UPDATE AND CORRECTION, 6:15PM: The name of the Orange County fire is the Triangle Complex Fire, not the Freeway Triangle Fire. My mistake. At this time, the winds are somewhat quieter and mandatory evacuation orders have been listed. A lot of damage has already been done, however. On a personal note, my DH and I are not near the fire areas, though a good friend of mine is entirely too close for comfort.
As I'm sure you're all aware, Southern California has been on fire since Thursday night when the first big one occurred in Montecito, south of Santa Barbara. Next came the Sayre fire in Sylmar and Newhall Pass in LA County. Then it was Orange County's turn. The fire, now being called the Freeway Triangle Fire, started in Corona in Riverside County but quickly moved westward along the 91 Freeway into Yorba Linda before jumping the freeway into Anaheim Hills. Another fire broke out in Brea which is now spreading north into Diamond Bar. At this point six-seven communities and four counties are involved. I know this is confusing to people in other areas, but the Orange County Register has a great fire map to show the extent of the disaster.
Everything seemed fine at 9:30AM on Saturday morning when I went to my readers group meeting, but when we got out at 11:00, the winds had kicked up and we could smell smoke was in the air. By early afternoon, air quality had dramatically changed with the smoke casting an orange pall over everything. These two photos were taken about 1:30PM.
Though California is known for earthquakes, our annual fires are more destructive. Fall is when we get the dreaded Santa Ana winds, dry winds that sweep out of the desert, through the canyons and into Southern California. Sometimes they're hot, as they are now, and sometimes cold, but always extremely dry and dangerous. The origin of the word is uncertain but according to the Los Angeles Almanac via Wikipedia the derivation may come from "the Spanish vientos de Satán ("winds of Satan") otherwise known as devil winds. Once the Santa Anas start, humidity plunges into the 5-10% range and it only takes a spark to set our chaparral-covered hills on fire.
Governor Schwarzeneggar came to visit Sunday morning and led a press conference. Over 10,000 acres have burned, a number that is sure to rise. Anaheim Mayor Pringle spoke and said that my city alone had lost over 100 residential units already, including condos and apartments, another number that may rise. The city of Yorba Linda has lost over 70 homes. 1,260 firefighters, 15 helicopters and 10 air tankers have been fighting the fire, with seven minor injuries.
The only good news is that the winds should change in the next couple of days, usually accompanied by a rise in humidity. I hope the firefighters can get a handle on the fire soon and that no one else loses their home. My heart goes out to those who already have.
Click here for Yahoo's slide of fire pictures.