Wednesday, November 13, 2019

[CaliforniaDisasters] Second Day Of Quake Swarm Rattles Ventura With 70 Estimated Earthquake Events

Second Day Of Quake Swarm Rattles Ventura With 70 Estimated Earthquake Events

November 8, 2019 at 3:05 pm

VENTURA (CBSLA) — For a second day in a row, a series of small earthquakes Friday jolted Ventura starting in the early morning hours and lasting into mid-afternoon.

A magnitude-3 quake was recorded just before 2 p.m. near Ventura, hours after more than at least four small quakes rattled the area – one of which was a magnitude-3.5 earthquake that struck about 4 miles west of Ventura at about 4:10 a.m. Friday.

Shaking was felt in Oxnard, Port Hueneme, Oak View, Santa Paula and Carpinteria in Santa Barbara County, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

That quake was followed by a 2.9 and a 3.6 that struck at the same time at 5:29 a.m., less than a mile from each other, and a 3.2 that hit at 5:37 a.m. just a little closer to Ventura.

Friday's quake swarm struck in the same area that was hit by a swarm of earthquakes Thursday. The two biggest of that swarm, a 3.3 and a 3.4, struck at about 5 a.m.

There were no reports of injury or damage.

The quakes are believed to be part of a swarm of 70 quake events that began at 4 p.m. Thursday with a M0.9 temblor, according to earthquake expert Dr. Lucy Jones.

Swarms of earthquakes are common and is unlikely to be followed by a bigger temblor, Jones added.

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[CaliforniaDisasters] Strongest in a Series of Earthquakes Shakes the Ventura County Coast

Two earthquakes greater than magnitude-3.0 were reported in the area northwest of Los Angeles early Friday

Strongest in a Series of Earthquakes Shakes the Ventura County Coast
This USGS map updated early Friday Nov. 8, 2019 shows recent earthquakes in the Ventura area.

Earthquakes of magnitude-3.6 and 3.5 were reported early Friday west of Ventura, where dozens of quakes have rattled the area this week.

Light shaking was reported as far away as Ojai, but most reports came in from Ventura, followed by Oxnard. Other communities that reported shaking include Oak View and Santa Paula in Ventura County, and Carpinteria in Santa Barbara County.

The quakes were two of the strongest in a series that have been reported in the same area this week, including magnitude-3.2 and 3.4 earthquakes on Thursday. 

"Today's Ventura quakes are really, REALLY normal," seismologist Dr. Lucy Jones tweeted Thursday. "Most quakes don't happen alone."

About 40 earthquakes, most around magnitude 2.0 and below, have been reported in the region in the last 24 hours.

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[CaliforniaDisasters] Placer County deputies to use new siren during wildfire evacuations [VIDEO]

Placer County deputies to use new siren during wildfire evacuations

By Emily Maher| KCRA-TV Sacramento
Updated: 11:25 PM PST Nov 7, 2019

The Placer County Sheriff's Office is hoping a new siren will save lives during a wildfire.

"Every year, we see the worst and we think nothing can top it and then the next year, something tops it," Lt. Andrew Scott said.

California is experiencing more destructive wildfires closer to urban areas than ever before.

"There were areas in the past that we thought were pretty fire safe," Scott said. "We're realizing now they have a very high fire danger from a massive wildfire."

When a wildfire gets close to a Placer County community, it's up to deputies to evacuate neighbors.

Now, they've got a new tool to help: the hi-low siren.

"If there's a siren, that means get out, evacuate now, get out immediately," Scott said.

After seeing other agencies using the distinct-sounding siren, the sheriff's office decided to reprogram its units.

The cost is minimal. They already have the equipment.

"This is the siren speaker that is put in the sheriff's vehicles," Scott said, pointing to the front of an SUV. "This is already in all of the vehicles, as well as the control head that's inside the car."

Scott said reprogramming the sirens was the easy part. The challenge is teaching the public what the sound means.

"The most important thing for the public to know is what the hi-low siren means," Scott said. "Take it seriously and get out when we tell you to."

