First, we did not immediately jump on the news story. Why? The Two roads leading in and out are extremely narrow. Meaning, we could be in the way of both responding fire units and evacuating civilians. That is a very bad spot to be in. Even if we are credentialed media, we chose to cool our heels, and instead listen to fire comms, and follow using topographic maps.
This meant that we were up before the crack of dawn. We arrived after sun up and encountered road blockages. The California Highway Patrol was manning them. Bear in mind, when we got there it was already in the low eighties.
One car sat across the road where an access point was blocked. It was one of the homeowners who had to evacuate overnight. The fire as of last night was at 1500 acres, as of this morning it had grown to 4000 with no containment. So understandably he was worried. Was his home still around?
He gave us the address and we went in. The roads in this area of the county are very rural and very narrow, giving little room for either our Jeep or fire trucks. We followed the directions of our GPS and we found ourselves in front of his home about ten minutes later.
His house is literally where the fire crews stopped the progress in that area of Lawson Valley. All he lost was a trash can and his pile of wood. Homes and I suppose businesses down the line were damaged or destroyed. From CAL FIRE we know ten structures have been lost so far, and about a dozen vehicles destroyed, if not a few more.
We spoke to the fire personnel from Lakeside who were part of the strike team. They told us that it was a hard firefight, and visibility was very low last night because of the smoke. It was also windy. They feared that the winds were going to pick up today, which would start more fires. The humidity is expected to be very low and the heat into 110 or higher.
Embers can fly ahead and start fires anywhere from a half a mile, to a mile ahead of an active fire. When we were there in the early morning fire activity was still low, but the fire can easily pick up with the heat of the day and the expected Santa Ana winds.
Now as we drove to the fire, we found a very poignant Tweet, which reflects why we decided to cool our heels. It complained about the cookie loos who were blocking the access roads. This particular area has two, that’s it. So if you find yourself near a fire, prepare to evacuate. But do not loiter. Trust us, over the course of our career reporting on wildfires we have been overrun once. It is not pleasant. In that case, the fire switched directions and got to what was thought to be a safe location for a press conference, in less than five minutes. Fires eat ground very fast, and right now the conditions are perfect for explosive growth.
Editorial note: I am not giving the exact address in Lawwon Valley to protect property.