San Diego fires – update 8:00 AM PDT 24 October, 2007

The shore of Mission Bay
San Diego, California, USA

8:30 AM 24 October, 2007

In response to inquiries about our status and the situation here I expanded distribution to our full travel mailing list. My original status message follows this one.

We are still OK. We’re in the only little pocket of this entire region that has had low winds and relatively clear air. We still have a clear path to the beach.

The air here is smoky and we are getting a good coating of fine ash. Most people have minor eye irritation, sneezing and are suffering other ill effects.

All the family is OK. Everyone who is close to or in the path of evacuation orders has their critical items packed and ready to go, including our niece, Madison, who has her favorite stuffed animals staged for evacuation.

We have no information on Eric, my brother-in-law who is a Los Angeles County fireman. No news is good news there, and I never worry about Eric. He is one of the most hyper-capable people I’ve ever known. My brother would no doubt chalk that up to Eric’s Navy experience.

We have friends who have been under evacuation and some friends we fear have lost their homes. We don’t know the status there.

A friend from the San Francisco area emailed and said the only news they are getting concerns the fires in Malibu and other celebrity laden areas, so here is an update on the situation here in the San Diego area.


Highlights from the 07:30 press conference:
  • Local residents are being asked to stay at home, stay off the roads, stay off their cell phones and use as little electricity as possible.
  • A local official stated that more people have been evacuated here than during Katrina.
  • More than 10,000 people currently at Qualcomm (Jack Murphy) Stadium. No arrests, no violence, attitudes of evacuees are good. Plenty of water, food, health care and other resources.
  • The Qualcomm (Jack Murphy) Stadium evacuation center was planned, coordinated and executed by the city of San Diego.
  • 42 shelters in operation in San Diego County.
  • The Southern Baptists have arrived and are feeding relief workers. (They have an amazing operation. We worked with and around them when we were in Mississippi for a month on Katrina relief.)
  • 500 National Guard troops on the ground, 700 additional inbound.
  • Fewer deaths and injuries so far than in the 2003 fires.
  • No new civilian fire resources are inbound, all are committed elsewhere.
  • San Diego fire department has returned to normal deployment. The last two days they had between one and four engines to cover the entire city with the rest on the fire lines.
  • All four National Forests in Southern California are completely closed until further notice.
  • The American Red Cross has 2,000 people on site.
  • More than 9 million hits on the county information web server in the first 24 hours.
  • The electrical situation is critical.
  • San Diego, the seventh largest city in America, has only two electrical transmission corridors (Local Not In My Backyard activists and radical environmentalists have blocked construction of a third).
  • The southern route has been down since the fires began.
  • The northern route has been our only link to external power supplies.
  • Four of the highest capacity lines from the north are currently down.
  • The entire north corridor was lost twice last night.
  • The north corridor is currently at partial capacity.
  • The north corridor is at very high risk today from a large fire front.
  • All generation capacity in the San Diego area is running 100%, including all peaking plants.
  • A local electrical transmission emergency is in effect for this region.
  • Mexico is providing power to the San Diego area. Without it, we would be under rolling blackouts or blacked out.
  • All active and retired military personnel that have been evacuated can report to Navy station San Diego or Navy station Coronado.
  • Navy has berths available.
  • Chow lines, PXes, etc. are open and available 24×7.
  • Navy and Marine air assets (rotary and fixed wing) have been flying since the fires started.
  • Navy and Marine fire fighting ground assets are working the fires.
  • Additional ground assets are inbound via air and overland from the Midwest and South.
  • Four C-130 fire fighting aircraft are deployed to Naval Base Ventura and will fly fire missions starting this AM. 
  • The San Diego region congressional delegation, including ranking armed services committee member Rep. Duncan Hunter, worked directly with California Governor Schwarzenegger to strong-arm the director of CalFire (formerly CDF – California Department of Fire) to accept military air assets. The Navy and Marines reportedly had 40 rotary aircraft available since the fires began, but were refused by CalFire. The director of CalFire demanded a letter from the local military commander releasing himself and CalFire of liability before he would allow the military air assets to be utilized.
  • The city and surrounding areas of Fallbrook were evacuated through Camp Pendleton to San Clemente state park.
Info sites:
News sites:
Local Television Stations:
Local news radio:
Community news:
Major transportation status:
  • Interstate 5 is closed from 76 N through Camp Pendleton.
  • Interstate 15 was open this AM but is at risk due to a fire front north of 76.
  • Interstate 8 is closed to tall vehicles through the mountains and passes east of San Diego.
  • All rail service along the coast is shut down.
Some stats:
  • 6 fatalities related to the fires, 1 direct fire death
  • 18 firefighter injuries, two critical
  • 22 civilian injuries
  • 513,000 net evacuees (560,000 total, some have been allowed back)
  • Over 1,500 structures destroyed (estimates only, no accurate overall count exists)
  • ~410,000 acres / 165 921 hectares burned, that is equal to 640.6 square miles / 1 659 square kilometers
In detail, here are some stats that could be surveyed in a partial burn area. These are from a very small portion of the burned area in the county.
The following have been destroyed in the partial burn area:
  • 686 homes
  • 170 mobile homes
  • 4 commercial buildings
  • 194 outbuildings
  • 393 vehicles
  • 20,000 avocado trees (Fallbrook, one of the burnt areas, is one of the world’s top areas for avocado production.)
Fire status:

