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October 30, 2008

Lockdown Society, A Preview

How do you stop the Pentagon from informing the citizenry? You follow the formula the two Congressmen in this article concocted.

"The FCC has sent letters to some of the nation's most prominent military analysts -- some of them pro-President Bush and pro-war -- suggesting they may have broken the law when they appeared on television stations to comment on and explain the war on terrorism."

Essentially the two Congressmen, Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro, (D-Conn.) and Rep. John Dingell, (D-Mich.) requested the FCC summon these retired military men to interrogation over information disseminated in Pentagon briefings.

Here is how retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney, a Fox News analyst summarizes the FCC actions;

"We are seeing the dawn of a new era of the current Democratic leadership trying to muzzle free speech and the First Amendment.....It may be the most invasive intrusion that we have seen in our history. There will be more of these tactics to follow."

The article goes on to discuss how this is a prelude to reintroduction of the Fairness Doctrine after the elections.

If the three heads of our national government end up under Democrat rule you can be sure the "Fairness Doctrine" will be resurrected but the actions of the FCC at the direction of Dingell and DeLauro is equally troublesome.

This action quiets the Pentagon. With the anticipated cuts to weapons research and appropriations for weapons systems in addition to related budget cuts the new government will want to quell dissenting opinions.

You won't hear Lt. Gen. McInerney or anyone else appearing on TV or anywhere quoting Pentagon sources about how they feel if plans like this one and some mentioned here are abandoned or modified. Joe Biden doesn't hide the fact he hates the F-22 Raptor.

The Pentagon will still be allowed to hold press conferences but the new Defense Secretary will set the tone. The military may not like the changes coming but this FCC/Congress shot across the bow is an indication that information outflow will be tightly monitored.


October 26, 2008

Aussie Dog Protects Kittens From House Fire

Melbourne Australia: Firefighters found Leo the dog guarding four kittens as the family home burned in Seddon. "Leo wouldn't leave the kittens and it nearly cost him his life," fire service Commander Ken Brown told reporters. The family of four escaped from the burning house and were unharmed.

See the video here

*Herald Sun "Stoically guarded kittens"
*Reuters take

October 25, 2008

Personal Rant & General Observations

Someone smashed into one of our cars, the one we keep on the street. We don't know who that someone is because the perp did not leave a note. Geico Insurance has been a help. We met the claims agent at a bodyshop downtown and left the car. We owe the $500 deductible and Geico picks up the tab for the rest of the $2,600 repair bill. Since it happened while the car was parked on the street it is considered no fault and according to Geico will not go towards raising our premiums. Time will tell on that.

In the meantime some scum bag owes me $500.

Last night we had a nice family meal at a popular steak house. At this time last year you had to arrive well before 5:00 pm to get immediate seating. If you arrived at 6:00 you had an hour wait on a Friday night.

Last night we strolled in at 5:00 and got a prime table. Business is down, no question. The cook (s) screwed up the order but the general manager who visited the table twice as we ate made good by offering a free desert. The waitress threw in a free appetizer for our next visit.

They bent over backward to show how they value customers. I think they are in survival mode.

Another outlet, an "upscale" (read expensive) pizza place we normally avoid has been reduced to two for one coupons. For $20 we had two large pizzas delivered the other night. Six months ago you got one of their pies delivered for that price. Survival mode.

I paid $2.99 for gasoline the other day. I was shocked and tried to get a comment from the guy pumping gas next to me. He was in zombie mode and was not in the mood to celebrate or even acknowledge the symbolic move below $3. Lots of zombies around now.

At my gym the other day I ran into one of the largest commercial developers in California's central valley. I asked him about one of his tenants, a business we frequent and asked him how they are doing. He told me it would fail. Lots of his tenants are doomed for failure.

His out? He chases tenants that fail. No escape. His reasoning is you signed the lease with eyes wide open. I could never be a successful retail or commercial landlord, I would not be able to sleep.

