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Thursday, October 25, 2007

CALIFORNIA FIRESTORM:What Happened?

WHY WAS CALIFORNIA NOT FULLY READY FOR AUTUMN 2007 FIRESTORMS?
BY Theodore White, Astrometeorologist
October 25, 2007

UPDATED Astromet Emergency Forecast
**--WARNING TO CA. RESIDENTS & BRAVE FIREFIGHTERS** FORECAST:**->
CAUTION: WINDY WEEKEND AHEAD -> Gusty Winds return late Friday night (Oct. 26) into Saturday (Oct. 27) evening (7:02 pm) with winds really picking up (Santa Ana east winds) Saturday thru Sunday (Oct. 28) re-igniting smoldering hot spots.

The danger now is re-ignition of multiple spot fires forcing potential re-evacuations. Residents should be held back from returning to inspect homes until AFTER Monday, Oct. 29. Firefighters must hurry to work very hard to break the multiple fire lines before northeasterly winds return at the start of this coming weekend.

They may also be conflicting Pacific southwestern winds this weekend mixing with Santa Ana winds, thus causing fires to "stem" and then spread because of re-ignition of spot fires into major burners. Extreme caution is urged. Residents are urged to be very careful in returning to their homes to inspect for damages. This weekend will be very dangerous. Because of the returning weekend winds, the firestorm threat is not over. Winds recede late Monday (Oct. 29) afternoon/early evening. Humidity levels rise slightly late Monday, Tuesday (Oct. 30) and Wednesday (Oct. 31) before drier conditions return again later in the week after Nov. 1.

CALIFORNIA FIRESTORM: WHAT HAPPENED?
Last March, when I published my advanced astrometeorological forecast for the country’s summer & autumn climate conditions, I included warnings on the extreme wildfire threat in the west ~ especially in the state of California. Now, with over 700 million+ square miles burned, and over 1,500+ homes destroyed. The fires are so intense, and widespread that they can now be seen burning from outer space. I'm sure that those who believe that humanity is responsible for global warming will make certain that the California firestorm will also be partially blamed on climate change. However, this is not the case.

The cause of the California firestorm is astronomical transits, which are now in place over parts of North America, and which have brought drought, and little precipitation to areas such as the Southeastern United States, and the West ~ So far, the California wildfires have caused the worst damage in San Diego County, where five blazes continues to burn. The largest fire destroyed 196,420 acres -- about 300 square miles, from Witch Creek to Rancho Santa Fe, destroying 650 homes, businesses and other buildings. Other hard-hit areas included San Bernardino County, where hundreds of homes burned in the mountain resort communities near Lake Arrowhead.

The announcement of San Diego's staggering losses came as President Bush signed a major disaster declaration for California in the wake of the wildfires that have charred about 426,000 acres, or about 665 square miles.

In my March 2007 astromet forecast, I urged that precautionary actions be taken in advance of the coming of summer & fall; especially in the western U.S. However, it is obvious that little if nothing was done by authorities, or emergency management planners to pre-act in the face of what has been one of the driest climates in California’s history. Drought conditions in the United States have been increasing over the years to the point where now nearly 41-percent of the country is experiencing drought.

These are due, as is all climate and weather, to astronomical causes, which can be forecasted in advance, as seen in Astrometeorological forecasts. These conditions are regulated by the Sun, which is the cause of global warming. Astronomical transits clearly point to increasing drought spreading in regions of the southeastern U.S., and the far west.

By late spring 2007, the very dry climate conditions throughout southern California were already known to conventional forecasters, the state's authorities, emergency preparedness leaders and fire chiefs.

Here is what the California Department of Forestry & Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) said in its JUNE 2007 report:
"CAL FIRE is making preparations for a challenging fire season. Californians should know that the CAL FIRE is 100 percent ready to fight wildfires. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has increased fire protection spending by 21 percent since taking office and provided more than $150 million in additional funding. In each of the last three years, the Governor's budget has allocated $17 million a year more for emergency fire equipment.

The Governor's Executive Order is making a significant difference in the state's preparedness. In preparation for what looks to be a very challenging fire season due to extraordinarily dry conditions, CAL FIRE has coordinated its preparation efforts with the Governor's Office of Emergency Services, the California National Guard, the FIRESCOPE Board of Directors, and all of our contract counties (Los Angeles County, Orange County, Ventura County, Santa Barbara County, Kern County, and Marin County). In addition, pre-fire season meetings have been held with the Fire Chiefs of the City of San Diego and the City of Los Angeles. During the recent Griffith Park and Catalina Island. CAL FIRE worked well with our local and military counterparts. CAL FIRE has made ready all of its 804 statewide fire stations.

CAL FIRE has a statewide workforce of 4,510 firefighters including 1,604 seasonal firefighters who are in the process of training and staffing all of the state's emergency response equipment at increased levels. An additional 450 seasonal firefighters are in the CAL FIRE workforce as a result of a contract with CDF Firefighters approved by Governor Schwarzenegger last year. CAL FIRE operates 23 air tankers, 11 helicopters, and 14 air tactical aircraft from 13 air attack and 9 helitack bases located statewide. Aircraft can reach most fires within 20 minutes.

