Patterico's Pontifications


Fire in Palos Verdes? (Update: Yes, Apparently Just a Minor One)

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 11:32 am

[August 27, 2009 UPDATE: This post is about a 2008 fire. If you’re looking for information about the August 27, 2009 fire, my post on that fire is here.]

There’s a cloud of smoke I’ve been watching for the last 20-30 minutes on the southwest side of the Palos Verdes Peninsula. It’s several miles away. The Santa Ana winds are howling today.

I don’t know if it’s a fire or the aftermath of a fire. The only stories I can find online, like this one, suggest that there was a fire last night and there is still a cloud of smoke from that. Somehow, this looks like more than that, but we’ll see.

UPDATE: Yep, it’s a currently burning fire. Sounds like it’s relatively under control. Courtesy of Tim McGarry comes a link to an L.A. Times blog entry about a fire near Hawthorne Blvd. That’s the one..

I initially said it’s on the west side of the peninsula, but it’s probably more like the southwest part.

UPDATE x2: I have a new post discussing the fires across Southern California here.

41 Responses to “Fire in Palos Verdes? (Update: Yes, Apparently Just a Minor One)”

  1. Near Hawthorne Blvd. LAT has a brief story at

    Tim McGarry (9fe080)

  2. Yes, there’s a fire in Palos Verdes but it seems to be under control when I left 45 minutes ago. The power went out around 10am, and my way to the office I drove by it. I turned around to grab some important stuff from my apartment just in case as it is about 1/3rd of a mile away from the fire. Lots of people watching, and Hawthorne Blvd is closed from going north from Palos Verdes Drive (I’d imagine also going south but I did not drive around the hill to verify).

    The fire is located here. There are not a lot of a houses directly next to it, though if it jumps Palos Verdes Drive, there’s lots of new construction there.

    Donovan Janus (f00a41)

  3. I should add that the winds are very light in that area currently.

    Donovan Janus (f00a41)

  4. There’s a huge one in the Valley. Everything in my yard is covered with soot.

    MayBee (d8edb1)

  5. Fire is under control but could kick back up due to the unseen embers that may lay in wait smoldering. these are flare ups that keep occurring. I live on palos verdes drive north near western next to lomita. this ia in harbor hills. I am gaging from the smoke and my eyes burn, it comes and goes, sun is dimed from smoke

    Michael (27c86f)

  6. I’m near the Torrance Airport and visibility is terrible. White ash is raining down all around. Is this fire still burning?

    Rick (a548d4)

  7. If AQ wishes to deliver a West-Coast attack, they don’t need to smuggle in some form of “dirty bomb”, all they need are a couple dozen arson teams to burn down the Greater L.A. area during a SantaAna condition. Once they had a huge committment of manpower to the outlying areas, they could start with some serious burning in residential areas.
    And all the materials they need are already here.
    Of course, everyone knows that buying large quantities of gasoline is a suspicious activity in SoCal?

    Another Drew (bb1716)

  8. We have a commercial particle scanner for doing air samples. On a normal day here in south Torrance we will see a particle count reading about 600k particle per square foot. Today (11/15/08 @ about 12:45), we were reading about 23,000,000 particles per square foot outdoors. In our store (with our air purification system running) we were getting readings around 4,700,000 per square foot.

    To put it all in perspective; last December in Beijing they were getting readings around 50,000,000! Imagine living in those kind of conditions!

    Carl - All Makes Vacuums (c1e6c5)

  9. If you guys in California KNOW that wildfires are going to be a yearly thread, why aren’t permenant firebreaks carved into the countryside surrounding established communities?

    Techie (62bc5d)

  10. er…..”thread” = “threat”.

    Techie (62bc5d)

  11. Enviromentalists won’t allow it.
    It would disturb the habitat for “endangered” species.

    Another Drew (bb1716)

  12. techie,

    The answer is that a fire break would have to be about a mile wide or more. When we get these kind of fires, I live in Rancho Bernardo and went through one last October, the winds get so high and furious they can carry embers huge distances. Jumping a fire break would be nothing. A fire break out here is usually just a fire road that allows vehicles to reach out of the way areas. And, too, these brush fires create their own wind flows on top of the hot and dry Santa Ana winds blowing desert air down into the valleys. I know we had 60-70 mph winds the day I had to evacuate.

    allan (809091)

  13. Condition update…
    I’m about 15-miles north-east of the PV fire, and the southern sky is very yellow, and the air inside my closed house smells of fire.
    In a classic SantaAna condition, I’m up-wind of the fire.

