Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Southern California Fires - Santiago Canyon

At this point, a lot of people know about the Southern California Fires. Since I live in Orange County, I'm going to comment on the one fire in Orange County, the Santiago Canyon fire and how it relates to ultra runners. This fire started October 21st, 2007 and is 90% contained as of October 31st, 2007.
The Orange County Fire Authority expects that it will be completely contained on November 4th.


First off, the Saddleback Marathon and the first running of the Old Goat 50 miler are scheduled for November 10th. These are put on by Baz Hawley. I'm not sure of what the routes are but the race description says it "traverses the flanks of Silverado and Modjeska peaks, before returning to Blue Jay via the Main Divide road."
Since the fire map looks like the fire has burned within a mile of the Main Divide Truck Trail, it may be that the race course has not been burned but certainly will smell of smoke.

Jessica Deline's Twin Peaks Ultras which are already sold out will certainly be affected since both the 50k and 50 mile start and finish at Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary which is now closed. The buildings at Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary apparently were not damaged but the fire did make it onto the grounds, judging from the fire map and the pictures on the website. Also judging from the burn map, both sides of the first 7 or 8 miles of Harding Truck Trail are burned. Harding Truck Trail is used at both the start and finish of both races. If you check her photos of the course, you'll notice that this forest has/had trees, not just brush. Incidentally, judging from the fire map, I'm guessing that the fire burned up to the road that you see in this picture but maybe was stopped there by the firefighters.


Harding Truck Trail is a favorite run of mine and of other ultra runners. I often see my neighbor Hwa Ja running up there and have seen a number of other ultra runners too. It is also a favorite of the more fit mountain bikers and hikers as well. I think that I'll stay off of it until a few rains have brought down the level of ash. I've also run in Silverado Canyon but HTT is just a little bit better because
  • There is a lot of parking available at Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • There is water available at Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • There is less driving once you get off the main road (Santiago Canyon Road).
  • HTT is all dirt and rocks whereas Silverado (Maple Springs Truck Trail) has some asphalt.
  • HTT is steeper and longer.
However, I have seen a salamander crossing the road in Silverado.


I have seen a mountain lion (once) and deer on HTT, but you really don't see much wildlife because there was so much brush in which to hide. Previously when there were big fires around San Diego, Orange County may have seen an increase in wildlife (mountain lions) which were displaced northwards.This year's fires will also displace some animals. During the fire, a resident in Silverado Canyon remarked that a lot of mice had shown up because of the fires, followed by coyotes. He expected mountain lions next and felt that wildlife were attracted to Silverado Canyon because it hadn't burned for 100 years.

Life in the OC during the fire

Everywhere was smokey during the fires. I work in Irvine and on Monday the 22nd, the fire was burning about 3 miles from work. We have a good view from work of Saddleback (Modjeska and Santiago peaks) and even on Tuesday when the fire was 9 days old, Modjeska peak was obscured because of the smoke rising from the fire. I didn't run hardly at all last week because of the smoke but still got a sore throat and sinus infection from breathing smoke.
In our neighborhood, a large tree was blown down into the main street (Valley View). I had to trim back one of our trees which was hitting our roof because of the winds - which lasted several days. Four of our trees had green leaves ripped off them by the wind.

As bad as the Santiago Fire was/is (23,000 acres burned), San Diego county had it much worse. The Witch fire looks like it will be over 200,000 acres with many more houses burned. My daughter and 4 of her friends came from UCSD to our house last week to escape the smoke from the fires. Her house was not evacuated but people were being evacuated as close as one freeway exit away from her. Also, fire season is not over. We are supposed to have another dangerous Santa Ana condition this weekend where hot dry winds blow here from the desert.

1 comment:

Jay Anderson said...

As of Saturday morning, at least at my house there is no evidence of a Santa Ana condition. We had a definite onshore flow condition this morning with lots of moisture coming in from the ocean. I don't notice much in the way of winds (in Northwest Orange County).
The Orange County Fire Authority doesn't exactly report that the Santiago Fire is contained but it sounds that way. The firemap shows no advance of the fire since 10/31.