Monday, August 24, 2020

adjacent to the hellfires

So how are we doing surrounded by the blazes that are pummeling the California mountains? We're not suffering as the victims are, we're just feeling vaguely miserable. The air has been full of smoke and a fetid miasma for about six days now, and while the heat has backed off a little bit - it's high 80s instead of 90s - we were trying to keep the house closed up for a while despite the resulting lack of chances to cool it off. But eventually the smell got in the house anyway, so we gave up.

I'm trying to keep track of the exact geographic locations of the fires, but it's not easy. Newspaper articles sometimes give links to official fire maps, so I bookmark those, but they're not always updated, and since there's nothing intuitive about the URLs, I can't hunt for a more recent one that way, and search engines are no help at all. The state fire site evacuation zone list is less up to date than the newspapers, and has no useful maps. Nor are the newspaper articles always a help: a photo of a house burning in Boulder Creek gave its location as the intersection of two streets which are at the far opposite sides of town, so I don't know where it is.

There appears to be slow progress in containing the fires, aided in the coastside case by slightly foggier weather, but another tropical storm passing through yesterday and today may bring more lightning, which is what set off the fires in the first place a week ago. However, at least last week's powerful thunderstorm was not replicated last night. But the real fire season in California is October and November (Paradise burned on November 8), and I wonder what will happen then.

Meanwhile, I feel even more cooped up than I had previously during the pandemic, despite actually getting out. A minor but urgent medical situation got me into the Kaiser facility for the first time since before the shutdown. It was fairly empty and a little spooky, including my first elevator ride in at least six months. (Signs said, limit of 2 people in an elevator.) Another thing I experienced here is that the difficulty of hearing through masks can put real difficulties in communication. I have more visits ahead of me, and my doctor wants this finished before October, which is also when flu season starts.

Somewhat earlier, I decided to take another virus test. The county has decided to eliminate the walkups that make you stand in line for three hours, as I did the last time, and moved to an online appointment system. Stations are open for 3 days and appointments are taken for a couple days before that. I found one open for the next three days, and while all the slots for the first day had been taken, there were still plenty for the other days. It was a drive-through located in the parking lot of the county fairgrounds. You pull up, lower your window, they scan your appointment barcode, then you lower your mask and they swab your nose (swirling around the lower nostril again - I still haven't experienced the way-up-the-nose version that I'd earlier read was obligatory) while you sit in the car. The e-mail assuring me I was OK came so heavily encrypted I almost couldn't open it.

Flu shots this year are going to be drive-through too, my doctor says.


  1. NASA put fairly up-to-date imagery online, together with some interpretation such as fire locations. Try:,34.98500672041838,-117.71181982088349,39.02358093916838&t=2020-08-25-T10%3A00%3A00Z&l=MODIS_Combined_Thermal_Anomalies_All,Reference_Labels,Reference_Features(hidden),Coastlines,VIIRS_NOAA20_CorrectedReflectance_TrueColor(hidden),VIIRS_SNPP_CorrectedReflectance_TrueColor(hidden),MODIS_Aqua_CorrectedReflectance_TrueColor(hidden),MODIS_Terra_CorrectedReflectance_TrueColor

    though I am not an expert; there may be better NASA data than this.


  2. This is the most accurate updating map of the fire:

    The best place to get information about the status of the fires are the twice daily press conferences that CalFire is giving at 6:00 a.m. and p.m. viewable on their Facebook page and elsewhere. We have been following very closely since we were evacuated from Ben Lomond.