Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Living Large on a Small Stage

There’s one house on my block that stands out.

It’s the only one that looks like a scene from Odets or Osborne, telling stories of dead-end jobs and the hopeless pursuit of love, sex, and money.

How do I know this is true? Because I can’t walk out on the play, the theater is across the street. And most of the dramas take place on the front porch -- hard to miss when your windows are thrown open on hot summer nights. Whatever happens in that house, it's never soto voce.

The cast of characters might number 8 or 10 or more. I have no idea who is related to whom, but I know the house teems with children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and whatever follows that.

Here’s a bit of dialogue from yesterday’s scene. Man, presumably on the phone: “What do I mean what do you mean? I’m on the porch. I’m sitting on the porch. You can think that, but I’m on the porch. No I haven’t. No I didn’t. Think what you want. Think that. Think that. No I didn’t. No I haven’t. I’m on the porch. I’m on the damn porch.”

Well, everyone will tell you I can be a little dense and tend to tune-out during long conversations, but even I could grasp, the man was on the fucking porch.

Maybe two hours later, close to midnight, the door slams several times. A woman this time, screaming, “Get your stuff out of here. No, I mean it. Pack your stuff and get out of here. No, don’t even try. I want you out. No you won't stay. I want you out. Do you hear me. Out. Out. I want you out of here.”

Once again I had a surprising understanding of the situation: My friend better get off the damn porch.

Funny thing is, the patriarch of the menagerie is a very sweet, soft spoken gentleman. Don’t know what he makes of all the drama. The other day, the cops were banging on his door at 6 a.m. yelling “Search warrant, open up.” Police cars and officers were around the house from the time I left in the morning and for most of the afternoon.

I didn’t quite know what to say when I ran into the patriarch that evening as he came home from work.

“How’s it going?” (Okay, so I’m not Osborne.)

“Oh, you know, it’s going.” (But then, neither is he.)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Telling Tales Out Of School

Perhaps you’ve heard of me. Yes, that's right, I was the poet laureate of Mrs. Fletcher's fifth grade class. But I can’t rest on that laurel forever; frankly, that laurel hasn’t looked so perky for several decades now, what with my sitting on it so often and all.

When it comes to productivity, perhaps I should take a leaf from Maureen Hume. And her book. Her newly published book. The Pizza Gang: Facing the Witch is a really fun kid's lit mystery with strong female characters.

I’m not shilling for Maureen, I just like her and we correspond and share some interests. Oh, and if I can casually drop an exotic place name here, she and her husband live in Tasmania, where she grew up on a sheep farm. I hope she writes that story too.

Some of my neighborhood friends gave The Pizza Gang a test drive. Here’s their review:

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Who Let The Dogs In

I’m the owner of two worthless dogs, and that’s the truth.

Phoebe the boxer gets a pass because, as I’ve said before, she’s old and opted for retirement a couple of years ago. Though she knew how to do lots of things in the past, now I only have two rules for her: Don’t die and don’t pee in the house. She’s better at one than the other.

When we go on walks and she jumps on strangers and tries to lick their face, I no longer jerk her chain to pretend she’s in training. Her face is all gray, what could she possibly be training for? So I just shrug and leave the strangers to struggle and gasp. It’s their look out now.

Albert the lab, on the other hand, has no excuse, other than a capacity that has been diminished since birth. I realized the other day, as I told him to heel for the 3 billionth time, this is probably as good as it gets. He’ll strain on the leash, I’ll say “heel,” and he’ll jump back in position with a big dumb smile that answers, “Oh yeah, heel, sorry, forgot.” And then not 5 seconds goes by when he’s not straining again. So I’ve taken to adding a second word to the instruction: “Heel, Stupid.”

Albert can’t heel, guard, or chase rats. He’ll never save me from a burning building or Timmy from the well. He knocks me over when he runs into the house, and knocks me over when he runs out of the house. On command, he can’t sit, lay down, or shake. What he can do is shed. You know that old Peanuts character, Pig Pen, who walked around in a cloud of dirt? Albert walks around in a cloud of black hair and dander. You can wash him (at your peril), but his hair amazingly grows back within minutes. And now the hair is not only in every crevice and piece of fabric in the house, it’s also damp.