The CAL FIRE emergency response Aviation Program is ready for deployment anywhere in the state. Off-season aviation maintenance is on-schedule. Readiness and safety training has been conducted for all pilots. Pre-fire season training has been completed with the California Air National Guard's helicopter resources. The CAL FIRE Aviation Program is the best firefighting operation in the world. The recently signed Executive Order from the Governor also allows the deployment of a contracted DC-10 Supertanker on large fires, on an immediate-call basis beginning June 15. DC-10 and lead plane training is currently underway. The DC-10 is capable of dropping 12,000 gallons of water or retardant on large fires compared to the 1,200-gallon capability of the CAL FIRE S2T Air Tankers.”

What Happened?
Although Gov. Schwarzenegger's emergency preparedness team were successful in evacuations of population centers, in reality, there seems to have not been enough tankers in place, ready to fight the wildfires, nor enough fire crews to tackle what eventually become firestorms, driven by Santa Ana winds.

Firefighters could not protect the majority of structures because they had to help residents flee for safety. By the time fire crews were organized enough to battle the fires, many houses & structures had already been destroyed. Crews also were anticipating additional firefighters and equipment from other states, mostly throughout the West.

Frustration over the firefighting effort began to emerge Tuesday when a fire official said not enough had been done to protect homes. Orange County Fire Chief Chip Prather told reporters that firefighters' lives were threatened because too few crews were on the ground. He said a quick deployment of aircraft could have corralled a massive blaze near Irvine. "It is an absolute fact: Had we had more air resources, we would have been able to control this fire," he said.

Mark Martin, a San Francisco Chronicle Sacramento Bureau reporter wrote on May 11, 2007 ~ "As state forestry officials predict an unusually harsh fire season this summer, the California National Guard says equipment shortages could hinder the guard's response to a large-scale disaster. A dearth of equipment such as trucks and radios -- caused in part by the war in Iraq -- has state military officials worried they would be slow in providing help in the event of a major fire, earthquake or terrorist attack.

"The readiness of the Guard has been described as a national problem and has become a political liability for the Bush administration, which came under fire this week when the governor of Kansas complained that the National Guard response to a devastating tornado in her state was inadequate. National Guard readiness has become a growing concern as the Guard has taken on extra responsibilities caused by the Iraq war and the increased threat of terrorism."

Because of shortages like these, firefighting crews are forced to “bump and run” because of the all the fires burning that jump lines with windy conditions. Nor were any pre-placed firefighting materials pre-positioned in regions known to suffer from the Santa Ana winds, which appear at least twice a year (spring & autumn) in California.

According to the Associated Press on October 24 ~ “So far, this week's fires have destroyed about 1,500 homes and burned 674 square miles across five counties, from Ventura in the north all the way into Mexico. Property damage has reached at least $1 billion in San Diego County alone, and President Bush signed a major disaster declaration for California.

The president was scheduled to visit the region Thursday, October 25. The death toll from the most recent blazes may rise as fires continue to burn, and authorities return to neighborhoods where homes turned to piles of ash, but displaced homeowners and authorities were relieved that early reports were so low. The San Diego County medical examiner officially listed six deaths connected to the blazes, but he included five who died during the evacuation who were not directly killed by the fire.”

Problems of Conventional Forecasting & Emergency Preparedness
The problems of conventional forecasting is very limited, and mostly restricted to five-day forecasts. This is not sufficient for emergency planners who require much more time and need outlooks that are published months in advance in order to properly prepare for climate and weather events such as droughts, floods, and wildfires. The drought situation in the west, and in the Southeastern U.S. continues to reveal just how bad things can get when proper meteorological outlooks are not published.

It also reveals the need for an overhaul of the climate community when it comes to providing clear, and professional advice to communities, leaders, and emergency planners. "The amount of misery these wildfires have caused has been horrible, said one firefighter who just completed a 24-hour shift.

What is needed is much better use of advance forecasts that determine the level of preparedness for such climate events like wildfires. Until conventional forecasters drop their "pop-culture astrology" perspective, they will never be able to forecast advance climate and weather ~ which means getting serious about the fact that all climate and weather conditions first begin in space.

In this case, when long-range astrometeorological reports were freely published, if taken seriously, there would have been less loss of life and property, and the California firestorm would have easily been contained because the majority of people would have been prepared in advance.

This is the reason forecasts exist. It is long past the time for Americans to be prepared for climate events such as the recent catastrophe of the California wildfires and to learn to look past the usual conventional five-day forecast when preparing for such disasters as wildfires, floods & drought.

Let's all say prayers for those who've lost everything in the wildfires, and lend out many helping hands. Remember why we celebrate America every July 4th. Let's be there for those in need. So, be there... or be square.

Theodore White, CSA
astro730@yahoo.com

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