Deputies will keep going door-to-door telling neighbors to evacuate.

"That takes a considerable amount of time, if you're looking at a large neighborhood that's spread out," Scott said. "With this siren, we can go into a neighborhood and alert people much, much more quickly."

The sheriff's office started reprogramming the sirens last week.

Eventually, every unit will have use of the hi-low siren for evacuations.

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[CaliforniaDisasters] From the Archives: The November 1961 Bel Air Fire Disaster

Nearly 500 homes were destroyed when a wind-whipped brush fire raced through the Santa Monica Mountains with a "demonic fury."

a "demonic fury."

From the Archives: The November 1961 Bel Air Fire Disaster
The LIFE Picture Collection
People watch a plane making a drop on the 1961 Bel Air Fire. (Photo by Grey Villet/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images)

In November 1961, a disastrous brush fire destroyed nearly 500 homes when it roared over a mountain ridge and swept through canyons in Los Angeles' Bel Air community, a grim illustration of the potential for wildfire devastation at this time of year in Southern California.

The two-day Bel Air Fire disaster started in the Santa Monica Mountains and, fanned by seasonal strong Santa Ana winds, became one of the most destructive fires in the region's history. It also led to safety changes and future standards in fire prevention.

Dubbed "a tragedy trimmed in mink" by "Life Magazine," the fire destroyed homes owned by big-name Hollywood stars, including residences of Burt Lancaster and Zsa Zsa Gabor. A Getty photo shows former Vice President and future President Richard Nixon, dressed in a shirt and tie, watering down a rooftop with a garden hose at a rented house on North Bundy Drive. He and wife Pat eventually evacuated, suitcases in hand, along with thousands of other residents.

Like the Oct. 28 Getty Fire that destroyed eight homes, the Bel Air Fire of 1961 started in the mountains hugging what was then a recently completed stretch of the 405 Freeway. The Getty Fire remained on the west side of the freeway connecting the San Fernando Valley with the Sepluveda Pass and West Los Angeles, but the Bel Air Fire jumped roads and charged up and down canyon walls in a terrifying run toward residential areas east of the freeway.

The location of those homes, the construction material used to build them, topography and extremely dangerous weather conditions created a dreadful situation for firefighters. A nearly 30-minute Los Angeles Fire Department documentary called "Design for Disaster" was produced after the fire. The sternly narrated production called the densely packed homes nestled on hillsides covered in dry brush "a serious problem in fire protection, even under the best of conditions."

Timeline of Events

Just after 8 a.m. on Monday Nov. 6, 1961, a construction crew reported a brush fire on a northern slope of the Santa Monica Mountains, a range of deep canyons and soaring ridge lines that extends from Griffith Park in the east to LA's western city limits and beyond to Ventura County. It includes the densely populated communities on canyon floors and hillsides that are world-renowned for their expensive residences — homes to the rich and famous.

But for firefighters, those communities were known for the potential threat of a large-scale disaster due in part to the surrounding topography with combustible ground cover, narrow roads, water supply issues and densely packed neighborhoods. 

Those fears were realized when the brush fire, driven by powerful Santa Ana winds of 25 to 50 mph with even stronger gusts, burned through dry brush on the San Fernando Valley side of the mountain and leaped across Mulholland Drive. It grew in size as it burned down a south-facing mountain slope and into the Stone Canyon area with what a LAFD report on the fire called a "demonic fury." Embers and flaming vegetation were carried aloft and hurled in front of the fire's main front, creating a firestorm that could not be stopped by roads or other firebreaks.

The fire was essentially leapfrogging itself and staying ahead of firefighters. At the same time, a second fire was started in the Benedict Canyon area to the east. That fire was stopped with water-dropping aircraft, but a third fire began south of Mulholland Drive near Topanga Canyon, which also demanded firefighting resources.