The good news: Winds are predicted to peak at 35 MPH this morning and slowly decrease the rest of the day. We should return to the normal onshore breeze here by tomorrow.

Most striking video in the last 24 hours: Last night’s long pan from a helicopter of a line of fire more than 50 miles long.

Quote of the day: “If it’s this big and blowing with as much wind as it’s got, it’ll go all the way to the ocean before it stops,” said San Diego Fire Capt. Kirk Humphries. “We can save some stuff but we can’t stop it.”

Photo by David S. Roberts


Photo by Lance Smith

Photo by Frank Chaco

Photo: NASA

San Diego fires – update 5:00 PM PDT 22 October, 2007

We are both OK.
Steph is at the airport picking up Chari, who just flew in from visiting a friend in Portland. Shaun is in San Jose, near San Francisco and Adam, Carrie, Amber and Nakeya have the good sense to be in Minnesota, which is not currently on fire.
Last week Chari moved from Alpine, which has been evacuated, to San Diego. Good timing on her part, but she is very worried about the people she knows out there.
Steph and I are set up in with the rig in a campground on Mission Bay in San Diego.
We are literally right on the water of bay, so if I have to, I will drive the rig across the beach into the water and use our pumps to wet it down with sea water.
The campground is filling with evacuees who were able to get their RVs and trailers off their property or out of storage.
I ran an errand this afternoon and there were 15 rigs sitting in the driveway trying to check in.
There are currently over 250,000 people in San Diego County under mandatory evacuation orders, including some of our friends. We don’t know of any of our family that is evacuated yet, but we have some that live literally right on the line of these evacuation orders.
We’ve had severe Santa Anna winds the last few days. It’s blowing 20-30 MPH / 32-48 KPH with gusts to 60+ MPH / 96 KPH. The wind is blowing off the deserts out over the ocean, so the air is very dry and hot. Humidity levels are below 10%. The winds are expected to continue until at least Thursday.
The San Diego County sherriff said in a news conference this afternoon, “This is going to get worse.”
Interstate 15 is closed from the 56 to the 78. The roads east of the 15 are all closed.
Ramona was hit hard, lots of property loss there. Escondito, Poway and Rancho Bernardo have some damage with active fires burning. The fire is also currently burning into Rancho Sante Fe.
The lastest information I heard was one killed, more than 15 injured, six firefighters injured, two critically, one in a medically induced coma.
I’ve attached a photo showing a map of the mandatory evacuation order areas. For those who have visited us here when we had our house in Carlsbad, our old home is located just about on the upper right corner of the Interstate 5 logo on the attached map.
Our current location is on the bay in the lower left portion of the map.
I just talked to a friend in Riverside who spent the day working in Ontario, California. He said there were fires all around them, the smoke filled the sky and the sun was a dim, orange ball. He told his employee on the job with him, “It looks like California is turning into hell.”
Others may dispute his timing, but few here in San Diego County would doubt his observation.
San Diego Union Tribune:
Local Television Stations:
Local news radio:
Photo by Jon Upson