This morning a TV reporter mentioned Argentina's stock market dropped 26% last week. The reason is the government announced plans to nationalize pensions. Just before that report a talking head reported the Democrats are floating a plan to tax 401-K accounts. We are about to be taxed to death.

The polls indicate the majority of Americans are going to throw the dice for hope and change.

In my opinion the majority has been hoodwinked and it will become evident before the end of 2009.

Son #1 is going to study computer network security in college next year and I'm confident he will find work. Son #2 is now considering medicine. The theory is no matter how they regulate medicine doctors will always be in demand and should stay relatively high on the pay scale.

Law will be a growth industry too but neither son wants to study law. I can't understand why because both can argue their case on any subject.

If I was starting over I would join the Navy and put in for submarine duty. My contract would stipulate assignment to whatever sub is destined to be out to sea the longest for the next 8 years.

October 23, 2008

Chalk Peak Fire Threat Looms Over Big Sur Monastery

The Chalk Fire that has burned over 16,000 acres between the Plaskett and Eselan on the south Big Sur Coast. Smack in the path is the Camaldoli Hermitage.

The Hermitage is home to 25 monks who live peacefully on the property 1,300 feet above the ocean. The Hermitage has burned once in its 47 year history but this threat will be defended by the U.S. Forest Service and elements of the Big Sur Volunteer Fire Brigade.

Unlike the abandonment of Tassajara during the Basin Complex the monks at the Hermitage will have help if the fire visits the property.

The morning fire report indicates the Chalk Fire is at 16,000 acres and is close to 90% contained.

Chalk Fire commentary 6:00 AM 10/23;

The 12 and 24 hour values at risk state;

12 hours:
Lime Kiln State Park, Hermitage, Harlan Ranch, California Condors and Cultural Resources
24 hours:

Lime Kiln State Park, Hermitage, California Condors and Cultural Resources

Actions planned for next operational period:
Structure Group - Protect structures in the Hermitage and Lime Kiln State Park.

The fire growth potential is deemed moderate though the difficulty of terrain is described as extreme.
The Chalk Fire command team believes the fire will be contained by October 25.

Big Sur Kate has been on top of this fire (literally) since the fire started September 27. I have relied on her first rate coverage for fire news and local perspective.

This summer has been traumatic for those who live along the Big Sur coast. The Chalk Fire will likely be the last significant fire event of 2008 in northern California. There is a symmetry to the Big Sur fires this summer that has formed as the Hermitage braces for a potential assault.

The Tassajara Zen Center defined more or less the eastern boundary of the 160,000 + acre Basin Complex. The Buddhist monastery was saved by the heroic efforts of five Monks that stayed behind to defend their home.
The Pico Blanco Boy Scout Camp loosely defined the northern boundary of the Basin Complex and was saved by a Forest Service firefighters. The Hermitage sits just below the southern edge of the Basin Complex and will be defended by Chalk Fire firefighters. Buddhists, Catholics and Boy Scouts braced for devastation but were spared.
In total almost 300,000 acres burned in Big Sur and the surrounding Los Padres National Forest and Ventana Wilderness. Numerous homes burned and a community was tested.

Memorial Day to Halloween with fire burning almost continuously in that time.

Lastly, I did not intend to send any personal Christmas cards this year but after looking around the Hermitage website I found out they have a store with art I like. The image below is an example of what they offer. Check out their store here.

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October 21, 2008

Survival Blog, I've Bookmarked It

I have added Survival Blog to my bookmarks and blog sidebar. Not that I think the end of the world is coming but because the content offers interesting perspective.

I'm not a big gun guy, I have one in case a deranged type tries to enter my house and harm my wife or kids, but I don't have a cache or collection.

One relative and a close friend in Tennessee keep weapons in number, both for different reasons. One because he takes the second amendment to heart and the other because he thinks terrorists are skulking about in the woods. Amazing, I know.