Fanned by winds and fueled by dry brush that served as kindling, another key factor entered the disastrous equation once the fire roared into Bel Air. Building materials like shingle and shake roofs, which easily ignite, were common at the time. Anything that did catch fire was going to burn quickly, giving firefighters little time to set up structure defense after navigating winding and narrow canyon roads.

Flaming shingles and shakes from one roof also became airborne and dropped onto nearby homes and brush, starting new fires next door or even in the next canyon. Many homes had large picture windows that crumbled under the fire's unrelenting heat and hanging eaves that provided a place for glowing embers to become lodged.

In a report issued after the fire, the LAFD noted that of the 505 structures that were destroyed, 382 had a wood roof covering.

What had started as a brush fire was now swarming entire blocks of houses and burning at a rate of about 13 acres — roughly 17 football fields — per minute. But instead of forming into one organized fire, islands of fire had broken out throughout the hills, each pillar of fire capable of generating airborne flaming vegetation that could start a new fire.

Around midday, the fire did something that had, until this day and under these weather conditions, seemed improbable — it jumped the new 405 Freeway and spread west. The LAFD would have to commit resources to protecting the Brentwood area, drawing personnel and equipment from the Bel Air area. 

Then, at about 3 p.m., firefighters received a break when the winds that had been whipping flames all day finally diminished. By nightfall, they had slowed the fire's advance to the south and west. Later that night, there was a wind shift that pushed flames back toward Mulholland Drive to the north, where they burned with less intensity. The next morning, air tankers bombarded the northern flank with water drops.

Despite the confluence of extremely dangerous weather, structures that helped the fire spread and terrain covered in dry brush, firefighters were able to gain significant containment within 12 hours. And, no deaths were reported.

By the morning of Nov. 8, it was under control.

The Bel Air fire led to safety changes, including a city ban on wood roof and brush clearances rules.

The fire's precise cause was not determined, but it was believed to be accidental. 

NBC4's Sydney Kalich contributed to this report.

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[CaliforniaDisasters] Camp Fire: First anniversary of the deadliest fire in state history

Camp Fire: First anniversary of the deadliest fire in state history

Friday, November 8, 2019 8:29AM

PARADISE, Calif. (KGO) -- It has been one year since the Camp Fire, the deadliest fire in state history. The Town of Paradise will hold several events Friday to honor the people who lost their lives.

At 11:08 a.m., 85 seconds of silence will be held for the 85 lives lost. That's for anyone to participate in no matter where you are at.

At noon there will be the groundbreaking of Hope Plaza off the Skyway.

Later in the afternoon around 2 p.m., World Kitchen will host a free community meal at the Paradise Alliance Church.

New drone video shows what Paradise looks like today. The Camp Fire destroyed 14,000 homes in Paradise and the surrounding communities of Magalia and Concow. Approximately 12 homes have been rebuilt in this last year.

Paradise Mayor Jodie Jones is all about moving forward. "People were just astonished at the level of destruction but I prefer not to look back I'm looking forward. What good does it do to look back?" said Mayor Jones.

What's eye opening is the current population of the town of Paradise. Before the Camp Fire there were 26,000 people. Currently the estimate is 4,000 to 5,000 people. That means fewer than two out of every 10 people who lived there before the Camp Fire now live there.

The population of Chico has increased by 20,000 people. It went from 92,000 to 112,000.

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[CaliforniaDisasters] We mapped every wine country fire. They’re larger and more destructive than ever

We mapped every wine country fire. They're larger and more destructive than ever

Recent wildfires in California's wine country are among the largest and most destructive in state history. October's massive Kincade fire is the latest in a wave of fires that are dramatically reshaping life in the region.

To investigate the trend, The Times analyzed every wildfire since 1950, when the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection began reliably tracking the size and spread of fires. In the last 20 years, more acres have burned in the region than in the entire previous half-century.

Why is this happening? Scientists point to rising temperatures and the effects of Diablo winds on increasingly dry terrain.

"In a way, climate change is priming the landscape to ignitions," said Max Moritz, a wildfire specialist at UC Santa Barbara.