My friend Margaret has a dog that is snagging trophies for intelligence and agility. If her Scout were human, he’d be weighing both athletic and scholastic scholarships. If Albert were human, his ambitions would be more modest. I’d have to explain to him why changing oil at the local Jiffy Lube is a beautiful dream, but probably beyond his grasp.

I was thinking about this as I picked up all the tennis balls and plastic bones that Albert had dropped over the partition into the room where my little rescued rabbit lives. Albert constantly rains toys on the poor thing's head, hoping for some kind of quick pick up game, though the little guy has never shown any inclination to play chase, tag, or fetch. Instead, the rabbit just looks up and sighs for the 3 billionth time, “Easy with that baseball, stupid.”

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

To Whit

When it comes to famous humorists, terminal depression is a nice-to-have, but nothing kick starts the good times like a rampant case of alcoholism. Parker, Cook, Sullivan, Stewart … All the great wits seem to share three things: Insight, irony, and cirrhosis. Then again, who doesn’t hate liver?

Ah well, yes. I’ve been breaking a cardinal rule again and reading bios. Let me tell you, in a biography, no one gets out alive. You never close one and say, “That was a pleasant life, and the people were ever so sweet.” No, you read some humiliating allegations about a fascinating person, and by the end, slam down a book stained with guacamole and Coors, and sigh: “Thank you Jesus! for sparing me the curse of genius and wealth.”

Anyway. I don’t need a bio to bring me to that conclusion. Genius makes your head hurt and great wealth requires – arithmetic. And either one means subsequent publication of a whole lot of nothing that shouldn’t mean anything to anyone anymore no how.

(I just discovered Peter Cook. Watch the clip, don't read his bio. Peter Cook.)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

What Memory Serves

Some memories are nothing but habit.

Trauma? Loss? Love? Joy? My mind goes back to the same bank for the usual withdrawal. Why? Because I know the way -- the walk is short, tellers friendly, and they’ve honored my overdrafts for a long time. “Be there in a jiffy. You want this in years five, ten, or twenties? ” And without thinking, I cash in on the same image.

I would never cleanse my mind of any memory, but I’d like to do some restructuring. Move some of the boring ones, my personal clich├ęs, to the end of the line. To put it ever so crassly, I’d like to ditch what are effectively the booty calls of memory, those that are always waiting, ever there. “You want your young love? We’ve got your Steve right here.” God, not Steve, I'm so bloody sick of Steve. I had other young loves, for Pete’s sake. For Pete, and Rob, and Keith’s sake.

I’d like to roam around and explore some forgotten territory.

As an example, if someone should mention children and music lessons, the go-to is my $5 Goodwill clarinet that couldn’t blow an honest C. Why not instead think of Kim? My best friend Kim who played Chopin in packed recital halls when we were in 3rd grade, and taught me to play a simple Mozart sonata on her baby grand, timing the piece to the metronome. Kim, whose family had three pianos, one in the living room, one in the family room, and one in the playroom. Kim, who had three pianos while I sat in my basement and blew my lungs and heart out on a $5 metal clarine…

Damn it, why do I keep scratching that? It doesn’t even itch anymore. Clearly this new roam will take more than a day.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

No Trespassing

Flintridge, of La Canada Flintridge, sits southwest of Altadena and speaks the language of money, old and new.

The nouveau’s are easy to spot. Huge houses overflow tiny lots, like obese tourists traveling coach. The brick, stone and wood all made of the same solidified silly putty. These are the great breast enhancements and penile enlargements of Flintridge, protected by plaster lions at the gate; houses that jump up and down and scream as loud as a high school pep squad at a $5 carwash: “Stop! Look! We’re loaded!”

When Fitzgerald wrote “the rich are different from you and me,” these weren’t the ones he had in mind.