    Another Drew (bb1716)

  14. I just got back from a lookout point where I could see the Corona and Yorba Linda fires. Terrible. Nothing like what you see on TV. It’s so dark because of the smoke I have my lights on at 2 p.m.

    Patricia (ee5c9d)

  15. Didn’t know of the Corona/Yorba Linda fires, that must be the smoke I smell since I’m due West of the canyon.

    Another Drew (bb1716)

  16. I was sitting outside the Long Beach airport for about two hours this morning (our cruise got in early, and there was a lot of unexpected time to kill before the flight home) and … was astonished at how dark and smoky the sky got, of a sudden, and the ash falling out of the sky on me.

    I hope everyone makes it through OK.

    aphrael (9e8ccd)

  17. Just another season in Hell…

    Who says SoCal has no seasons?

    Another Drew (bb1716)

  18. There are actually a couple of bigger fires in the LA area today. See:

    But that map doesn’t show anything on the peninsula. So if it is burning, it must be too small for the satellite to see.

    [I found your comment in the filter. Great link and sorry for the delay. — DRJ]

    Steven Den Beste (99cfa1)

  19. I’m 9 miles east of the Corona fire, which has been blowing west, so we have no smoke or ash.

    However, my parents live in Brea, about 4 miles due west of Brea Olinda High School which is currently surrounded by flames. They are getting ash and smoke.

    Good lord, just went through an all day earthquake evacuation drill at work last Thursday and now THIS.

    Patterico, Maybee, Another Drew…stay safe!

    Darleen (187edc)

  20. Thanks Darleen.
    Those of us down here in the low-rent flatlands just have to worry about the bad air.
    It is kind of amusing, in a cynical way, that the most expensive real-estate in SoCal is the most susceptable to some of our seasons disasters.
    Who says the gods have no sense of humor?

    Another Drew (bb1716)

  21. I’m west, Darleen, and it looks like it’s snowing (before it got too dark), with all the ash coming out of the sky.

    Suggestion: life in prison for arsonists (and maybe the TV stations should shut up about “red flag” warnings?)

    Patricia (ee5c9d)

  22. Another Drew

    Fire is capricious … but it did destroy 600 mobile homes in Sylmar.

    Darleen (187edc)

  23. Patricia,

    DO take care!

    in October 2003, when we were living in Rancho Cucamonga, we were just below the mandatory evacuation line … had to drive up the hill to get #4 daughter from a friends house…looked up to the end of Carnelian to see 30 ft wall of flames.

    Ash fell like snow and there was a weird orange glow. Very apocalyptic.

    Darleen (187edc)

  24. Comment by Darleen — 11/15/2008 @ 5:53 pm

    Well, we now know that they attract more than tornadoes.

    It’s tough to protect something that is packed into such a small confined place,
    that doesn’t have the same exterior fire-resistance standards as a conventional dwelling.
    Hope everyone got out OK!

    Another Drew (bb1716)

  25. There’s also another fire in Brea, about two miles from Cal State Fullerton. Guess where I live…

    Sean P (4e644b)

  26. Sean!!

    East or West of CSF??

    Darleen (187edc)

  27. Interesting thread. An out-of-towner wants to know why firebreaks aren’t “carved into the countryside” around populated areas.

    Two replies are offered. One poster claims “environmentalists won’t allow it” out of concern for endangered species. A second poster draws on experience from last year’s firestorms in San Diego County and points out that firebreaks are ineffective against embers carried by 70 m.p.h. winds.

    My vote goes to the empiricist.

    Tim McGarry (9fe080)

  28. I was in Lake Elsinore late this afternoon and traffic is a mess because Ortega Highway is backed up forever since the 91 is closed and therefore East-West access is severely limited.

    PC14 (82e46c)

  29. I thought Sylmar was getting better, but it is still smoky and sooty here tonight (I’m not near the fire, just apparently in the wind path).
    The moon is really awesome, though.

