Thursday, August 16, 2007

Trying to Concentrate

I'm having a hard time concentrating on working today. See, there's this wildfire at the top of the mountain I live at the base of, and it's distracting me. You haven't heard about the Santa Barbara County Fire (aka the Zaca Fire)? Well, please allow me to provide you with a few tidbits, courtesy of the local fire deparment.

  • Mostly it's burning in the Los Padres National Forest. Forests have lots of trees and underbrush suitable for wildfires to thrive on.

  • The fire is currently 67% contained. That means 33% of it is still completely out of control.

  • The fire is 127,244 acres large. That's big.

  • It has cost (so far) $73.4 million to fight. That's even more money than it costs to buy a house in Santa Barbara (which is another post of its own).

  • It has been burning since the beginning of July, but it's been really close to the top of the mountain since the end of July. Variously we have beautiful clear blue skies that look like there is no trouble brewing over the ridge, and then we have days like today. Today there is this smokey overtone that looks like someone took a sepia-colored paintbrush to the entire visible world. The houses look paler, the trees are grayer, and the sky is brown. You can smell the smoke in the air. It's heavy and gross and potentially really dangerous.

    The big concern is regarding the possibility of a sun-downer. These are great windstorms that could blow the fire up over the mountain and right down to the ocean. Apparently, this is what happened with the last big fire to hit this area in the 90s. There was a fire burning on the mountain, and within a day it had burned its way down the mountain destroying all the houses in its path and burned itself out at the ocean. Let's hope history isn't planning to repeat itself quite so soon.

    I wouldn't say I'm afraid, but I am trying to get prepared, in case something bad does happen -- even if the "bad" is just that we have no power or water pressure drops to practically zilch. I've seen several disaster preparation checklists, and it just doesn't look like much fun, but these things seldom are. The big thing, right now, is to make sure we have gas in the car and our phones charged up and ready to go. Tonight we'll be doing some assessing of what we'd need to have with us if we needed to evacuate quickly. For now, there is no alert or evacuation order for our area, but you never know until the winds change (quite literally).

    With way too many things running through my mind, I'm having trouble actually getting work done. I'm distracted easily and can't concentrate on anything difficult. I've been trying to investigate the same thing for the last two hours, and it should only be a 30-minute thing. You should see how long it's taken me to type this up.

    Meanwhile, I had to call the customer that I've been trying to do the investigating for this morning, and they are in Houston with no power because of Tropical Storm Erin. Ah the irony. I love the irony.


    Stephanie said...

    Very interesting. Until now, I didn't have a personal connection out there, so I had not educated myself on the issue. Sounds like you're quite close to the fire? You can always evacuate here -- if the tropical storms don't knock us out! :) (I doubt they will. But the media sure may convince people we're doomed!)

    cat said...

    oh man. i hope it doesn't come down the mountain. keep us posted!! (and hope you get some work done)

    Heather said...

    So far so good, and the fire seems to be moving away. Hopefully they'll get it contained soon!