On the other hand, the old money houses whisper, “Just move along, there’s nothing for you here.” They’re not built to look at, they’re built to hide. The people inside give huge amounts to charity, under anonymous. By unwritten law, one Rhodesian ridgeback or two boxers or three golden retrievers must be in residence.

But now some new and old money finally meet on an equal playing field of dead lawn -- Fortunes lost and foreclosure. I could be wrong, but I’ll bet my few dollars on it.

Still, think I’m brave enough to cross some lions or climb inside an iron gate to prove a point? Think again.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Making the bed to lie in it

In order to hide his bad grades, an 11 year old boy claimed he lost his report card while escaping from kidnappers. He made a couple of key errors, however. For example, though kidnappers allegedly took his bookbag, the kid was somehow able to hang onto his tuba case (or whatever band instrument he played).

Still, that whopper took guts. I told lots of lies as a child, lots and lots of lies, but never anything that would involve the police.

Remember when you first learned you could actually alter reality? All it took was a simple, “No, I didn’t,” or “That’s not mine.” The early lies were probably the most believable; it was the evolution into storytelling that caused the problems. The elaboration – scene setting, character development, plot, climax, denoument. And then trying to remember it all when called back to testify before another parental unit.

Perhaps my most successful lie involved some mime and one prop. About the only way we could stay home from grammar school was to suffer a near-death experience. So I whipped me up a jar of fake vomit, and this I hid in my room for special occasions. Can’t remember what went into it, though I know an egg was involved. Early on the mornings in question, I’d shake this baby up into a frothy gaseous cloud, then go running to the bathroom closest to my parent’s bedroom.

“Bwaaaaack!” I’d wretch, and pour some liquid into the toilet. A few more bwaaaack’s followed by a couple of coughs, and I had a day in bed, drinking ginger ale, sketching, and watching Dick Van Dyke reruns.

One time I forgot to hide the jar and my mom happened upon the mystery mixture. All I had to do was fall back on an old reliable. "I don't know, it's not mine."

"Simplify, simplify, simplify." Timeless advice, really.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

You're going to shove what where how hard?

Nothing like a good old-fashioned tantrum to put the US Open back on the map. Brings back memories of those guys we loved to hate or hated to love – Nastase, McEnroe, Conners … They were assholes, but they were interesting assholes. Portraits of what can happen to the tremendously talented, pushed, driven, and spoiled.

As soon as instant replay hit the grand slams, tennis became fair, clean, and a little boring. Sort of like one Sampras match after another, only of interest to those of us who play. And while I get my kicks out of ogling this guy or another (because nowadays only the astonishingly beautiful are allowed to play), I could do with a little more overt personality. It’s hard to get totally invested in a side when it’s just nice versus nice.

The last great character, Marat Safin, retired this week. Safin had a combination lethal serve, deadpan delivery, and unpredictability. He once dropped his shorts and mooned the crowd after a bad call. Call me tasteless and juvenile, but I’m really going to miss him.

Because, you know, tennis is much, much more than just shoving the ball from one side of the net to the other. It’s poker, chess, gymnastics, track, but most of all, it’s a game of nerves. One man or woman out there against all odds.

So, you go Serena. I never liked to watch you play before, but now I can’t wait. You might try once more to put your game face on, but we’ll know exactly what’s behind it.

Friday, September 11, 2009

I Blue It

I read about this artist who makes all kinds of crap for his house – sculptures, paintings, textiles. And though I didn’t really like any of his stuff, that was beside the point. This guy sat surrounded by a dozen projects in various states of becoming. He had the gift of compulsion.

Compulsion is a beautiful thing, provided it’s not for drinking, drugs or something else that will get you arrested, killed, or thrown out of public office. To feel compelled to take that photo, paint that picture, play that piece, puts you, temporarily at any rate, at one with the physical universe.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t born with the do-something-safe-with-your-hands gene. I’ve tried. The latest venture at oneness has been through ceramics. I may retire that smock in the near future.

Take my nude. My neeeeeuwd. We have a couple of problems here. One is shape, the other color. Let’s deal with shape first.

