Wednesday, September 23, 2009

And apparently the finger-crossing didn't work...

...because there's a big new fire (well, new yesterday) in the Moorpark-Fillmore area of Southern California.

Reports say that this fire was a result of spontaneous combustion on a farm in the area, not all that far-fetched given the high temperatures in the area when it started.

Once again, a hint...finger-crossing is not a good way to prevent wildfires.

Monday, September 21, 2009

As a strategy, it leaves a little to be desired...

With at least two fires still burning in Southern California, Santa Ana winds - what we just called the East Wind when I was growing up there - are predicted to kick up today. One forecast calls for gusts up to 45 miles per hour tonight.

The wind, combined with predicted high temperatures in the high 90s and low 100s for the next couple of days, is par for the course for Southern California in September. It is also a dangerous situation, especially with a continuing drought in the region.

So what strategy did Joe Sirard, who works for the National Weather Service in Oxnard, advocate for avoiding fires? The Los Angeles Times quoted Sirard as saying:

"If any fires were to develop or ignite, it could be a serious situation where the fire could explosively grow. It's going to be a potentially hazardous situation, so let's cross our fingers."

Pardon me while I laugh and roll my eyes.

Not that there is really anything funny about the situation. But "it could be a serious situation"? No, it is a serious situation, and more than potentially hazardous. Take my word for it. I've lived through east-wind driven fires more times than I care to recall.

And this - " let's cross our fingers" - is a strategy for keeping fires from starting, or fighting them if they start? Maybe I just don't have much of a sense of humor about wildfires, but that could be the most inane thing I've ever read.

To give Mr. Sirard the benefit of the doubt, crossing one's fingers is one of those platitudes that just jumps out of people's mouths without conscious thought sometimes. Still, it seems like a spokesperson for the NWS could come up with something a little more intelligent than that.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

It's a long, long way from Fresno to Salt Lake City...

Ah, the three-day-weekend road trip.

At least until gasoline prices started getting so out of hand, road trips on three-day weekends were a tradition in the US. They still are for some people.

For my family, not so much. We didn't do the weekend-getaway thing too often.

However, this past Labor Day Weekend, I took the opportunity to ride with friends to Salt Lake City for the weekend. On the heels of that trip, I can tell you one thing for absolute certain:

It is a freaking long way from Fresno to SLC.

I haven't looked up the actual mileage. I'm not that brave. But I know that we were on the road by around 4:30 or 5 p.m. on that Friday, and we didn't reach our destination, just north of SLC, until around 7 a.m. Saturday morning. Even with figuring in a lost hour for the time change (from Pacific Time to Mountain Time), that's more than 12 hour in the car.

Monday morning, we were in the car by around 5 a.m. and I didn't get in my back door until around midnight. Yes, that's an even longer drive. But instead of retracing our route back on I-80, we dropped about half-way down Utah and came across on Highway 50, billed as the Loneliest Road in America.

They aren't lying. Once you get into Nevada especially, there are five towns across the entire width of the state. None of them have very many people. Well, with the exception of Fallon, but they're nearly to Reno...and they have a Naval Air Station. Of the others, I think the biggest one had a population of 5,000. Maybe.

Lest you think I'm whining too much, I will add that the drive, especially on Monday, was absolutely gorgeous. Couldn't say much about Friday night/Saturday morning, as it was dark most of the way. Not as dark as it could have been, however, considering that it was full moon, or close to it.

You know those roads they talk about in the west, that go on pin-straight for as far as the eye can see? Saw those. Interspersed with winding mountain roads through passes in the 6,500 to 7,500 foot range. They don't call it the Basin and Range Region for nothing.

I would recommend the drive to anyone who likes getting out where you can drive for miles and not see another person or car or any sign of civilization. Only do it when you have three or four days to spend because, despite the sparse settlement, there are things to see out there. There are petroglyph sites, archeological and paleontological sites and, still in Utah, a quarry where you can go and dig for your own trilobite.

Don't know what a trilobite is? Go look it up. I've been entranced by them since I was a little kid.

But we all decided, in the last stages of the drive home, after a stop in Lodi for dinner and as we were driving down the 99, that Fresno to SLC and back is not a sane three-day weekend trip. Unless you're willing to fly.