Above: Hundreds of firefighters from municipal and wildland departments attended the 50th anniversary memorial for the Loop Fire tragedy in Sylmar Tuesday. Present were the Los Angeles County Fire Department, Los Angeles Fire Department, US Forest Service, CAL FIRE, and many other agencies.
November 1 marked the 50th anniversary of the day that 12 wildland firefighters perished on the Loop Fire. The El Cariso Hotshots were constructing fireline on the Angeles National Forest in southern California in 1966 when the fire blew up below them.
Yesterday hundreds of people attended a commemoration event held at El Cariso Regional Park in Sylmar, California. Having been on the crew four years after the disaster, from 1970 through 1972, I wish I could have been there. But Stuart Palley, an accomplished fire photographer, was, and he took these excellent photos and wrote the captions. Thanks Stuart for allowing us to use them here.
In 1932 Robinson Jeffers published a book of poetry titled Thurso’s Landing and Other Poems that was set in the central coast region of California. One poem in particular was written about a vegetation fire — possibly the Matilija Fire that burned 220,000 acres that year which is the fifth largest recorded fire in the state.
The deer were bounding like blown leaves
Under the smoke in front the roaring wave of the brush-fire;
I thought of the smaller lives that were caught.
Beauty is not always lovely; the fire was beautiful, the terror
Of the deer was beautiful; and when I returned
Down the back slopes after the fire had gone by, an eagle
Was perched on the jag of a burnt pine,
Insolent and gorged, cloaked in the folded storms of his shoulders
He had come from far off for the good hunting
With fire for his beater to drive the game; the sky was merciless
Blue, and the hills merciless black,
The sombre-feathered great bird sleepily merciless between them.
I thought, painfully, but the whole mind,
The destruction that brings an eagle from heaven is better than mercy.
I have to admit — my six-second attention span rarely allows me to concentrate on the content of a poem that is more than a few lines long, but a couple of phrases stood out; Beauty is not always lovely, and in describing an eagle, Insolent and gorged, cloaked in the folded storms of his shoulders.
Mr. Jeffers led a very interesting life, coining the word inhumanism, the belief that mankind is too self-centered and too indifferent to the “astonishing beauty of things.” He briefly studied forestry at the University of Washington, had a scandalous affair with a married woman that was reported in the LA Times, and published many highly acclaimed books. But after writing about his staunch opposition to the United States’ entering World War II critics turned against him.
An unprecedented 40-year experiment in a 40,000-acre valley of Yosemite National Park strongly supports the idea that managing fire, rather than suppressing it, makes wilderness areas more resilient to fire, with the added benefit of increased water availability and resistance to drought.
After a three-year, on-the-ground assessment of the park’s Illilouette Creek basin, University of California, Berkeley researchers concluded that a strategy dating to 1973 of managing wildfires with minimal suppression and almost no preemptive, so-called prescribed burns has created a landscape more resistant to catastrophic fire, with more diverse vegetation and forest structure and increased water storage, mostly in the form of meadows in areas cleared by fires.
“When fire is not suppressed, you get all these benefits: increased stream flow, increased downstream water availability, increased soil moisture, which improves habitat for the plants within the watershed. And it increases the drought resistance of the remaining trees and also increases the fire resilience because you have created these natural firebreaks,” said Gabrielle Boisramé, a graduate student in UC Berkeley’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and first author of the study…
…”Largely up until this point, fire has not necessarily carried well through the ’88 fire scars,” Yellowstone fire ecologist Becky Smith said. “I mean, it definitely has before, but it usually takes very specific conditions, like high winds or a very specific fuel bed. But this year, we’re definitely seeing it burn much more readily in the ’88 fire scars.”
The park has called in a special federal team that studies fire behavior to find out why.
“We’re trying to use it as a good learning opportunity to try and really narrow our focus on how and when the ’88 fire scars will burn,” Smith said. The 1988 wildfires burned 36 percent of the park.
It’s the first time Yellowstone has used the special team’s services, she said.
The 13-member team is studying two fires burning in the 1988 fire scar. It has deployed special heat-resistant equipment with sensors, cameras and other instruments to measure things like temperature and wind where the fires are burning…
Jeff Zimmerman of Zimmerman Media took some excellent photos at a fire in Lake View Terrace north of Los Angeles last week. The fire spread quickly during Santa Ana wind conditions and burned about 60 acres before several hundred firefighters from Los Angeles County and the U.S. Forest Service contained it after a two-hour battle.
Thankfully for Jeff, California has a different, some would say more enlightened, way of handling the media at emergencies and disasters than some other areas. There are few restrictions as long as the reporters do not interfere with incident operations. Their rights are protected by California Penal Code 409.5d.
Rainfall over the last two weeks has slowed or in some cases, ended the wildfire season in some areas.
On October 19 we ran the numbers for the accumulated precipitation for the last 14 days in the western states. These maps show amounts that exceeded 0.05 inches at some of the Interagency Remote Automatic Weather Stations (RAWS).
Washington, Oregon, and northern California have received a good soaking and I would imagine that local fire officials may be declaring an end to the fire season. Of course this is not unusual for these areas this time of the year, and some locations had already seen their season end. But what IS unusual, is the high amount of moisture that occurred in just two weeks.
You can click on the images to see larger versions.