As a nude, you might notice a distinct lack of naughty bits. All I can say is, she lost them along the way. In the beginning there were plenty, but they kept pointing in wrong directions and I eventually obscured them in a series of corrections. Next, she appears to be sitting on half a rock, whereas the original intention had been to recline on a large soft cushion. And finally, her legs are pocked and nicked all over the place, indicating a medical problem of either a dietary or vascular nature. (We won’t even discuss what she could possibly be doing with her hands.)

Now let’s talk color. She’s blue. Was she holding her breath? Was the room too cold? Was I (gasp) taking a stab at creativity? No, blue indicates a glazing error -- strawberry creek over copper red purple, rather than the other way around.

As a result of shape and color choices, my nude now looks suited up for her next diving lesson.

Results might have been different had I consented to learn the basics. But no, I charged straight from the first lump of clay headlong into Batchelder tiles.

My teacher loves me because I make him laugh with basket weave bowls that look like pies. A ghastly pink sushi platter that looks like a dead tuna. Tiles painted in wedding cake icing because I used opaque white instead of clear.

So if I hang up this beret, what now? What next? What’s left to keep my hands off the streets? Sam Maloof has always held an attraction for me. A rocking chair – how hard could that possibly be?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Gotta Hike Somewhere: Pasadena

East of Allen uncovered this lost space. A small scrap of a long-deserted park, hidden behind a condemned pre-school. Someone once cared about Earthside Nature Center, a couple of dozen someones at least. They clipped and primped and trimmed and planted until Earthside shone as a bright star on a very small stage. She was a supermodel preserve for California native plants.

Funny how quickly a cultivated area can lose its manners when left alone. Earthside fans devoted time and effort from 1971 to 1995. And then, apparently, packed their secateurs and left. Without a word that I can find.

On the other hand, some girls get all the luck. Right in the heart of San Marino stands El Molino Viejo. The old mill has seen a lot of twists and turns and cosmetic work since 1810. She’s a charmer these days, for all her checkered past.

I slipped inside prior to visiting hours and rather shortly thereafter was escorted out.

I’m sorry, you’re not open now? Oh, well, I guess that explains the padlock.

The Old Mill Foundation was formed in 1995; for El Mo, it was a very good year.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Bald and Beautiful

Like everyone around here, my vocabulary has expanded. Why, I’m practically an honorary smoke jumper, from a verbal perspective. My neighbors and I debate the advisability of prescribed burns in our hills, and then swap information from Incident Information Web.

I impress myself – which, according to those who know me is an all too common event. While taking a friend on a tour of the hills yesterday, I said something to the effect of, “According to Inci, the dozer lines stopped the fire on the eastern flank, and hot shots kept the flames from marching on to Echo Mountain.”

He said something to the effect of “insufferable.”

Over the weekend, there were quite a few garage sales around the Altadena area. After the past week it makes sense to shed stuff. When everyone considered evacuation a distinct possibility, I was amazed at how few things really mattered to me. How little I was psychologically invested in what I had.

Then again, I didn’t have to actually evacuate. The rubber didn’t hit the road.

One couple I know had an hour and half to lock the house and get off the hill. According to them, it was almost too much time. They had already stacked the essentials in preparation for this, but the additional time made them realize there were other things they really, really didn’t want to leave behind. So they added more and more stuff to the piles, and when only half of it would fit in the cars, had to re-evaluate everything all over again.

Maybe it’s like an IQ test. Your first answer is probably right.

And finally, I was amazed at the support and interest around the globe. Sure, we ended up losing the web top ten search to notables such as Whitney Houston and Katy Mixon (Katy Mixon? Mixon??), but we made brief appearances from time to time, maybe after some story claimed an actor lived here, or used to live here, or thought about living here, or once upon a time visited someone here.

