L.A.’s Day at the Mercy of the Wind

By Conor Friedersdorf

LOS ANGELES—As dawn nears on the West Coast the residents of America’s second largest city are in something like the opposite position of stranded sailors praying for wind to escape ruin.

Greater Los Angeles is not quite overwhelmed by fire.

475 acres are ablaze near the mountain pass that connects the L.A. basin to the San Fernando Valley. The mountains on the Valley’s northern border are aflame too––the Creek Fire has burned something like 13,000 acres. And roughly an hour north, in seaside Ventura, the Thomas Fire has burned roughly 90,000 acres, stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the Los Padres National Forest.

But any of those fires, or a new blaze sparked by an opportunistic arsonist or a careless cigarette smoker, could be whipped into an exponentially bigger blaze that destroys hundreds or even thousands of homes if Thursday’s winds spread the flames.

And forecasters have warned of gusts up to 80 miles per hour.

Thus the late-night alerts that millions of Angelenos got on their cell phones late Wednesday, and the Los Angeles County Fire Chief’s ominous warning: “It’s critically important for people that live in wildland areas that you sleep with one eye open tonight.” That advice was perhaps informed by the fires that devastated Santa Rosa and surrounding areas in Northern California earlier this fall, driving some residents to flee burning subdivisions as others sought refuge in swimming pools, barely surviving, or in 40 cases, perishing from smoke or flame.

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To await a wildfire is strange, for the potential damage is hard to fathom.

I remember watching the Grand Prix Fire of San Bernardino County 15 years ago, when it was but a faint glow in the wilderness on the far side of the mountains north of the Inland Empire. It was late October. At nightfall the air was …read more

Via:: The Atlantic

      

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