First, kudos again to Edhat‘s news list for not only gathering info from many sources, but for giving equal weight to both professional and amateur sources — and for hosting a great many comments on some of the postings. As an interactive local news service, “Ed” does a fine job. When surfing for the latest on the fire, it’s a good place to start. Others among these are good as well:
- Inciweb’s page for the Gap Wildland Fire
- Noozhawk (Latest on evacuations, by Bill Macfadyen, and Report from the Front Lines, by Laura Hout — both from early this morning)
- The Independent new (A report from the Western Front this morning, by Bill Preston — and here is a fire map by Ray Ford)
- The Daily Sound
- The Los Angeles Times (more on their latest below) Photo gallery of the Gap Fire
- KEYT (Local news)
- KCSB (Gap Fire coverage)
- KTMS/990 and 1490am (Gap Fire info)
- Santa Barbara County Fire
Second, I have been somewhat remiss by not including GeoMAC among sources for following the fire. You can follow maps from multiple sources, as I make screen shots and upload them, here. The latest from MODIS shows new fire activity (red dots, meaning in the last 0 to 12 hours) near highway 154 and on the uphill (north) and west sides of the fire perimeter. Highway 154 (San Marcos Pass) remains open.
The LA Times this morning has ‘Critical day’ dawns for Goleta fire, enlarged by overnight wind gusts, with a dramatic photo of an air tanker (see last paragraph below) dropping red fire retardant near a house. The summary:
The blaze, while 24% contained, grew to 8,357 acres. Firefighters plan to concentrate on protecting homes to the east before another night of ‘sundowners.’ At least 2,663 homes have been evacuated.
Note that there are 97 comments so far to that story.
Note that chapparal wildfires, especially in steep rocky country like this, do not only spread from their edges. They also spread by dropping burning material at distances from source flames, which can have powerful updrafts. This makes fighting these fires very hard on the ground.
Inciweb’s page for the Gap Fire currently gives its size as 54oo acres, with 1072 personnel working on the fire. Under Fire Behavior, it says,
Down canyon winds continued through the night pushing the fire front into the north side of Goleta and widening the flanks east and west. Fire also continued to the north into the wind overnight with limited movement.
Structure protection, create safety zones and establish contingency lines In the Goleta foothills. Construct control lines when conditions permit. Damage assessment from last night will be conducted.
Firefighters are from several agencies including the United States Forest Service and Santa Barbara County Fire Department and several local cooperators including the San Marcos Volunteer Fire Department. The California Highway Patrol, Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office, and the American Red Cross are assisting. ICP has been established at Earl Warren Showgrounds. Dos Pueblos High School will remain a staging area.
Current wind is gusting at 30mph from the north (down the mountains, toward Goleta). The temperature is 75° and the humidity is 25%.
InciWeb has no maps for the fire, but does suggest visiting these sources:
- GeoMAC Wildfire Mapping Viewer
- NOAA Map for animated smokeplumes (only source with relatively live photography from orbit)
- NOAA Fire Detection and Smoke
- USDA MODIS Active Fire Detection Program
- Fire Planning & Mapping Tools
It’s sad that InciWeb remains both slow (often overwhelmed) and behind its own curve. I’ve had a number of email exchanges with folks working on InciWeb, and have great respect for the hard work they do within what is essentially a bureaucratic morass. I think the lesson here is that we have to do our best with many sources, and the messiness that involves.
Somewhere among the sources above I read that an aggressive aerial attack was planned to start at dawn this morning. I’m too far east (~5 miles) of the fire to see that; but it helps that Santa Barbara’s airport is in Goleta itself, almost next to the fire, and is home to one of the main Air Attack Bases for the U.S. Forest Service. Here is a photoset I shot of that base, and the P3 Orions used for bombing fires with supressant. I am sure these are in use right now.
Finally (at least for now), I want to say that I’m optimistic about this fire, even though I must disclaim any qualifications for that other than as an amateur observer. I feel a need to do that because I’ve also shot photographs that could easily be seen as scary. These two sets, for example. Please note that I shot those with a long telephoto lens to maximize the apparent size of the sun — reducing the apparent distance between subjects in the photo (such as Mission Santa Barbara, the fire and the Sun). Also because, hey, I wanted to take good photos.
Speaking of which, I also shot the fireworks from up in the hills last night, where there was also a pretty rocking party. Life goes on.