Southern California Wildfires

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Weather is on firefighters' side - for now
Cool, moist air is aiding the battle against the last of the Southern California wildfires, but Santa Ana winds are expected to return by this weekend. More

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L.A. County | Inland Empire | Orange County | San Diego County | Ventura County

Firefighter Josh Balboa monitors the Harris fire in southern San Diego County.

Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times


Goodbye for now

We're signing off from this blog for now. Updates on the fires will continue on the homepage or on the California/Local page. Thanks for reading.

Good night

We're signing off from this blog for the evening. Updates on the fires will continue on the homepage throughout the night, and we will be back in this space Sunday morning. Thanks for reading.

Governor soothes relations with Orange County

Gov
Schwarzenegger, in an appearance this morning at a fire command center in Irvine Regional Park, acknowledged that improvements can be made in coordinating fire fighting efforts between state and local officials. He said problems that arose over the use of fire fighting aircraft in Orange County earlier this week will be fixed to fight fires in the future.

The governor seemed to be alluding to the hurt feelings of some Orange County fire officials who believe the county was overlooked in the early days of the Santiago Fire by Cal Fire officials who had deployed aircraft to San Diego County.

In concluding remarks made during a light drizzle, Schwarzenegger vowed to make sure that “Los Angeles doesn't get all the rain and no rain is allocated to Orange County.”

--H.G. Reza

Photo: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

Santa Ana winds not an issue this weekend

Clouds and cooler weather moved into the region today, courtesy of tropical moisture traveling northeast from the Pacific Ocean, said Dan Atkin, meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in San Diego. No Santa Ana winds are forecast until later next week, and are predicted to be moderate, Atkin said.

In San Diego and Orange counties today winds are "light and variable, a little weak," at around 5 miles per hour, Atkin said.

The light winds will change direction Sunday, bringing slightly warmer, drier weather to Orange and San Diego counties, meteorologists said.

Those winds from the northeast could push against the fire and might allow crews to fight it from the front.

"Hopefully, this will give us a chance to do a little more of a direct attack," Berglund said late this morning. "With the winds coming from the opposite direction, that will slow the fire as it reaches the ridgetop" that divides the two counties. Those same winds could also create drier conditions before moister air returns Tuesday, when firefighters may wake up to a marine layer and higher humidity.

A few raindrops fell today in the Santiago Canyon area of Orange County. "Everyone was saying, 'Hey, we feel raindrops,' but we didn't see it on the ground," said fire information officer Tom Berglund.

Go to the National Weather Service website for updated forecasts for Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties.
--Deborah Schoch

AQMD warns of unhealthful air today

Despite cooler weather and overcast skies, the AQMD, the region's air pollution control agency, issued an advisory this morning warning residents to take precautions:

As wildfires continue to burn in the Southland, air quality will remain
unhealthful today and tomorrow in areas directly impacted by smoke."

Areas forecast to have unhealthful air quality today are the central San
Bernardino Mountains, including Lake Arrowhead, and the Saddleback Valley
area in Orange County.

In other areas not directly impacted by smoke in San Bernardino,
Riverside and Orange counties, air quality today and tomorrow is forecast to
be unhealthy for sensitive individuals. Air quality in coastal and valley areas
of Los Angeles County is predicted to be in the moderate range.

Read on »

Guest post: Talking Insurance

Scott Lewis is executive editor at voiceofsandiego.org. He is among members of the community we have asked to post thoughts, news and follow-ups to the wildfire story.

A simple point about home values seems to be getting lost in the discussion these days. I've been meaning to write a post about this for a few days. On the local radio show Editor's Roundtable yesterday morning, I heard KPBS' Alan Ray advocate a rethinking of whether we should rebuild homes in the areas destroyed by the fire.

Read on »

Making a stand at the county line

Flames from the Santiago fire are within a mile of the Riverside County line, and fire officials hope to restrain it there, fire information officer Larry Tunforss reported at 9:45 a.m. "That's where we're trying to build a line and hold it there."

