It was three weeks shy of two years ago that the Cedar wildfire began near Ramona, California. The fire started at dusk, so we went to bed unknowing, but awoke the next morning to an orange sunrise (I distinctly remember The Cars’ song “Bye Bye Love” running through my head: “It’s an orangey sky …”) and ash falling like snow. Sixty mile an hour Santa Ana winds, aided by single-digit humidity, meant than in only 16.5 hours the fire had run 30 miles toward the coast overnight, incinerating 100,000 acres — and killing 13 people. It burned 280,278 acres and 2,820 buildings before it was done.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, this was one of the photographed such firestorms in memory, and much of the photography is still online. The most harrowing bit of media, however, is a video clip I obtained from a media source. It is a through-the-windshield thing taken by a man escaping the fires with his family in the late hours of that first night, when the fire was still a complete surprise and many people in inland San Diego County had only themselves to rely on. I’ll leave it up for a spell, at least until it takes too much of a tax on my bandwith.
Turning to the present, much of the inland-valley and near-coastal terrain burned in San Diego County by the Cedar fire now shows little sign of its passage. Record rainfalls last winter has meant that surprisingly thick new undergrowth has already covered the ash and burned stumps — much of which is now dried out completely after a typical southern California summer.
Of course, past is always prelude when it comes to southern California and wildfires. It’s Santa Ana season again, and here is the fire weather forecast for the coming week:
FIRE WEATHER WATCH FOR MOUNTAINS AND INLAND VALLEYS OF SOUTHWEST CALIFORNIA TUESDAY EVENING THROUGH THURSDAY AFTERNOON FOR VERY LOW HUMIDITY AND GUSTY NORTHEAST WINDS… .DISCUSSION…STRONG TROUGH MOVING INLAND TO THE NORTH TONIGHT AND MONDAY WILL CAUSE GUSTY SOUTHWEST WINDS ACROSS MOUNTAINS AND DESERTS AND DEEPEN THE MARINE LAYER TO AROUND 4500 FEET BY MONDAY MORNING. HIGH PRESSURE BUILDING OVER THE GREAT BASIN MONDAY NIGHT AND TUESDAY. THIS WILL CAUSE A MODERATE SANTA ANA WIND EVENT LATE TUESDAY THROUGH THURSDAY AND A FIRE WEATHER WATCH HAS BEEN ISSUED FOR THE MOUNTAINS AND VALLEYS. WIND PRONE AREAS ARE EXPECTED TO HAVE GUSTS NEAR 60 MPH. RELATIVE HUMIDITY WILL FALL BELOW 10 PERCENT OVER MUCH OF SOUTHWEST CALIFORNIA WEDNESDAY AND THURSDAY…AND CONTINUE VERY LOW INTO FRIDAY OVER THE MOUNTAINS AND DESERT AREAS…WITH LITTLE TO NO OVERNIGHT RECOVERY. ONSHORE FLOW IS NOT EXPECTED TO REETURN AGAIN UNTIL FRIDAY NIGHT AND SATURDAY.