Whatever. The air is clear, the birds are back, and the squirrels have returned to escalate their systematic war against my dogs. Mostly, I’m just grateful.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Station fire, view from altadena, weekend

A trip with fellow blogger Arthorse ("B")

This morning, we hiked up a steep new dozer line. The sand gave way with every step and I tried to set my feet parallel to the hill, as if on skis. B dug her heavy duty hikers deep into the dirt, and smiled when I started to worry. Her voice said "Come on," but her eyes said, "You candy ass." (Oh, she'll deny this, of course.)

How did those bulldozers get up here? It's maybe a 20% angle and seems impossible.

Two thirds of the way, B and I had had enough. The last third was maybe a 10% angle, almost straight up and down. We might as well try to climb up to the sky. So we planted ourselves and took some pictures.

We decided to leave this and head towards the Brown Mountain Trail.

For years, I’ve called the San Gabriels “My Mountain.” Other people may lay a similar claim. But my horse Vandy and I have charged up the hills so many times. I’ve sweated here, been thrown here. I’ve had concussions here. I’ve broken bones here, dropped blood here. I am physically a part of this ground. My horse, my candy ass and me. (Oh bugger, is it "and I?" In a major fire, one can never find the Strunk and White.)

To my mountain: Hey my friend, if you can stand this, so can I. If you come back, so will I.

(Photo of Brown Mountain in its prime/Bonnie Robb)

Arthorse has started a new blog to follow the resurrection of Brown Mountain here.

Station Fire, View From Altadena, Saturday

Just got back from a hike and will post pictures this evening.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Station Fire: Sounds Good

The last update from inci is the best news all week. Here it is:

Fire is currently backing down to Cogswell Resevoir. It is within the contingency area and it is the natural progression of the fire. There is no expectation that it will make a sustained push into residential areas.

Another mild night is in store for this evening with moderate HR recoveries in the lower elevations and poor recoveries on the ridge tops. Winds will generally be terrain driven after sunset and there is a possibility of isolated thunderstorms...becoming mostly clear overnight.

In the southwest corner of fire, La Crescenta to Sunland, most of the night activities will consist of patrol and mop-up to a distance of 50-feet in from fireline.

Hand line construction will continue along with patrol and mop-up 50-feet in within the Pacoima Canyon area.

Crews will perform general fuel preparation for defensible space and structure protection south to Mendenhall peak, and from Rincon Motorway around to the Angeles Crest Highway.

On the east side of the fire (near the San Gabriel Wilderness) - crews will be constructing handline, holding fire spread, and conducting burnout if possible and as needed. The public may observe smoke and occasional flame pockets during operation.

It has been determined that the cause of the Station Fire is arson and is now a homicide investigation If you have any information or questions please contact the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department at 323-573-2387.

The Station Fire, named because of its proximity to a nearby USFS Ranger Station has burned over 230 square miles of land within the Angeles National Forest and near surrounding foothill communities of La Canada Flintridge, La Crescenta, Acton, Soledad Canyon, Pasadena, Glendale and Sierra Madre. The goal of the Incident Management Team is to keep the fire west of Highway 39 and Angeles Crest Highway, east of Interstate 5, south of Highway 14, Pearblossom Highway, and Highway 138, and north of the foothill communities and the Angeles National Forest Boundary. The fire is moving into areas of the forest with no recorded fire history. If you have Google Maps, you can access the fire perimeter at CA-ANF-E5VL Station 9-3-2009 0327.kml

Tonight weather will be mostly clear with temperature between 64 - 74 degrees. Tomorrow will be in the low to mid nineties and 80 to 88 degrees in the upper elevations. The weekend should bring an increasing onshore flow and a cooling trend

Photo: Greg Sweet

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Station Fire, View from Altadena in a few too many words

Tonight Pasadena hosts a community gathering with members of INCI, no doubt some politicians, and the public. Let the finger pointing begin. Blame, we must lay blame. That nasty index finger is itching for a target. So I'll be skipping that meeting.

Our Assemblyman has asked for a thorough review of the Station Fire. Which can only mean he’s poised and ready to point with two index fingers as far away from his own self as possible. I don’t really know his job description, he appears to be about as remote from us as the governor, or the president, or the queen. He was no fount of information during the worst of the crisis, although his site has all kinds of updates now. I make it a policy to ignore those who show up so very, very late to the party.

