and said, "Daddy, I think there's a fire." Sure enough, looking out her
bedroom window we could see a bit of a fire up in Eaton Canyon, showing up
against the pre-dawn darkness. I didn't have my scanner on yet, so didn't
know my 911 call would be anything but necessary.
The Pasadena FD command post was set up at LACoFD Fire Station 66 (which is
within the City of Pasadena, in a narrow finger that extends up Eaton Canyon
[water rights]), and one of the first things I heard once I got my
10-station scanner on was that they were being overrun and were relocating
the CP to Victory Park (about two miles south). Another thing I heard was a
request for strike teams: "Just start sending them; I'll tell you when to
By sunrise, the fire had gone from the acre or so my daughter spotted to
dozens or hundreds of acres and had burned several houses.
The fire was driven by fierce winds down the canyon, consuming nearly
everything in its path (including the trees along the side of FS 66!), and
embers had carried it across the half-mile-wide Eaton debris basin where it
consumed a whole street of single-family homes (late 1930s/late 1940s, shake
roofs, etc.) and it wasn't long before the fence and roof of the nursing
home were burned.
At the time, I was living 0.6mi west of that nursing home. Starting by about
0800, ambulances in a steady stream were racing code 3 past my house, taking
patients from the nursing homes there and St Luke Hospital to the evacuation
center at Eliot Middle School.
(I was hearing them only because I had been able to sneak around the police
roadblocks to get back home from taking my kids to school.)
It was the day of Back-to-School Night at Eliot MS (where my daughter was in
eighth grade), so they had a scheduled early dismissal. When I arrived to
pick up my daughter, I was early and entered the school to see if the staff
needed help. The principal was in the halls, and had someone stationed where
the buses parked, and when the call came that all the buses were in place,
the principal ordered the dismissal bell rung early and got the school
cleared out. (Due to the evacuation center and to the fact that smoke was
bad [the nurse had been handing out dust masks], my daughter's last
Back-to-School Night at Eliot was canceled.)
In the block beyond my house, an ember got a shake roof smoldering. A
neighbor spotted it and called 911, while other neighbors got garden hoses
on it. The FD response was the water tanker the Parks and Rec folks use to
water trees in the parks! (Damage to the house was negligible.)
A couple of blocks farther away, two young men were sitting in picnic chairs
on their roof, watching the fire and standing by with a garden house
(another shake roof).
By dark that evening, the hills above Altadena were aglow, a very eerie site
indeed! And the parking lot at Victory Park, and the entire paved surface
area of the Pasadena Alternative School across the street, were
bumper-to-bumper and running-board-to-running-board with fire engines of all
different colors. As far as I know, the Incident Commander had not yet said
"stop" to the request for strike teams.
The fire burned for another few days, running across the foothills from
above Altadena across to above Sierra Madre, a lateral spread of over five
miles. There were structure protection firefights all along that spread.
Even after the Station Fire, the Kinneloa remains the most
striking/impactful/memorable fire in my experience. (The Station Fire was
way bigger, but not nearly as close.)
(BTW, the foliage in the Kinneloa burn area is still not as thick as it was
before that fire--yes, 17 years later!)
Almost a week later, as we were getting back to normal, I was driving west
on Washington Bl. in Pasadena when I saw a header on the horizon. At that
time, the Old Topanga Fire was burning out-of-control north from the
wilderness toward the built-up area of Hidden Hills. It would shortly turn
180 degrees and burn to the ocean.
This particular week of October seems to be one of the most popular for CA
fires. I do recall the ones Kim mentioned. I was attending CSUN and
one of my geography classes was fire hazards. I remember trying to get
a term paper done while watching Malibu burn. It was very hard to peel
away from the television, but the material was firsthand! The next
semester, I took a soil/erosion class, and our field investigation took us
the burned out Santa Monica mountains. Timely!
In a message dated 10/26/2010 10:17:28 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time,
Seventeen years ago tonight many of us watched on TV or in person the Green
Meadow Fire driven by Santa Ana Winds rage near the LA-Ventura County
Then about this time of evening it began to wind down seemingly going to
sleep for the night just as we did believing the worst was perhaps behind
Unfortunately, the Santa Ana Winds returned with a vengeance after
midnight pushing the fire all the way to the Pacific Ocean burning many
When we woke up 17 years ago tomorrow morning and turned on our TV's we
realized Southern California was aflame with about a dozen and a half fires
raging from San Diego County to Ventura County.
My own first memory of tomorrow morning was turning on KTLA-TV Channel 5
Los Angeles and seeing Michelle Ruiz and blowing smoke standing at an
intersection that looked disturbingly familiar which I soon realized was
Drive at Altadena Drive and the Kinneloa Fire was raging down Eaton Canyon
which was disturbing as I came from that area before moving up here to the
Central Coast later as a kid. Add to that my late grandmother was in a
rest home across the street from St. Luke's Hospital and the fire burned
fo the roof and fencing in back and she had to be evacuated... we actually
saw her being loaded into an ambulance on CNN.
Fast forward to now and Santa Ana Winds are once again moving into
Southern California and as today's events have shown, the 2010 fire season
Southern California is not over.
We have been getting a Santa Ana-like wind up here on the Central Coast
all afternoon into this evening..... breezy but surprisingly warm for this
time of year and we don't even have the benefit downslope winds like you
folks south of the Transverse Ranges.
There was a 250-300 acre wind-driven fire out on the eastern margins of
San Luis Obispo County near the county line with Kern County today along
Highway 46 corridor. Clearly the 2010 fire season is still in effect even
up here on the Central Coast.
Kim Patrick Noyes
Paso Robles, CA
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