Saturday, October 25, 2003

San Bernardino Geography lesson


Hell on Earth

My little corner of the world is a bit smokey right now. Since Tuesday, we've had a fire going in the west end of the valley, starting in Fontana & moving through Lytle Creek to Rancho Cucamonga & now making it's way to Alta Loma. My uncle just moved into the area about a month ago & had to be evacuated. Then, this morning, another fire started near Highway 18 & moving on down into the valley. The area from Devore to the San Manuel reservation in Highland has been evacuated. About 1,000 houses are in the way & already about 50 have been lost. Highland is about 10 miles north of me as the crow flies. I'm looking out at the Crafton Hills across the street, wondering if I'm going to wake up to an inferno. With the Santa Ana winds (referred to as "Devil Winds" - how appropriate) kicking up now, it's not entirely out of the realm of possibility.

I know that a lot of you loyal readers have no idea where all of these locations are that I've mentioned (& may not care, but, it's my blog, so thpppppt!). Let me try to give you a rough idea of the layout. The San Bernardino valley is probably about 20 or so miles long & maybe 15-20 miles wide. It's surrounded from the west end & along the north end of the valley by the San Gabriel Mountains & by hills to the south. The Fontana fire (the "Grand Prix Fire" for those of you following the news) strated on the far west end of the valley. It spread west, going through Lytle Creek Canyon, which is forest land. Rancho Cucamonga sits on the opposite side of the canyon. Alta Loma is west of Cucamonga. A lot of what has burned has just been scrub brush, although I do believe about 6 homes were lost.

The second fire (the "Old Fire") stretches from Devore, which is north of Lytle Creek, along the foothills to Highland, with North San Bernardino right in the middle. That's about a 10-15 mile stretch. That fire is moving south, toward the city limits of San Bernardino. Devore isn't heavily populated, but North San Benardino is near the local state college & is much more densely populated.

The winds have died down enough so the air tankers can get going again. That will be a great help. Already, the evacuation center at San Bernardino International Airport (formerly Norton AFB, my old stomping grounds) is full, so authorities have set up a new site at the Orange Show Fairgrounds. One of the shelters that had been opened earlier in the week has been reopened for evacuees of the Grand Prix fire.

The power keeps flickering, due to there being transmission lines going through the fire zones, so I'll wrap this up for now.

Might have to go pick up some marshmallows.