Acres burned in wine country region per year

1950-1999: 1,011,750 acres 2000-2019: 1,101,322 acres

Seven of wine country's 10 biggest fires since 1950 occurred in the past five years. The Mendocino Complex Fire in 2018, made up of the Ranch and River fires, was the largest recorded fire in California history.

Biggest fires in wine country

AFTER 2015  BEFORE 2015

New areas are burning

The fires aren't just bigger — they're also reaching territory that hasn't burned in many years. Since 2000, wildfires have consumed more than 600,000 acres of wine country land that hah been untouched since at least 1950.

The most destructive fires in recent years have been driven by high-speed, dry winds that carry embers faster and farther.

The state's top fire scientists are now focusing efforts on researching wind patterns in an effort to reduce the risks of a hotter, drier climate that they link to global climate change.

"[The wind] is a feature that aligns itself with these damaging events," said David Sapsis, chief scientist at Cal Fire.

Burned before 2000

New land burned after 2000

More development, more destruction

The devastation wrought by wildfires is increasing as well. Three of the most destructive fires in California's history — the Tubbs, Valley and Nuns fires — burned in wine country, all within the last five years. These fires alone burned 8,946 buildings, killing 29 people.

Experts say many of the losses are due to increased development, as more and more homes have been built in areas prone to fire.

"The homes are the fuels," Moritz said. "We see these burned neighborhoods where there are still shrubs and trees, and it's clear the homes propagated the fire."

Homes are under construction in a Fountain Grove subdivision in the aftermath and rebuilding of the Tubbs fire in Santa Rosa, Calif., on Oct. 10, 2018. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

The change is clear when comparing the 1964 Hanly fire to the more destructive 2017 Tubbs fire. Both burned much of the same area, but the Hanly fire destroyed only a few dozen homes in the then-sparsely settled region. In the decades after, thousands more people moved into the region as the wine industry flourished. When fire struck again in 2017, the impact was far more devastating, destroying 5,636 buildings and leading to 22 deaths.

Hanly fire (1964)

  • 52,700 acres burned
  • 108 homes destroyed
  • No fatalities

Tubbs fire (2017)

  • 36,807 acres burned
  • 4,651 homes destroyed
  • 22 fatalities

Much of the state's newer development lies in these at-risk areas, known as wildland-urban interface, where fire-prone land and housing are in close proximity.

A 2017 study found that home building in such areas increased 41% nationwide between 1990 and 2010. Wine country's most destructive fires have all burned in these zones.

Wildland-urban interface area

What you can do

Government agencies say that people who live in areas that are at risk of wildfires must work together to better prepare. This includes knowing the best routes to evacuate, clearing defensible space around homes and building with fire-resistant materials.

Sapsis says that barring a fundamental shift in the landscape and climate of the state, people in fire-prone areas must prepare for a large fire event.

"Don't think the fire won't come to you," he said. "That's a bad plan."

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[CaliforniaDisasters] California wildfires signal the arrival of a planetary fire age

California wildfires signal the arrival of a planetary fire age

Nov 2, 2019 3:15 PM EST

Another autumn, more fires, more refugees and incinerated homes. For California, flames have become the colors of fall.

Free-burning fire is the proximate provocation for the havoc, since its ember storms are engulfing landscapes. But in the hands of humans, combustion is also the deeper cause. Modern societies are burning lithic landscapes — once-living biomass now fossilized into coal, gas and oil — which is aggravating the burning of living landscapes.

The influence doesn't come only through climate change, although that is clearly a factor. The transition to a fossil fuel civilization also affects how people in industrial societies live on the land and what kind of fire practices they adopt.

Even without climate change, a serious fire problem would exist. U.S. land agencies reformed policies to reinstate good fire 40 to 50 years ago, but outside a few locales, it has not been achievable at scale.

Fire is a driverless car that barrels down the road integrating whatever is around it.

What were lithic landscapes have been exhumed and no longer only underlie living ones. In effect, once released, the lithic overlies the living and the two different kinds of burning interact in ways that sometimes compete and sometimes collude. Like the power lines that have sparked so many wildfires, the two fires are crossing, with lethal consequences.

