Above: The Golf Fire near Clear Lake in Northern California, August 8, 2019. Photo by Kent Porter.
(Originally published at 7:55 a.m. PDT August 9, 2019)
The Golf Fire near the south end of Clear Lake in Northern California required evacuations Thursday. It was reported near the intersection of Golf Drive and Soda Bay Road south of Buckingham Park at about 1 p.m. and had grown to five acres when the first firefighters arrived. Evacuations were ordered near the Riviera West subdivision of Kelseyville.
The rate of spread was described as moderate as air tankers and helicopters assisted personnel on the ground. CAL FIRE reported Friday morning August 9 that it had burned 33 acres.
#GolfFire off Soda Bay Road and Golf Drive, northwest of Clearlake in Lake County is 15 acres. Evacuation orders in place for Riviera West subdivision. pic.twitter.com/zCScnGHs6p
Nine years ago the Los Angeles Times won a Pulitzer for their series of “Explanatory Reporting” articles about the state of wildland fire management.
Above: Map showing the location of wildfires north of San Francisco, October 18, 2017. The Press Democrat’s offices are in Santa Rosa.
(Originally published at 12:33 p.m. MDT April 21, 2018)
The staff of The Press Democrat has won the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Reporting for their coverage of the huge wildfires north of San Francisco in October, 2017.
Here is an excerpt from one of the 10 articles that were submitted to the Pulitzer jury, titled, “Firestorm Nightmare: How we covered the early hours of California’s most destructive fire”. The article begins with the perspective of Kent Porter, a skilled photographer who has covered numerous wildfires in California.
ABOUT 10 P.M., SUNDAY, OCT. 8 » As the wind howls outside his Windsor home, photographer Kent Porter turns on his scanner and hears crews talking about a brush fire 13 miles away off Tubbs Lane on Highway 128 near Calistoga. He grabs his gear and takes off.
As he passes over Mark West Springs and Petrified Forest roads, he can see the glow of fire in the hills. “The wind was just going crazy,” he said later. “Grass was burning. Vineyards were burning. Power poles were going back and forth, and electrical lines were sparking. It was pandemonium.”
10:42 P.M. » One of Porter’s first photos is a ghostly image of a firefighter racing through the yard of a home near the origin of the Tubbs fire. The flames would soon begin devouring rural homes in the valleys bordering Napa and Sonoma counties, racing west toward the region’s largest city. “This thing is going all the way to Santa Rosa,” a fire official tells Porter.
11:50 P.M. » Porter sends a text message to Managing Editor Ted Appel: “Ted this is going to be in Santa Rosa in a few minutes. I strongly suggest you get a reporter out.” Appel begins waking up reporters and preparing the first story.
The fire burned into Santa Rosa, the city in which The Press Democrat is based and the home for many of their employees.
The New York Times, which was also considered for a Breaking News Pulitzer for their coverage of the mass shooting in Las Vegas, wrote about The Press Democrat:
The firestorm lasted 30 days, killing 40 people and destroying more than 6,100 homes. [Managing Editor Ted] Appel recalls an exhausting grind — part war zone, part marathon — that engulfed every member of his staff. The line between duty and safety soon blurred: Evacuated reporters slept in the newsroom, dogs and children ran between the desks.
“This wasn’t just a big news story for us,” Mr. Appel said. “This happened to people we knew, it happened to our town.”
The caption for the photo above: “Staff members of The Press Democrat, from left, Randi Rossmann, Julie Johnson, Martin Espinoza, JD Morris, Christi Warren and Mary Callahan, celebrate winning the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Reporting for the coverage of the October fires in Sonoma County. Credit Kent Porter/The Press Democrat”
The Pulitzer board, making the award in the Explanatory Reporting category, called the series a “fresh and painstaking exploration into the cost and effectiveness of attempts to combat the growing menace of wildfires.”
CAL FIRE reports there were no injuries in the rollover
(UPDATED at 9:14 a.m. PDT September 27, 2016)
Firefighters have stopped the spread of the Sawmill Fire in northern California that burned 1,541 acres on a south facing slope along Geysers Road 26 miles north of Santa Rosa. Roads connecting geothermal facilities at the top of the ridge served as anchors for burnout operations.
