Thursday, May 07, 2009

The Geography of the Jesusita Fire

Of all the fire articles I've read in a long time, this one caught my interest differently than the others, and I read it with a fresher eye.

Ray Ford's article in the Santa Barbara Independent looks a little at the rugged residents and the rock-tough firefighters, but it also touches on the wind, the topology, the vegetation, and other things that drive a fierce wildfire in California's chapparal.

This is geography. It's not just about what burns, or why, but about how it all works together, and anyone
who really wants to study fires, damage prevention, and effective fire-fighting in California probably knows all of this:
"Then without warning, the wind shifted, catching everyone by surprise. The shift was sudden and intense. Within a minute it switched from a 10-to-15MPH steady uphill breeze to 50MPH storm force winds heading directly down canyon."

And that, yesterday, is why the apparently mild-mannered Jesusita Fire went crazy, and is still out-of-control along Santa Barbara's northern flanks. The mandatory evacuation order includes areas just north and west of Santa Barbara's downtown. Flickr has plenty of pictures so far.

Google Maps has some LA Times coverage including where homes have burned, and links to stories.

1 comment:

gawne said...

You're right that the geography has profound effects on the fire. The fire itself also becomes a local weather maker, and I wouldn't be surprised if the onset of those down-slope winds was brought on by the presence of the fire there.