I live on the bench of mountain range, the other side of which had a military training range, which is about 5 miles or so away. They do helicopter, artillery, and gunnery training among other things. So yesterday started out with good weather, and apparently they were training on the machine gun range. The wind was forecast to get high; a 'red flag' day as the national weather service calls it. Well a fire was started by the gunfire, during which the winds started picking up. They used their own resources to fight it and thought it was out at one point. The winds became in excess of 50 knots, and it flared back up and took off through the training range, engulfing the entire mountain range, and up and over towards the city, all within a few hours. The rate it grew apparently really caught them off guard and by the time the military camp requested additional help it was already to late. It's pretty much always windy here on this bench, and I always feared what a fire would do if it made it into this area. We had a hot, dry, windy week, with single digit humidities.
When I left for work I could see puffs of smoke blowing over the top of the mountain we live next too, toward us. At work, I watched as the smoke went from barely noticeable to full blown calamity within a couple hours. I could see it screaming over the hills towards the city limits, and soon the whole valley was filled with smoke. By sunset, the flames had breached range and was racing down the mountain face towards our area, fueled by high winds. I heard on the news they were starting evacuations so I left work.
It took an hour to get home, not helped by the traffic jams that occurred near our area. Way too many rubber neckers, road blocks were up, it was crazy. When I left work evacuations had started, a couple hundred homes, by the time I got home it was up to 1500+ homes and the fire had gone into neighborhoods. I was shocked at how fast that it moved! I got home while some of our neighbors voluntarily evacuated, we decided to stay unless forced out. Meanwhile, we just stayed up and watched it very closely.
The wind blew strong all night. The winds shifted back and forth, so it would burn one way, then start to fizzle out, then just explode and rage as a wind shift would take it into new fuel. It had burned down among homes, but by some miracle only 3 homes were destroyed. It burned literally up the foundations of many, many others. Officials said today on the news they expected hundreds of homes to be destroyed, so we got lucky. By 4 am, the wind had finally started to calm, and the firefighters got the upper hand. The evacuations stopped two streets above us.
As of now, most areas are still evacuated, although they've got the fire nearly out. The wind is supposed to pick up overnight and they fear hot spots starting it back up again. I really feel for those that lost their homes. They had barely any time to get their crap and leave before their homes were consumed. It just moved so fast. But it could have been worse. The homes between us and the fire are expensive so I knew they'd fight hard to protect them, and if anything they acted as a buffer for us. We live in a large town home community, and I feared what it would do if it reached our development in those winds.
In the end, the fire stopped in the neighborhood above us, within 1/2 mile. Too close for comfort imo! Anyway, I snapped 400+ pics while I watched it all night. Here's a few. Most of the homes are evacuated except the ones across the street.
The scene shortly after I got home. I live 1/2 mile from the base of the mountain, where those last homes are.
1/2 mile to our west, the fire was already burning the homes by the time I got home, just out of our sight, on the other side of the hill:
We watched the fire all night, as it shifted around with the winds, sometimes calm, sometimes raging and racing around
Views out my back door and back window:
This last set is when it really raged and raced toward the streets just above us. It moved so fast is was very concerning. Listening to the scanners, it had burned through many of these yards and literally up to their door steps. I'm amazed the firemen kept those homes intact.