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Six days, 230,000 acres, hundreds of homes burned
Posted by: Mike Johnson
Date: December 11, 2017 02:36AM
I can’t believe it has only been six days since the Thomas Fire started. I’m blessed; my home wasn’t damaged, my neighborhood is fine. I was at a city council meeting Monday night, and I left around 9pm because it was my son’s birthday. The moon was orange from all the smoke in the sky. I asked the security guard about it, and she said it was a fire in Santa Paula, which is about 14 miles from where we were standing. After I got home for cake and presents, I tuned in to the fire scanner. 250 acres, 500 acres, 1000 acres, 2000 acres. Around 11pm they said, it’s moving so quickly it might reach east Ventura by 1am. But it reached east Ventura by midnight. Then about half an hour later, while all the crews were on the east side, they started getting reports of fire behind city hall, miles to the west. On the scanner, I heard about how crews from elsewhere were on their way, but hadn’t yet arrived.

I knew if they called us for voluntary evacuation, we’d leave. I also knew they were going to call us for voluntary evacuation before daybreak, so at 1am we started gathering our stuff while we still had power. On the scanner, they were reporting no water pressure in fire hydrants, and crews were instructed to pull out of one of the neighborhoods and let it go. 1:30am we hit the road. The sky was orange for 180 degrees and we could see flames from our driveway. We drove to my mother-in-law’s in Los Angeles.

It’s amazing how the fire just exploded that first night. It’s also amazing that more people didn’t die. One woman died in her car while evacuating. Here in Ventura, we have zero deaths (that we know of so far.) 27,000 people evacuated the hillside neighborhoods in under an hour. Most of that wasn’t the police, but neighbors honking horns and pounding on doors. So many people I’ve talked to said they reacted so quickly because of what happened in Santa Rosa. I know I did. I wasn’t going to wait for them to tell us to get out.

For a long time, the media was reporting 150 homes destroyed in Ventura. It’s actually more like 450. Very few were partially burned. Either they burned to the ground, or they didn’t. I know many people who lost their homes. Some people evacuated with nothing more than the shirts on their backs. I know more whose homes are still standing -- some of them surrounded by burned out homes -- but other than a 15 minute escort to their home this weekend, they’re pretty much banned from returning home for a few weeks probably.

A couple homes my wife and I tried to buy a few years ago burned to the ground. At the time, I was so disappointed our offers weren’t accepted.

Before the fire, we had like a zero-point-nothing vacancy rate for rentals, putting us somewhere between Manhattan and San Francisco on some national rankings. Now we’ve got 1000+ people needing beds. And toothbrushes and underwear and flutes for marching band.

It’s funny, Verizon and AT&T have announced they’re not charging people for text or voice or data in the areas affected by the Thomas Fire, but they both picked Dec 7 as the start date. The fire started on Dec 4, and hundreds of homes were burned on Dec 5.

Anyhow: have a plan. I’d put all our important paperwork in the safe, so it was easy to scoop it up. Back up your computers and have backups off site. Download a scanner app and keep a spare charger and cable in your car. Sign up for local emergency alerts, but don’t wait for an evacuation notice. We were out of the house when our neighborhood was called for voluntary evacuation at 4:30 am. We learned about it on Nextdoor.com at 4:30am; we didn’t get the phone call for another two hours.



Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 12/11/2017 02:50AM by Mike Johnson.
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Re: Six days, 230,000 acres, hundreds of homes burned
Posted by: N-OS X-tasy!
Date: December 11, 2017 04:23AM
Glad to hear home and family are safe, Mike.



It is what it is.
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Re: Six days, 230,000 acres, hundreds of homes burned
Posted by: Dennis R
Date: December 11, 2017 04:32AM
Wow! Prayers for all of those affected.so glad you and the family are safe.
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Re: Six days, 230,000 acres, hundreds of homes burned
Posted by: testcase
Date: December 11, 2017 05:35AM
Obviously, you’re NOT a Darwin Award candidate. Glad to hear you & yours are safe. It’s sad how common sense is NOT so common these days. Good luck during the havoc you’ll surely see in the near future.
angel smiley
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Re: Six days, 230,000 acres, hundreds of homes burned
Posted by: space-time
Date: December 11, 2017 05:40AM
What a well thought out plan you had Mike!

Hope your house will not be affected and you will be home soon.
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Re: Six days, 230,000 acres, hundreds of homes burned
Posted by: Speedy
Date: December 11, 2017 06:00AM
Wow, what a story! I'm very glad to hear you and your family are well. The fires are still burning and it is nothing short of amazing that only one life was lost given the speed the fire moved!



Saint Cloud, Minnesota, where the weather is wonderful even when it isn't.
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Re: Six days, 230,000 acres, hundreds of homes burned
Posted by: Michael
Date: December 11, 2017 06:05AM
What a terrible story of loss in the Thomas Fire. So glad that there was minimal loss of life.

Great preparation and very smart to get out early, Mike.
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Re: Six days, 230,000 acres, hundreds of homes burned
Posted by: DP
Date: December 11, 2017 06:40AM
Keeping thoughts and prayers for you and yours, Mike, coming your way. And let's also not forget the fire fighters and their selfless work in an ugly, ugly situation.





Disclaimer: This post is checked for correct spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Any attempts at humor are solely the responsibility of the author and bear no claim that any and all readers will approve or appreciate said attempt at humor.
My name is DP, and I approve this message.
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Re: Six days, 230,000 acres, hundreds of homes burned
Posted by: bfd
Date: December 11, 2017 10:05AM
The fire down didn't burn nearly as many acres, but it did explode from a relatively small spot fire by the freeway to a full fledged firestorm within just a few hours. Lots of homes burned but not in the hundreds. We know two families who lost everything, and another who now drives through a burnscape on their way in and out of their neighborhood (and they were lucky, the firefighters were able to save their home). Looks like the worst of the winds have left us for now, so it'll give firefighters time to surround and contain the fires. Hopefully that's it for this "fire season".
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Re: Six days, 230,000 acres, hundreds of homes burned
Posted by: MikeF
Date: December 11, 2017 10:27AM
We're in Long Beach, not really affected except for an occasional whiff of smoke. When the story first broke, in the first 10 hours, the fire made it to 30,000 acres -- a rate of 3,000 acres an hour. An incredible fast rate.
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Re: Six days, 230,000 acres, hundreds of homes burned
Posted by: M A V I C
Date: December 11, 2017 01:25PM
Glad you and your family are safe. When I was a kid, we had fires near our house. One time the fire burned up the side of the ridge we were on, then went over the top of our property, and burned down the other side of the ridge. The top of the ridge - where we lived - was spared.

I hope you stay safe, and are able to help those around you.




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Re: Six days, 230,000 acres, hundreds of homes burned
Posted by: Winston
Date: December 11, 2017 04:00PM
Mike & bfd - thanks for the updates.

Having grown up in New Orleans my experience is with worrying about hurricanes. I tend not to think much of fires in Georgia.

But the Okefenokee Swamp has burned three times 2007-present, with A LOT of acreage burned:
[en.wikipedia.org]
- April-July 2007 - more than 600,000 acres - the entire swamp and some surrounding areas
- April 2011 to April 2012 (more than a year) - over 315,000 acres
- April 2017 - more than 152,000 acres

And I remember the smoke last year from the Rough Ridge fire in the Cohutta Wilderness area:
[en.wikipedia.org]

These fires are hard to fight as they have been in wilderness areas with few or no roads in.

Scary stuff.


Good luck.

- Winston



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