Mo's Manic Monday - Fire

Posted: Monday, February 23, 2009 by Travis Cody in

Welcome to another Manic Monday with Morgen. Don't forget to cruise by MM HQ at the Manic Monday blog. Today's theme is Fire.

Fire Siege of 2003

In October 2003 it seemed like the entire southern part of the state of California was on fire. At least 15 different wildfires burned, covering over 720k acres, killing 24 people while displacing 120k and destroying over 3600 homes. The fires caused an estimated $2 billion worth of damage.

In San Diego County, more than 2200 homes were destroyed by the Cedar Fire, which burned over 280k acres. The Old Fire burned in the San Bernardino Mountains up to Lake Arrowhead and consumed over 91k acres and 993 homes. These fires were both started by arson or carelessness and killed 21 people between them.

Photo credit: Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Terra satellite

To the northwest of those two huge fires, Simi Valley and Santa Clarita Valley were also burning. Fires raged from the Piru area to Ventura to Simi Valley to the Stevenson Ranch area and eventually merged into one huge fire, separated in spots only by highways or natural fire breaks like stream beds.

I was living in Valencia near Magic Mountain at the time. I remember the fire crews talking about setting fire breaks so that the fires would burn in a circular pattern through the canyons, eventually running up against areas that had already burned. Ultimately that was the best way to put the things out. So many fires raged out of control during that 2 week period in October and November.

The Stevenson Ranch edge of the fire burned right up to Interstate 5, about a mile from my townhouse. I had the Liberty packed up with stuff. I was ready to scoop Mr Tucker and get out. Fortunately, firefighters used the freeway to help them turn the fire back into the canyon. If it had jumped the freeway, it couldn't have been stopped before it destroyed a lot of property in Valencia, Santa Clarita, and Saugus.

We were lucky. But it sure was scary. You never knew if the Santa Ana winds would whip the flames up and send them off in a new direction. You could get caught by highway closures. Or the police could come to your door and tell you to grab the family and get out now.

Some of the same areas burned again in 2007. I know it's part of the natural cycle of the area. The eco-systems are well adapted to periodic burnings. But these fires in 2003 were started by arson and by human carelessness. There's nothing natural about that.


  1. Some horrendous fires there. A post with a timely reminder.

  1. I had similar experiences with wildfires in Florida a few times. It is very scary! Thankfully, our firefighters were able to keep the act of a few idiots/arsonists from destroying absolutely everything.

  1. One of my neighbouring countries burn forests each year for farming. It's usually under control, but as a result we get haze in our atmosphere which makes life difficult.

  1. I remember seeing this on the news.
    Scary stuff.

  1. Jeni says:

    Thanks for the reminder of how terrible those fires were and can be, as it is pretty much an every year thing, isn't it, for the wildfires to hit. Those however, really came with a vengeance.

  1. Anonymous says:

    That would be scary being so close tot he flames...

  1. Bond says:

    What a frightening thing that must be. I do remember when I was a teen a fire breaking out on the eastern end of Long Island and being able to see the haze from our home some 30 miles away.

  1. Jamie says:

    When I was a small child, we would sit on the roof and watch the yearly fires up on the hills. They were beautiful looking at them through the binoculars. Unfortunately, there are now houses on all those hills where people were never meant to be, and the fires aren't beautiful anymore.

  1. Jeff B says:

    I remember vividly, stories my dad would tell us about various wildland fires he battled throughout his career. There was nothing better for him to see an arsonist be caught and jailed.

  1. Those satellite images bring it home. Wow.

  1. Villager says:

    Happy MM! Thank you for sharing the story. I lived in Los Angeles for many years ... and the issue of wildfires seemed more often in the news than earthquakes.

    I invite your blog readers to my tribute firefighters with a focus on historic fire chiefs around the nation.

    peace, Villager

  1. I can't even imagine how terrifying that must be.

  1. That was a wild thing...

    Cool to see those satellite image pics of the billowing smoke. I never saw those.

    Happy MM!

  1. Julie says:

    We've talked about this before but sharing these photographs makes it so much more real. What a devastating situation.

    So glad you were kept safe.

  1. Linda says:

    Poor California - for such a beautiful State it has more than its fair share of problems such as earthquakes, drought, horrible wildfires, mudslides ... the list seems to go on and on.

    Thank goodness that there are brave men and women out there who fight these horrible disasters but it would be so much better if they never had to in the first place. Of course, we don't live in a perfect world and I'm afraid we never will.

  1. jennifer says:

    I could not imagine looking beind my home and seeing fires like that. It would be horrifying and it was a reality for so many!

    Big fan of Smokey the Bear (SERIOUSLY! Saturday morning cartoons would not have been the same without a message from him) - Remember - Only YOU can prevent wild fires.

  1. Travis says:

    Anthony: Indeed.

    WT4W: We have enough disasters without idiots causing more of them.

    Terra: I've heard of controlled burns getting out of control.

    NNG: Very scary.

    Jeni: I wouldn't have thought it could burn like that again as soon as it did, in 2007.

    Lois: The flames were scary, but the smoke and ash was awful.

    V: This was the closest I've ever been to it.

    Jamie: You're right. It becomes less about nature and more about the human tragedies when people move into these areas.

    Jeff: My brother-in-law's brother is a fire chief in Santa Barbara county, and his son is on one of the hot shot crews down there.

    Charles: Amazing aren't they?

    Villager: Firefighters are my heroes.

    MAI: I'm glad I'm not living around it anymore.

    Clancy: It's very wild.

    Julie: The worst is when the crews battle all day to knock the fires down, and then the winds kick up at night and undo all the work.

    Linda: First responders are definitely the heroes of any kind of disaster.

    Jennifer: Friends of mine actually did have to evacuate in a hurry. They were lucky to get back with no damage.

  1. I have a friend who lives in Huntington Beach ... but she was nowhere near as close as you were. I can't imagine how scary that must have been.

  1. Marilyn says:

    We've had some fires in Colorado started by arsonists too... hard to understand why anybody would do that.

  1. Cheesy says:

    Fire season scares the crap outta me~~

  1. Akelamalu says:

    That must be so scary! Thank goodness we really don't have extremes of anything here compared to other countries. It's one of the things I remember when I contemplate going to live abroad.

  1. A couple of my friends lost everything to these fires in San Diego. Only recently have they moved back into their newly rebuilt home.

  1. Ivanhoe says:

    That sure is scary. I'm glad it stopped by the highway. Cleveland is not such a great area to live at, but we don't have wildfires, hurricanes, earthquakes or tornadoes. I guess it's not that bad here after all :o)

  1. Dr.John says:

    Humans csn be such a pain.

  1. Totally freaky pictures, Travis. I'm not a fan of fire - I don't even like to light matches. I'm so glad you got through all of that unharmed. 2003 brought Hurricane Juan to us - what was with 2003?

  1. Kanani says:

    They horrible fires they're having in Australia reminded me so much of our own experiences here in SoCal. There was discussion about adopting their "stay and fight or evacuate" choice the Australians have, for Orange County. But they've decided not to do it. I think the differences in population are just too vast.

  1. We've had a fair bit of precipitation here in the state this winter, which means lots of fuel for summer fires. *sigh* Here we go again...