Monday, November 12, 2018

5 days of fire, so far...

Our house is up in a canyon. One canyon west of Topanga. We live in Ventura County, right next to the Los Angeles County line. Our house is just under 30 miles from the ocean. It’s about the same distance to downtown LA.

Up the canyon from us is the northern edge of the Santa Monica Mountains Preserve. The Preserve runs south and west to the Ocean. It goes around towns and small suburban LA suburbs, if you’ve been watching or listening to the news you’ll recognize some of the these names. West Hills, Calabasas, Agoura Hills, Westlake Village, Oak Park, Camarillo, Malibu and of course, Thousand Oaks. If I climb to the top of the Preserve I can see most of them. And since Thursday, they’ve all been on fire. We’re lucky, we are on the windward side of the fires.

The winds this time of the year blow in from the desert east of us. The winds are called Santa Anas. The blow warm and hard. They blow for days. Friday the Santa Ana wind was blowing between 25 to 30 miles an hour, with gusts to just under 50. Santa Ana winds are relentless, they last for days and weeks. Today, Saturday, the winds stopped, they dropped to a light breeze. The forecast says they’ll pick up and again Sunday and blow until Tuesday, maybe longer. Fire likes the Santa Ana wind. The drop in the wind is giving the firefighters and chance to regroup and begin to contain the fires. Fires that have been out of control from their start Thursday.

We’ve got our bags packed, important papers in a plastic box. Dog supplies for our German Shepherd. Should we pack our camping gear, food? It’s under discussion.

Well over 250,000 people are under evacuation orders. The hotels are full all-over Southern California, the freeways are bumper to bumper, where would we go? We have family in San Diego and Santa Cruz, friends in between.

We have Spectrum cable for television and internet it’s not working, hasn’t since Friday afternoon. We have T Mobile for our cell phones, they don’t work either. If we drive down the canyon we can get cell service. The cable company says it’s a fiber optic problem, T Mobile says they can’t get in to fix the cell tower for our area because it’s in a fire restricted area.

We’re getting our information from AM radio. KNX News Radio and KFI are doing a wonderful job.

KNX is all news, the news right now is all fire. The station has reporters everywhere and there are constant updates. KFI is a talk radio station. Like many talk stations they go paid programming and syndication on the weekends. They blew that all off because of the fire, their regular hosts are anchoring and KFI is all fire like KNX. Both stations are doing what radio has always been tasked to do, KFI and KNX are serving the community. They are really doing a great job. The programming is informative and it’s interesting. Both stations have partnered with local TV stations and essentially been able to double the coverage. Neither station has neglected to provide coverage of the tragic Camp Fire in northern California. Both carry news conferences live, they have meteorologists live and both have been really, really, good on traffic.

KFI and KNX are powerful reminders of what radio should be and can be. Congratulations to both stations.  

It’s mid-morning on Sunday. Right on cue the Santa Ana winds are back. We have our internet service back. We’re listening to KFI. They just carried a press conference. A few facts, 8,000 fire personnel are on duty. 700 LA and Ventura county deputies have been assigned to looter patrols. There has been very little looting, so who knows.

While watching all news television station KCAL 9, my wife said “Oh no!” It was a story on burned out home in Malibu, she knows the house well. She directed a photo shoot there when she was with an agency a few years ago.

The LA Rams train in Thousand Oaks, 75 players, coaches and other Ram employees live in TO. They had to evacuate. Several players have donated their game checks from Sunday for community relief efforts. Others are organizing an auction of memorabilia, like game jerseys, for the same cause.

This morning, Monday, I looked out my office window to the Northeast, there was smoke in the clear blue November sky. I was downwind from it. I went outside, I could smell the smoke and I heard helicopters. I went back to my desk and checked Ventura County Fire. Sure enough there was a fire on Rocky Peak, less than 5 miles as the crow flies. That was at 10:30. The fire burned up to the Freeway, the 118. Just after 11, the wind died, the helicopters water bombed the fire and killed it in its tracks. It took multiple aircraft and 50 fire crews to take care of it. The Freeway was closed for 3 hours in both directions from Topanga to the Yosemite exit.

It was tense, I walked two blocks to where I could get cell service and called my wife, told her the dog and I were okay and staying put. We are in a red flag area, that means, be alert for possible evacuation.

It’s windy again, gusts to 40mph, it’s cooler and cooler weather helps lessen the fire danger.

This is the 5th day of fire, everybody is stressed. We haven’t had to move, I can’t imagine the stress level of people who are living out of their cars, staying in hotels, worrying about their pets and possessions, their homes. 
This is exhausting.


  1. Good report,Bob. Keep the faith, baby!

  2. Excellent reporting and sense of the anxious. Stay safe.

  3. I have a Neil Young concert poster in my office, it's from his Massey Hall Concert. I looked at it this morning, knowing Neil and his wife lost their home in Malibu.

  4. Hi, via Catalyst.
    Stay safe. People are more important than belongings