Every fire is different. In our case, each fire feeds off a unique meal of temperature, wind, humidity, vegetation, and hiding places in inaccessible canyons. The biggest crime will be if officials try to lay blame on some earnest individuals who put their heart and soul into fighting it. Even if mistakes were made, who wouldn’t make some mistakes under such conditions. As long as the mistakes were without guile, forgive them. (If they were made with malice or greed or inattention, that will be an entirely different matter.)

Even from the beginning, there was an air of defeat about this fire, as if the fighters had been dreading this scenario for quite some time because there would be no clear way out.

How about this – we live in fire country. We choose to live in brown hills. We build further into the hills. History has told us, come lightning or some crackhead with a vendetta, these hills will burn. Some of the native fauna will only germinate and grow after a burn.

Once the real smoke clears, a whole new smoke screen of political rhetoric will find logs to throw on their burning self interest. What follows will have nothing to do with the inevitability of nature and the heroics of men and women that we witnessed this past week.

Altadena View of Station Fire, Thurs, 5 p.m. update

5 p.m.

Wow, I really thought Stoney Observatory was a goner, but Scott Johnson sends this:
"LA Times is reporting that Camp Colby in Upper Big Tujunga and the Stoney Observatory on Mt. Mooney near Charlton Flats [appear to have] survived the fire. Still trying to get info on Camp hi Hill and the Chilao Visitor Center."

Greg Sweet identifies burn areas in this photo of Sunset Ridge

This photo: in Star News shows Sunset Ridge. The cluster of singed Pine trees on the ridge is the former site of Camp Sierra that was destroyed by a wind storm. To the left is Sunset Ridge Road to the Mt. Lowe Railway. To the right is the Sunset Trail heading down into Millard Canyon.

Meeting and briefing on fire info, public invited:

First Church of the Nazarene
3700 E. Sierra Madre Blvd.
Pasadena, California 91107
September 3, 2009 - 7:00 PM

This update from Scott Johnson, who just sent along some information on Newcomb's Ranch and surrounding areas (moved to post from comments):

"As of this morning, Newcomb's still stands. about 500 firefighters and 10+ dozers with air support, are working to build containment lines.

The Angeles Crest Christian Camp has this update on their website.

[start] As of Thursday, September 3, at 10:00 a.m., Angeles Crest Christian Camp is safe and clear!

There are many who are also asking about Newcomb's Restaurant which is a mile down the road on Highway 2. The latest word is that Newcomb's is still safe at this time.

L.A. County still has a full crew of firefighters up on the mountain at Angeles Crest. They worked all day yesterday and also during the night to prepare for the advancing fire. We have word this morning that all firefighters are out working on the lines to create firebreaks down in Chilao campgrounds and on Highway 2 near the entrance to the camp (Sulphur Springs Road).

The fire has spread up Devil's Canyon south of the camp and south of Newcomb's restaurant. It is moving in the direction of the camp and restaurant. So far, everything is still safe up at the camp and the firefighters are optimistic about their chance to head off the fire and contain it. [end]

Still trying to get info on the Chilao Visitor Center and the historic West Fork Cabin which was the first Forest Service Fire Station built in the 1890's.

Lets keep our collective fingers cross about Santa Anita Canyon."

As Greg Sweet mentioned in an earlier comment, time to start worrying about the big horn sheep. Their home is in the line of fire.

9 a.m.
Want the good news first? Ground crews and helicopters are trying to save the beautiful wilderness area of Big Santa Anita Canyon. This is per LA Times, Pasadena Star news, and our own Greg Sweet. Still hoping to hear from Outwardscot to confirm the very positive news about Newcomb's Ranch (Confirmed per KPCC!)

The Station Fire stands at 38% containment, but it's going to be a long day for the firefighters. Winds expected at 8 mph (I honestly don't know if that one is good or bad), temperature around 101 (worse than yesterday).

I'll troll some of the other usual internet suspects and expand on this.