Early on in our marriage we considered buying some land in Southern Oregon, near Ashland. The seller was a local guy who took us around to various lots he had for sale. For the excursion he brought along a deer rifle and at one point pulled over on a quiet mountain pass and shot off a round.
As the day went on he confided he had over 120 rifles and his local group of friends sported hundreds of weapons.

That was 25 years ago and last I heard no one has invaded Oregon in that time, unless you count Californians looking or a better life.

For my purposes survival means how we get by if the currency takes a plunge and how we will get by if bread trucks stop delivering product, in sufficient quantity to the grocery stores. We witnessed a run on rice last Spring. Panic buying cleared the shelves at Costco on mere rumor that there was a shortage coming. Food riots broke out worldwide and people died over rice supplies. Those riots didn't get much media attention here.

Would we riot if bread and eggs became hard to get? Not likely, but how many of us know how to bake bread and who among us suburbanites have laying hens in the backyard. When I go to the store and look at who's shopping I can safely, sadly say the majority would not survive a real test.

Last Christmas our friend Anna gave us as part of our gift a gallon of uncooked pinto beans in a container that looked like it came out of 1960's bomb shelter. It looks army issue. It sits in the pantry and will remain there hopefully forever. If I have to open it then it means everything went to hell and I am in full survival mode.

I'm not predicting a great downfall or even an economic depression but just in case I plan to study up on the the definition of "gulching" and look in on Survival Blog now and then.


October 19, 2008

Big Sur Artist, Big Sur Kate

I've covered the Chalk Fire but mostly by following the continuous updates by Kate in Big Sur on her blog.

Photo by Big Sur Kate; posted with permission

The image above offers a look at a rare phenomenon. A low ceiling fog is hugging the Big Sur coast with smoke from the Chalk Peak Fire drifting over the fog and out to sea.

Kate's artist eye has caught this scene more than once this summer. I think her work in general is Getty quality. I also believe she could forge a legacy in digital that rival the works of some great California landscape painters.

One California landscape painter who comes to mind is Frederick Ferdinand Schafer. Some examples of Schafer's works here, here, and here.

Think I am kidding? Take a look at Kate's Flickr gallery.

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October 18, 2008

I am Joe The Plumber

Well actually I was Mike the assistant plumber at one point in my sophomore year of high school. The neighbor two doors down was a plumbing contractor and I asked him if he needed a helper. For a few months the job dominated my weekends and some afternoons. It was a fun job for a kid. I was mainly a fetcher. I watched and he would tell me he needed a crescent wrench or metal strapping and I fetched it from the truck.

One after school job took us to East Palo Alto. The job was installing a water heater, a contract job for Sears to deliver and install the water heater. On this job I was told to stay outside and watch the truck. At the time East Palo Alto was the crime center of the Bay Area, Oakland had nothing on EPA in the early 70's.

I quit the job when on the hottest day in the history of San Jose California my boss Frank dropped me off at a client's home with only a shovel and told me to dig a trench from the house to the street. Thirty inches deep and one foot across. He was charging the customer $1,400 to replace a water main.

The ground was hard pan, it was 111 degrees and I was making just below minimum at $1.65 an hour. If I made $30 for my part I would have been lucky but I didn't make it that far.
Within an hour I was physically exhausted. This was before the era of the cell phone. I knocked on the door, the lady of the house opened the door reluctantly and I asked her if I could use the phone. She made a call for me and my mom came and picked me up.

Frank Lynch the plumber never asked me to work for him again and that was alright with me. I had numerous jobs through high school, this one taught me what the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion were and to offer cold drinks to persons working around your yard. I also learned I did not want to clean drains and install water heaters for a living.

I learned that some plumbing contractors make a decent living but they work hard for the money. Frank Lynch quit plumbing and began building custom homes near Lake Anderson. Frank became a millionaire. Frank was a Stanford grad. He had a plan.

