The California Wildfire That Burned Big Sur – Part 8

   Posted by: BJ Johnson in studio

Spherical Magic & The Basin Complex Wildfire – Days 24-27

7/14/08, 8:30 PM W E   A R E   P I P E D ! 61 NPT connections ranging from 3/4" to 3", with the great majority being 2". 20 hose connections in the same size ranges. The hose is really stiff and heavy, with a wire helix to support the 1/8" wall, as some sections will be under pretty significant negative pressure when the pumps are running, especially that 3". Getting these to slide onto the hose barbs took some ingenuity, partly because we couldn't move the tanks yet had to put a straight connection between them. I got the majority of them assembled and then Joy joined me to wrestle the remaining six joining sections into place. Only got one blister out of the whole operation. OOF!

We had a little ceremony while opening the 2" ball valve on tank 1 to allow the small amount of water from the hose test to flow into the pressure header for the first time. One by one, we opened the ball valves to tanks 2, 3 and 4, watching the vertical sight gauge as the water flowed and equalized in all four tanks. I opened the 3" ball valve to bleed the air from the header. Not much in the way of pressure at this point but, so far, no leaks.

Tank Farm Left Assembled Tank Farm with Pumps, Left Tank Farm Left Assembled Tank Farm with Pumps, Right 3 Inch Output Ball Valve3 Inch & 2 Inch Output Tube Assemblies 3" Output Ball Valve, shown approximately full size. and 3" & 2" Output Tube Assemblies - 12' tape measure and that 24" pipe wrench in the shot for scale. 3 Inch Output Ball Valve3 Inch & 2 Inch Output Tube Assemblies The 2" and 3" pumps hooked up to the output tubes during the fit test. Now, all we have to do is figure out how to pay for all of this. The fire is temporarily in more of a smoldering mode, with the humidity being up and the winds now shifted again to the normal NNW. This pushes the fire back up the hill that it is backing down, so the advance is slowed. Good. I can use the rest. Problem now is, we're pretty much stuck here. There have been folks suddenly locked out because something went wrong (like that slop-over I mentioned this morning) and the area went from Voluntary (residents can come and go) to Mandatory (if you happen to be out when the door comes down, you're out). Sometimes there is a warning that Mandatory will go into effect at X:XX hour but not always. Blue Rock Ridge Blue Rock Ridge establishment shot with a chopper and a hawk. The following 6 frames are all of this area - taken 7/16. Most have one or more aircraft within the shot. 2 Choppers OppositeChinook 2 Choppers3 Choppers 2 Choppers CenterChinook Reservoir ValleyReservoir ValleyReservoir Valley The valley in which Los Padres Reservoir sits being steadily advanced upon, day and night; the last shot taken a day later in the afternoon. Reservoir ValleyReservoir Valley Choppers working out of the Los Padres Reservoir on the fire advancing toward their primary water source. Their commute has grown shorter, at least. 7/17/08, 3:30 AM After three days of delicious marine layer, this afternoon we heated up again and the fire regained its activity. It was very comforting to wake up in a cloud each morning and not be able to see our own trees, knowing that the fire was being stifled by its presence. What gets me is, when the fire is so weakened, there also is little, if any, air power activity. At first, I thought that it was visibility limitations, but after this many days with varying conditions, that doesn't ring true any longer. Geez, when it's down, hit it with everything you've got and PUT THE SUCKER OUT! For three days the fire looked like a line of large camp fires out there, not moving at all. Perimeter moved a few tens or hundreds of feet; nothing like the days before when it moved a mile and a half in one day. "Nope, don't want to waste those nice dozer lines we put in. Let's let it burn, so we can put them to good use. Otherwise, it would be a waste of taxpayer money. After all, we can't look like heroes if it doesn't come down to the wire." The duplicity is so thick you can cut it with a dull wooden spoon. Now, when it's roaring again, the choppers are all over the place--just trying to maintain in a resumed uphill battle. Let's face it, if the fire grows to a really, really huge number of square miles and it is finally "contained", as they say, after a two month-long battle, it is way more prestigious than if they whacked it in the first day or two and no one will ever know how big it could have become. I've seen wildfires handled in a few hours to a day, so I know it can be done--but those don't set any records or get any notice to speak of. This one was not responded to with enough force, quickly enough, and it got way out of hand. Ya gotta hit 'em early; hit 'em hard. BTW, "contained" means there's nothing left to burn except some areas in the middle. It isn't as if there is an active force being applied that keeps it in check. Every day truck crews drive up here in 5, 6 or 7 truck caravans, stand around up the road for a couple of hours, then drive back down. A couple of hours later, another contingent does the same thing. Few hours after that, same deal. Ummmm, nothing changing up here since the last time you were by (yesterday). No hot spots on the MODIS plot, so there's no fire here. It's almost funny to see them "knock off" at 5:00. Can set your watch by it. Go stand out on the road and wait. Here they come.... Fire doesn't quit at 5 PM--far from it--but no one is up here watching it now but us. I'll be glad they are here and that they know the area when the time comes, yes, but once, twice or three times to become familiar is plenty. This goes on every day, all day... just not at night. The other dynamic that has come to light is, after a few of these meetings with the Incident Commander, one definitely gets the impression that no one in the Command Center has actually run one of these wildfires where people are involved. Areas have been placed on Voluntary Evac. and people have been caught outside the designated perimeter when Command suddenly declares a Mandatory Evac. for the area, with little or no notice. These people now can't get back in! Some have elderly to take care of and evacuate, others have animals. When the IC is called on it, there's lots of: "We apologize for that and we'll definitely work on making it better." Forthright and magnanimous but, Huh?, this stuff is almost a given. What are we, Beta testers? Have you ever *done* this before, or was it just sims? I have processed a number of single images and panoramas of the scene and the tank operation taken over the past few days but am too shot to do the coding tonight. It'll likely be up tomorrow. Some interesting stuff in there. Some scary stuff in there. All of it has a beauty, though, no matter how threatening it may be when it is staring you in the face; now even closer than before.    

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