Specialized crews are guarding the communications towers atop Santiago Peak and Modjeska Peak, and fire retardant has been spread in a 2-1/2-mile radius around both towers in hopes of saving them, Tunforss said.

The towers are linchpins for communications in the area, he said. "You've got a lot of radio stations, television stations. You've got a lot of cell towers."

-- Deborah Schoch

Guest post: Not all back to normal

Scott Lewis is executive editor at voiceofsandiego.org. He is among members of the community we have asked to post thoughts, news and follow-ups to the wildfire story.

Yesterday I wrote a column about a San Diego resident named Cheryl Hamano and the challenge of measuring a disaster.

I had met Hamano and her family four years ago after they lost their home in the Cedar Fire. It was by sheer luck that the family had been able to evacuate during that firestorm. Their daughter had gotten up early on a Sunday morning to go to the bathroom. She had smelled smoke and looked outside. Another teenager was running in the street and told her to get out.

The family left just before flames consumed their house. Cheryl had no time to grab her purse. She was left with no official proof of who she was.

Quite a story.

Since then, the family rebuilt. But the marriage dissolved -- the stress of reconstruction didn't help. Cheryl had to move into a rented house in the same neighborhood.

And, this week, she found herself being evacuated again. The flames stayed away from her home but she said the experience of fleeing the fire was much more orderly this time around. She had plenty of warning and plenty of time to collect the most valuable of possessions.

She said dealing with the insurance company was more difficult than she had hoped. She said that unlike her neighbors, the family's new house was not much bigger than the one they lost. After the divorce, she had to sell and move out dropping the price over and over again in a slumping real estate market.

She said that the stress the fire caused has never really gone away.

"People think once you rebuild from the fire that it's all back to normal," she said. "But it's not -- not always."

-- Scott Lewis

Guest post: Fire and football

Scott Lewis is executive editor at voiceofsandiego.org. He is among members of the community we have asked to post thoughts, news and follow-ups to the current Southern California wildfire story.

Throughout the week of fire, there has been a series of headlines usually tucked in below all of the important news. The stream of updates had to do with what seemed like an overly agonizing decision about when and where to play the Chargers game. Government and team officials passed this decision around like the hottest of potatoes. And they just passed it off completely. The game had been scheduled for Sunday.

About Tuesday, as the fires were raging and causing evacuations all the way to the coast, the Chargers decided to move their practices to Arizona.

By Wednesday, they had decided to pass the decision on when the game would occur over to San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders:

The Chargers are fully prepared to implement whatever decision the Mayor makes, including either playing the game at Qualcomm Stadium or relocating the game to another facility out of the San Diego area.

The mayor on Thursday sent the decision back to the Chargers:

"Should they decide to play in San Diego, the stadium will be ready on Sunday," said Fred Sainz, the mayor's spokesman. "It's their decision to play in San Diego or not."

Neither side wanted to be saddled with responsibility for a potentially controversial choice. After all, the air in San Diego is still hazy. The fires are still burning in parts of the county. It doesn't take a genius
to figure out some choice criticism for the team or the city for callously putting resources into a game.

So no decision came.

Until Friday, when the NFL stepped in. Chargers President Dean Spanos explained that, after all that, it was the NFL's choice all along.

Read on »

Governor strikes triumphant note

Sacramento:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his aides today struck a triumphant and self-congratulatory note as they attempted to show that they were moving into the recovery phase of the 2007 California fire disaster.

Schwarzenegger called cabinet members and agency heads to his Office of Emergency Services headquarters at the former Mather Air Force base for a 20-minute session in front of reporters to discuss recovery efforts. The governor, flanked by other state officials, then walked into a state operations center and thanked emergency services workers who helped coordinate the response.

"This is not over, I just want you to know," Schwarzenegger said. "I always say, this is the sprint. Now comes the marathon."

Read on »