(Originally published at 8:23 a.m. PDT September 26, 2016)
A water tender rolled over while responding to the Sawmill Fire in northern California September 25. CAL FIRE reported that there were no injuries during the accident that occurred on Geysers Road in Sonoma County.
The Sawmill Fire started Sunday and by evening CAL FIRE estimated it had burned 1,500 acres. The fire is off Big Geysers Road 26 air miles north of Santa Rosa and 14 miles southwest of the community of Clear Lake. Sunday night mandatory evacuations were in place for residents in the Geysers.
The Lake County Sheriff’s office announced today that the remains of two more people were discovered in the Hidden Valley and Anderson Springs areas. More information.
On Wednesday the weather station in Calistoga south of the fire recorded 0.77 inch of rain. Some areas on the fire received more than 0.50″, according to CAL FIRE. However, they warn that a warming trend is in the forecast with temperatures expected to exceed 90 degrees over the weekend.
Some areas in Lake and Napa counties are still under evacuation orders. For more evacuation information, call (707) 967-4207).
The fire has burned 73,700 acres and CAL FIRE is calling it 35 percent contained.
(UPDATE at 10:47 a.m. PT, September 15, 2015)
On Monday the spread of the 67,000-acre Valley fire 62 miles north of San Francisco was slowed by temperatures in the low 60s, relative humidity above 80 percent, and 0.01″ of rain that fell in the late afternoon, according to data from a weather station south of the fire in Calistoga.
CAL FIRE reported Tuesday morning that their latest damage assessment shows that 585 homes and hundreds of other structures have been destroyed. The surveys are continuing and the numbers will likely change in the coming days. Approximately 9,000 structures are threatened. Evacuations are still in place, affecting 23,000 people.
In addition to the homes that burned in Middletown and Cobb, a geothermal plant that produces electricity, The Geysers, was damaged. Five of the 14 plants were affected, including power lines and wooden cooling towers.
Air tankers have not worked the fire since Saturday, grounded by poor visibility caused by smoke and clouds. Tuesday’s weather is expected to make it possible to use them again. The forecast calls for a 35 percent cloud cover, a high temperature of 73 degrees, relative humidity in the 40s, and winds out of the west at 8 to 13 mph.
The video below was aired by a San Francisco television station and uploaded to YouTube September 14, 2015..
(UPDATE at 1:47 p.m. PT, September 14, 2015)
The Lake County Sheriff’s office have confirmed they have found the body of a civilian that died in the Valley Fire, which has burned 61,000 acres 62 miles north of San Francisco. They don’t yet have an official identification from the Coroner, but it is believed to be an elderly, disabled woman who was not able to self-evacuate.
According to the Lake County Press Democrat the Sheriff’s office received a phone call at 7:12 p.m. on Saturday, about six hours after the fire started. At 7:20 deputies and officers responded to the area but were unable to reach the subdivision because it had already been engulfed in flames, according to Lt. Steve Brooks.
Today, eleven years after the 9/11 attacks on the United States, we will pause for a minute to remember those firefighters and other citizens who lost their lives that day……………….
Next Generation legged robots
We first wrote about these “robot dogs” in 2009, and now DARPA has developed the next generation of these machines that are designed to “unburden dismounted [military] squad members by carrying their gear, autonomously following them through rugged terrain, and interpreting verbal and visual commands.”
I wonder how much water or fire hose these critters can carry?
Amazing air tanker photo
One of the best photos ever taken of an air tanker drop was taken by Kent Porter at the Scotts fire in northern California and can be found at the San Francisco Chronicle web site.
California fire protection fee
The San Francisco Chronicle also has an article that updates the situation in which California owners of habitable structures in areas where the state is responsible for fire prevention must pay a $150 fee. Lawsuits may be filed. Of course.
New map of all large fires this year
The Associated Press has an interesting map that supposedly shows all of the large fires that have occurred this year.
Atomic scientists weigh in on climate change and wildland fires
A publication titled Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has published an article written by Max Moritz, of the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management in the College of Natural Resources at University of California, Berkeley. (I wonder if all that fits on a business card?) Mr. Moritz writes about how climate change will affect wildland fires and the population. It does not exactly break new ground, with the recommendations being communities should be fire-resistant and we must learn to coexist again with wildfire.