    MayBee (d8edb1)

  30. Comment by Tim McGarry — 11/15/2008 @ 7:42 pm

    If you haven’t been to L.A.(the Greater Los Angeles Area), it is difficult to comprehend a metropolis that extends for hundreds of square miles, street after street, block after block. The City of Los Angeles is, by itself, 498sq.mi., but comprises less than one-third of the Greater L.A.Area.
    My town is a minor, suburban city of just over 100K people in 12sq.mi., just 14 miles from Downtown L.A.
    It is surrounded by similar sized cities on all four sides separated only by the median in a four-lane divided thoroughfare.
    The areas of SoCal that are not developed are hill-sides of very flammable chaparral, and other dry climate vegetation that propagates from fire.
    In the past, in mountainous areas, fire officials urge home-owners to cut-away vegetation from around their homes, including the trees that have been devastated by a bark-beetle infestation. Enviro’s file law suits to prevent the downing of dying, and dangerous trees. See the fires in the mountains the last few years for the results.
    In open country, fire officials make the same attempt to clear brush away from homes. They were prevented from doing so by the placing of the Steven’s Kangaroo Rat on the ESL, thereby making this fire-prone habitat a protected area.
    We had the unique experience of seeing people who did clear their land, and saving their home in the subsequent fire, being sued by the EPA for saving that home, because they destroyed protected habitat.

    Take a look at a Sat photo of SoCal, and then tell us where those mile-wide fire-breaks should go. The NIMBY’s and BANANA’s won’t let us build freeways because of one restriction or another, how in the Hell are we going to build fire-breaks?

    Another Drew (bb1716)

  31. Another Drew

    Also So Cal is a big basin and exits out are few. The Corona/Yorba Linda fire cut off the way into Orange county via the 91. Newhall pass north out of the SF Valley was shut off.

    This year it doesn’t look like any fire around the Cajon pass or the 215 south to San Diego (so far)

    Darleen (187edc)

  32. Homeland Security….
    If you shut down the airports and port (with WMD), it would not be difficult to completely isolate the L.A. Basin from highway and rail traffic.
    Virtually everything L.A. needs has to be brought in from outside, including water, natural gas, and electricity, and most of it has to come through a few mountain passes.

    Another Drew (bb1716)

  33. Drew, I was born in L.A. and have lived here for close to sixty years. But thanks for sharing.

    Tim McGarry (9fe080)

  34. We’re in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains just north of Pasadena and the smoke in the air is making us wheeze and making our eyes water – I can’t imagine how bad it must be for those close to the fire. Anyone got any good suggestions for gasmarks I can pick up in the morning ?

    Brad Johnson (3ef136)

  35. Another Drew

    Please note that the Port of Los Angeles is the busiest port in the nation.

    Isolate Los Angeles, strangle the country.

    Darleen (187edc)

  36. It sounds like it is smoky and sooty everywhere. Why is this fire so much sootier than others have been? Or am I just an inexperienced newbie?

    MayBee (d8edb1)

  37. MayBee, you’re right – this does seem much sootier than others I’ve experienced. Maybe It’s something to do with the direction and strength of the wind ?

    Brad Johnson (3ef136)

  38. Darleen: The Brea fire is northeast of Cal State Fullerton, which is the only area near CSF that isn’t completely developed. There is another fire that is almost due east and is much bigger, but that one was about 4 or 5 miles away, not 2.

    For the record, I got out of my house this morning and it appears that the winds shifted east so the fire hasn’t gotten any closer. All the shops right around CSF were still open when I went to bed and there was a fair amount of traffic where I live, though that probably had a bit to do with the fact that the 57 Freeway (which CSF sits right next to).

    But man, the air quality here is AWFUL. You know how sometimes when fires get really bad the ground in surrounding areas gets blanketed with confetti sized white ash? Well, on my driveway there are CHUNKS (2″ long in some cases) of black ash. I bought two rolls of duct tape and covered all my windows and doors and the smell of smoke is still in my house. And I’ve been running the AC all day and the heat all night just to keep the air clean for my 2 year old.

    Sean P (4e644b)

  39. Dropped my train of thought for a minute: the 57 freeway is closed from either Imperial Highway or Lambert all the way to Brea Canyon Road, and voluntary evacuations were taking place from the Northeast Corner of State College and Lambert (mandatory evacuations are a few strets over). And, while the area is not heavily developed, quite a few homes are burning.

    Sean P (4e644b)

  40. I have a new post discussing the fires across Southern California here.

    Patterico (cc3b34)

  41. Comment by Tim McGarry — 11/15/2008 @ 10:00 pm

    Sorry, Tim!
    I, too, am a native, a few years older, and have lived all my life with the exception of 4-years with my Uncle, South of the Tehachapi’s.

    Another Drew (91c7e4)

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