Disaster Zone

Santa Ana Winds Fuel Destructive Fires in California

Trailers and mansions burn.

by Eric Holdeman / November 12, 2018

This is the most destructive fire in California's fire history with fires burning in both the Northern and Southern regions of California. 

You can say that the residents of California are learning to live with fire. Fires have been a major constant in recent years with other fire systems burning in the state. What used to be "fire season" now knows no season. Heat, drought and then occasional rains fuel the ability of fires to explode into urban areas like what happened several days ago in Paradise, Calif.

Santa Ana winds are a major piece of the current fire storm that has raged in California. They are described as following, "The National Weather Service defines Santa Ana winds as "Strong down slope winds that blow through the mountain passes in southern California. These winds, which can easily exceed 40 miles per hour (18 m/s), are warm and dry and can severely exacerbate brush or forest fires, especially under drought conditions."

You know it is really bad when a wildland interface fire enters an urban setting and homes start burning, igniting other homes. Firefighting is forgotten and all energy goes into getting people out of harm's way. While the death toll stood at nine on Saturday (31 as of Monday), I expect it will grow as people look for missing persons and cannot find them. The elderly and the disabled would have had a hard time evacuating with the rapid advance of the fire — which one person described as eight football fields a minute. 

Then, in the linked story above, we have our president threatening to withhold federal disaster funding because of forest mismanagement. If he wanted to apply that thinking to all hazards, we would not be providing federal funding to properties in the flood zone and in coastal areas subject to hurricanes or tsunamis. 

Good luck to FEMA Administrator Brock Long in educating him on the finer points of disaster mitigation.