Fire as framework

As a historian of fire, I know that no single factor drives it. Flames synthesize their surroundings. Fire is a driverless car that barrels down the road integrating whatever is around it.

Sometimes it confronts a sharp curve called climate change. Sometimes it's a tricky intersection where townscape and countryside meet. Sometimes it's road hazards left from past accidents, like logging slash, invasive grasses or postburn environments.

Climate change acts as a performance enhancer, and understandably, it claims most of the attention because it's global and its reach extends beyond flames to oceans, mass extinctions and other knock-on effects. But climate change is not enough by itself to account for the plague of megafires. Climate integrates many factors, and so does fire. Their interplay makes attribution tricky.

Instead, consider fire in all its manifestations as the informing narrative. The critical inflection in modern times occurred when humans began to burn fossilized rather than living biomass. That set into motion a "pyric transition" that resembles the demographic transition which accompanies industrialization as human populations first expand, then recede. Something similar happens with the population of fires, as new ignition sources and fuels become available while old ones persist.

In the U.S., the transition sparked a wave of monster fires that rode the rails of settlement – fires an order of magnitude larger and more lethal than those of recent decades. Land clearing and logging slash fed serial conflagrations, which blew up in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the waning decades of the Little Ice Age.

It was a period of flame-catalyzed havoc that inspired state-sponsored conservation and a determination to eliminate free-burning flame. Led by foresters, the belief spread that fire on landscapes could be caged, as it was in furnaces and dynamos.

Eventually, as technological substitution (think of replacing candles with lightbulbs) and active suppression reduced the presence of open flame, the population of fires fell to the point where fire could no longer do the ecological work required. Meanwhile, society reorganized itself around fossil fuels, adapting to the combustion of lithic landscapes and ignoring the fire latent in living ones.

Now the sources overload the sinks: Too much fossil biomass is burned to be absorbed within ancient ecological bounds. Fuels in the living landscape pile up and rearrange themselves. The climate is unhinged. When flame returns, as it must, it comes as wildfire.

Welcome to the Pyrocene

Widen the aperture a bit, and we can envision Earth entering a fire age comparable to the ice ages of the Pleistocene, complete with the pyric equivalent of ice sheets, pluvial lakes, periglacial outwash plains, mass extinctions, and sea level changes. It's an epoch in which fire is both prime mover and principal expression.

Even climate history has become a subset of fire history. Humanity's firepower underwrites the Anthropocene, which is the outcome not just of human meddling but of a particular kind of meddling through humanity's species monopoly over fire.

The interaction of these two realms of fire has not been much studied. It's been a stretch to fully include human fire practices within traditional ecology. But industrial fire, unlike landscape fires, is solely a product of human finagling, and so has stood outside the bounds of ecological science. It's as though the intellectual sink for understanding can no more hold the new realm of burning than nature can its emissions.

Yet in humanity – the keystone species for fire on Earth – those two arenas of earthly burning, like smoke from separate fires drawn into a single convective column, are merging. Their give and take is reshaping the planet.

In the developed world, industrial combustion arranges agriculture, built environments, peri-urban settings and reserves for wildlands – all the stuff available for landscape fire. Societies even fight landscape fire with the counterforce of industrial fire in the form of pumps, engines, aircraft and vehicles to haul crews. The interaction of the two realms of fire determines not only what gets burned, but also what needs to be burned and isn't. It changes the road fire drives down.

Add up all the effects, direct and indirect – the areas burning, the areas needing to be burned, the off-site impacts with damaged watersheds and airsheds, the unraveling of biotas, the pervasive power of climate change, rising sea levels, a mass extinction, the disruption of human life and habitats – and you have a pyrogeography that looks eerily like an ice age for fire. You have a Pyrocene. The contours of such an epoch are already becoming visible through the smoke.

If you doubt it, just ask California.

Stephen Pyne is an emeritus professor in the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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