Ok, I'm back.

Is it just me, or is inci suddenly much more complete and comprehensible? Just lifted this right off their page as it pertains to nearby wilderness:

"Direct line is being constructed in Bear Mountain area. Mount Wilson is still a concern but fire personnel personnel are feeling more comfortable that the Observatory will not be damaged.

...The most active and most critical areas of fire activity are in Devil's Canyon in the San Gabriel Mountains and the Dillon Divide area in Pacoima Canyon.
... The fire moved to the lower Chilao Road and into Manzanita Camp Ground near Hwy 2...

(Hey: Whitney Houston just returned to the Yahoo Top Ten Search list. Can the fires be far behind?)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Altadena View of Station Fire, Wed, 10 p.m.

Go figure. I know SoCal isn’t the center of the universe, but interesting to note, our fires fell off the Yahoo top ten search list hand-in-hand with Whitney Houston. Guess we’ve both been burning too long.

We're currently trumped by -- among others: Sex and The City 2, and Levi Johnson (had to look that last one up, accidentally contributing to his popularity.)

I don’t have much for the final update, but maybe can feign intelligence by numbers:
$27 million spent
140K acres burned
28% contained
4,700 personnel at work
Major fire 3 miles north of Eaton Canyon, which I think puts it somewhere between Altadena and Sierra Madre.
Per the LA County Fire site, all evacs have been lifted. Per Inci, that isn’t so, though perhaps those evacs are outside of county.

We’re still in Whiskey Tango Fred territory.

7 p.m.

No good news

This from Greg Sweet re: Big Santa Anita Canyon and pack station, followed by LA Times update:

"...The backfires set to protect the observatory did just that. But in burning away from the mountain top they burned into upper BigSAC and upper Winter Creek. The fire was also approaching from the West Fork of the San Gabriel River all on its own.

Bulldozers cut a line to the east of BigSAC, probably along Clamshell road, which puts the pack station, Sturtevant's Camp, and 80 historic cabin in the danger zone.

The official word at that time from Engine 17 of the Forest Service was that they were instructed not to defend the Big Santa Anita. No explanations; period, end of story..."
[More in comments section]

Los Angeles Times link regarding looming danger to Santa Anita Canyon here

This just showed up in comments. Can't verify accuracy, but right now, I like anything that smacks of good news. Hope he checks back in.

Outwardscott said...
"My name is Scott Johnson. I was the former Camp Valcrest Manager in the mid 1990's.

Newcomb's Ranch "DID" survive. They were serving food to firefighters this morning. More than 300+ firefighters and at least 10 dozers are staging out of the Angeles Crest Christian camp located on Sulphur Springs Rd. near "Three Points". All the residential camps are O.K. but fire activity has picked up this afternoon, especially in upper Devils Canyon. Crews are cutting dozer lines and lighting backfires.

More information later." [Outwardscott]

2 p.m.

The poor man's Lois Lane here. A couple of things:

Brief talk with firefighters at Altadena dr/Alta Loma

There are no new evacuations planned for Altadena Drive, Altadena in general. Doesn't mean it could never happen, anything is possible in this fire. A small group of firefighters and stacks of heavy-duty hoses are stationed here as a precaution. Lots of hoses still in the boxes. Major force of fire lies far to the north and is traveling east. I liked these guys. Firefighters are always nice -- I mean it -- they have great bedside manner, almost like veterinarians.

Comments on my blog are not edited or fact checked. I would urge we err on the side of caution before making conclusions. I've asked for further information/something official from Greg Sweet regarding his disturbing news about Santa Anita Canyon.

8 a.m.

Once again, sky this morning is that pinkish-gray (now in the running for my least favorite color), but air humid and less smoky than yesterday.

140,000 acres burned, 22 percent containment. Containment will improve today if winds cooperate.

The battle for the heart and soul of Mt Wilson continues, but prognosis was guardedly positive as of a half hour ago.

Most evacs have been lifted in Altadena, La Canada, La Crescenta. However altadenablog.com (on blogroll) mentions a new evac possibility in Altadena area.

