks. "Portions of the park have burned about five years apart over the last 15 to 20 years. They can't recover quickly enough."

The result, often, is an invasion of non-native plants. Grasslands replace forests because trees don't have time to regrow.

The park should burn about every 20 years, not every five, scientists say.

Still, as denuded as it appears, that the park will recover is a near certainty. Winter rains will sprout new seeds, reforestation will occur and volunteers are already lining up to help rebuild trails. Erosion and mudslides are serious threats, as are invasive plants, but other parks that have faced similar situations have found ways to deal with them.

Griffith Park, which sits in a densely populated area of Los Angeles, was hit by fire in May 2007.

"We lost more than a quarter of our 4,000 acres," said Jane Kolb, spokeswoman for the city of Los Angeles' Recreation and Parks Department. "The hills were bare and the trees were gone."

Helicopters dropped specialized mulch to firm up hillsides and prevent erosion. An army of volunteers worked Saturdays helping to reseed and replant burned areas. The Sierra Club joined in, as did the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and other agencies. The city spent about $2.5 million on the effort, Kolb said.

"We had to close many of the hiking and horse trails, but many have reopened," she said. "You can still see where they burned."

Santiago Canyon in Orange County burned last year but also has seen substantial recovery.

At Chino Hills State Park, damage assessments are underway and foresters are scheduled to start clearing dead trees Dec. 8.

Despite the damage, plenty of surviving wildlife has been spotted.

"I actually saw a deer, a coyote, a handful of bird species, a golden eagle, a California kingsnake and fresh bobcat tracks," Kietzer said. "It's a big disaster, but there is reason to be optimistic the wildlife is adjusting to the fire." Still, he added, "Some will move out until the park comes back."

In nearby Chino Hills, a few residents recently gathered outside a locked park gate to examine the burned hillsides.

"I find the park excruciatingly beautiful," Sally Mollett said. "It's as green as can be, and you can see life as it was in there."

She turned to Rowe, the park superintendent.

"Did the giant oak and sycamore down by the river survive?" she asked.

He nodded.

Mollett's 11-year-old son, James, and his classmate Jacob Hurd seemed concerned. The boys said they hope to do a 5th-grade science fair project on the park's restoration.

"It's just so horrible to think of all the animals in there that died or have no homes," James said. "I feel very sorry for them. Animals have feelings too."

Kelly is a Times staff writer.

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that cat looks angry LOL

If anything, he (Mr. Whisper) probably was feeling pretty lousy, since his human companions lived so close to the Yorba Linda fire that they had to evacuate. When there's that much smoke, everyone -- humans, cats, dogs, horses, or any other living beings -- will be hit hard with breathing/bronchial problems, sinus problems, fatigue, and crushing headaches. Given that Himalayan cats, Persians, and Exotic Shorthairs all share that same "pushed-in" profile prone to breathing issues, it's no wonder that the poor fella was no doubt ready to snooze his physical woes away.

(Note: All throughout the fires, we stayed indoors and kept the air conditioning going nonstop. And, of course, we were glad that our cat Emmy is an indoors-only feline.)

Jan/GSBG

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