Last year it was the Thomas fire that stretched from west of Fillmore to almost Santa Barbara. Just happened to occur at the peak of fire season at the same time as three other smaller fires. The Thomas fire was really two different fires starting nearly simultaneously that merged, one near Thomas Aquinas College, and one near Steckel Park just N. of Santa Paula. The sites are within a few minutes drive. No official cause has been determined

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The hole in the doughnut is the city of Ojai.

If you pull back you can see three other fires that popped up simultaneously with the Thomas Fire (which itself was a combination of two fires). They are major fires in their own right but not quite the monster that the Thomas Fire turned into. The Rye Fire came within 5 miles of where I lived – as the spark would fly.

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When multiple fires start nearly simultaneously, I can only assume a firebug at work. Did one fire inspire some sick asshole to start another or were they all work by the same person? I have not done the math but it subjectively feels like fires (and shooting incidents) always happen in clusters.

Natural fires are fairly uncommon out here. This isn’t the “cycle of nature”. We don’t get a lot of dry lightning in our dry season. We don’t often have cloud cover at all and humidity is usually in the teens or less. The causes are almost always human. Transformers explode, a power line goes down, a structure or car catches fire and it spreads.

In 2006, the Day Fire came close enough to our home that I kicked the rest of the family out to go stay with Grandma. I stayed behind with my motorcycle because there were reports of looters in evacuated areas. I watched it race across the hillside behind our house much faster than any person could ever run. We had the wide (and completely dry) Santa Clara River between us and it and it did not jump this natural firebreak. In 2009, the Station Fire came within about 10 miles straight line. The updraft from the heat was so intense, it looked like the mushroom cloud from a nuclear explosion climbing towards the stratosphere.

We are constantly having smaller fires along nearby freeways. Being right in civilization they are quickly detected and extinguished. Cigarette butts, sparks from dragging chains, sparks from construction equipment, people parking with their catalytic converter in grass while it is still hot.

One of the few fire look-outs still active is manned by volunteers for the forest service maybe fifteen miles by road away from me. It is a very cool hike.

Abysmal human stupidity is to blame for most fires. Kids using fireworks in land that is ready to explode into flames. Kids playing with matches. Campfires that are not only illegal but for which no safety precautions were taken. Sparks from off road vehicles that lack proper spark arresters. Illegal rubbish fires.

 

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Large orange area to the right is the Woolsey fire. Smaller orange area to the left in the Hill Fire.

The most recent fires in SoCal are the Woolsey fire and Hill fires. Both happened within a few minutes drive of each other in the same county. This was almost immediately following a mass shooting at a local Thousand Oaks Bar-BQ and line dancing joint which is currently in danger of burning down. Shootings happen in clusters. Fires happen in clusters. Mass shootings and arson are committed by the mentally ill. Psychopaths, sociopaths, pathological narcissists. Both often brood about doing exactly this sort of thing and seeing it happen elsewhere gives the slight boost needed for them to go out and do it.

The Woolsey fire is about 20 miles straight line away but our air quality is horrid. It was a day to stay inside and not exert oneself.

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This is a map of all wildfires in Southern California since 1957. Almost every undeveloped near the LA metropolitan area has burned. Some areas have burned several times over. Look at the area to the upper left.  Also the mountains in the top center. There is just as much fuel there and it hasn’t burned in 60 years. I can’t prove it but I think the difference is fewer city slickers.

At latest count the SoCal fires have burned well over 85,000 acres and over 170,000 people are in evacuation areas. At least two people dead. Meanwhile in the northern part of the state the Camp Fire has burned the town of Paradise to the ground. It has already destroyed more homes (6500+) than any other fire in California history.

 

As things get hotter and the state dries out further and more forests die from the bark beetle,  we can only expect fires like this to continue. In winter and spring, when we do get rain we can expect massive mudslides from denuded hill. Chaparral that is burned more than once a decade loses its ability to recover and foreign invasives start to take over.

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Pine trees cannot resist the onslaught of the bark beetle in this drought. Entire forests as dying.

In a couple of decades, if the climate continues to get warmer, we will be a much drier state. The scrub will be desert and the Colorado desert will extend into the Mojave desert. Oaks will be replaced with scrub and pine will be replaced with oak. The pine will move to higher elevations. It could be a very bumpy road.

On edit 11-11-18

The fire has reached West Hills, part of Los Angeles. 0% containment. Windy and dry weather until Tuesday.

Mandatory evacuation in West Hills marks 1st within-LA city limits

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