Check Pasadena Star News Larry Wilson's blog here for a trek through the Arroyo as it looks today. Apparently some long-hidden relics (old foundations, signs) are now visible. NOTE: Of course the Arroyo continues to smolder and will not be open to the public for some time.

Compendium of photos from LA Times site here.

Still trying to locate information on wilderness areas... (I've heard from two different first-person accounts that Newcomb's Ranch did burn down. If anyone has more or different info, please let me know.)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Altadena View of Station Fire, Tuesday, last update

8 p.m.

So I've heard the fire is now 20 percent contained, or thereabouts. That beats the 5 percent of this morning by at least 15, though surely I'm missing some crucial exponential factor. (I never should have ditched those math classes. Though as I haven't been running for a week, I think I can get my arms -- barely -- around the concept.)

The air is heavy with moisture. We're receiving some benefits from a hurricane off the coast of Baja.

Firefighters have been working 24-hour shifts. I believe it has been 24 hours on, 15 hours off, then back to 24. Cookies and cupcakes are very nice (and certainly more than I've done so far), but perhaps we can express our appreciation in a more substantial manner. Maybe through the Altadena Fete scheduled this weekend? Just a modest proposal.

5 p.m.

From pasadena daily photo at 5 pm: Mt Wilson cam (last shot?) can be found here

2 pm update

Definitely more humid conditions around here, and that’s the good news. I’ve got some links for you, some speculation, and some questions.

To my mind, best source of information right now (and thanks to Mid Town G for pointing in this direction) the local public radio station KPCC. The website is here.

Pierre gives us a handle on comprehending 122,000 acres: “If you laid out a square the equivalent of 122,000 acres, and started out at a corner, while traveling along one side, you would need to go almost 14 miles before you reached the next corner.”
A NASA photo sent by Don Copeland here

Question about what remains at Newcomb Ranch and structures. Any info anyone?

Shrano asks: “wondering if that photo above the JPL is the arroyo seco/gabrielino trail?”

We’re still at 5% containment, though official word give us hope that might improve by evening. Hills above La Crescenta have been on fire today, lots of air-power at work. Mt Wilson still in jeopardy. In the past half-hour, I have heard no fewer than ten aircraft do a flyover, but then my house is in flightpath to the hills.)

Many photos, more info on my blogroll, including altadenablog, glimpses south pasadena, pasadena adjacent, pasadena daily photo, a thinking stomach.

(Remember, these accounts are first-person, and info seems to change often. It's just an earnest try at accuracy.)

9 a.m.

Click here for amazing photo of devastation above JPL. (Photo by Jon Cornick)

LA Times says it will be cooler with higher humidity today. Star News says it will be triple digits and as dry as ever. Can we just choose the one we like best? And that also pretty much sums up how easy it has been to put the pieces of this fire together.

The birds that normally share my yard have wisely moved on to greener pastures. But I do hear some unusual bird calls around, so I think I'm the greener pasture for a couple of species from the hills.

I'm trying to gather any information on the wilderness areas, what's still there and what's not. Bellis took her own self to Devil's Gate dam and wrote this:

"I looked at the damage from the Devil's Gate dam wall with binoculars, and the Echo Mountain trail looks untouched, as well as Echo mountain and Las Flores Canyon. Millard canyon where the cabins are may have been saved, but further up, by the Dawn Mine, it was smouldering. The Arroyo above JPL looks badly burnt."

Just from my own observation, after the fire travelled along Sunset Ridge, it took a swing to the north, thus avoiding Echo Mountain. But I don't know whether it missed Mt Lowe, etc. And I don't know the current status of Santa Anita Canyon. Apparently the fire did reach one telecommunication tower at Mt Disappointment.

This monster has now consumed 122,000 acres. I can't conceive of 122,000 acres; it's kind of like hearing about a trillion dollar deficit. Many but not all mand evacs have been lifted in Altadena. But greatest risk seems to be all around us. As a forest spokesperson said, "Pretty much everywhere right now is the hot spot."