Joe 'The Plumber' Wurzelbacher had a plan too and he asked Senator Obama how his tax scheme might affect his plans to expand his business. The answer was a buzz kill to the effect he wants to take Joe's profits and bring those behind him up as well, a redistribution of Joe's wealth so to speak.

Obama gave Joe an honest answer. Joe knows now that under Obama if he decides to go forward with his plan to expand he faces a heavier tax burden. I suspect Joe will stick with his current job. He will likely firm up his own license and buy his own truck but I suspect he'll skip the plan to buy 5 trucks and hire a half dozen guys to operate them.

My suggestion for Joe The Plumber is to become Joe The Firefighter. Joe would fit in fine in any fire house I've ever visited or lived in. Firefighters will be immune from budget considerations under an Obama regime, the unions will see to that and no one can argue they are needed.

October 17, 2008

Chalk Fire Won't Die

The Chalk Fire burning in the south Big Sur region has reignited. Unseasonably warm weather has stoked the once dead fire forcing area residents to wonder if the wildfire assaults on Big Sur will ever end.

Friend of Firefighter Blog Big Sur Kate lives just south of the Chalk Fire scene and captured the image below last night. Put yourself in Kate's position, fire has visited her Big Sur coast almost continuously since early June. It actually began in April with an uncharacteristically early fire on the Big Sur coast.

I defer readers to Kate's blog for Chalk Fire coverage as she is the definitive community fire blogger.

FF Blog's previous Chalk Fire posts here.

Image by permission of Big Sur Kate

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October 16, 2008

Long Island New York Volunteer Firefighter Article


I usually stick to wildland issues but this interesting "look in" on the current state of affairs in Long Island New York caught my eye.

Read about Long Island volunteer firefighter issues here.


October 14, 2008

Wind Event Over, SoCal Fires Spread Stops

Firefighters assembled from all parts of the State will turn their attention to mop up activities now that the Santa Ana winds have abated. High winds forecast for today never materialized giving fire crews a chance to come off the high alert they've worked under for the past 48 hours.

Some hot spots are still being worked on the Sesnon Fire but fire commanders have an arsenal of fixed wing aircraft and helicopters at their disposal. I'll get some final figures on the combined acreage and fire personnel involved at some point. I think the final acreage was somewhere near 10,000 and total personnel near 1,400.

For all the excitement those two figures mirror the numbers for the Chalk Fire in Big Sur last week. The damage was much worse here of course, as two people died and more than 50 homes were destroyed. Fortunately no firefighters were injured during this Santa Ana wind event.

Below is a satellite image taken at the peak of the incident.

NASA Satellite Image of Sesnon & Marek Fires

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SoCal Fires; Four Counties Battling Flames

The Marek Fire is burning in Los Angeles County and has already burned dozens of homes and claimed one life. The Sesnon Fire originally started in L.A. County on Oat Mountain and has since crossed into Ventura County. The Sesnon has burned more than two dozen homes.

The Juliet Fire is burning out of control on San Diego County on the Camp Pendleton Marine base. In San Bernardino County firefighters are tackling three fires. Information on these fires has not been posted.

All fires are wind driven events. The Santa Ana winds pushing these fires is due to abate today. Below are the latest MODIS detections. The red dots indicate active flame.

Note: These modis images are not real time.

Sesnon Fire and Marek Fire from Google Earth with KML overlay

Juliet Fire, north San Diego County

Click Images to Enlarge

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October 13, 2008

Socal Fires Updates, Maps & Fire Info

This GeoMAC Image was generated at 7:00 pm PST. It shows the westward move of the Marek Fire and the W/SW direction the Sesnon Fire is heading.

Nineteen structures have been destroyed by the Sesnon Fire. 800 firefighters are on scene and the fire has burned 5,000 acres. There is zero containment on the Sesnon Fire at the moment.

The Marek Fire has claimed one life. A homeless man was burned to death as he huddled in his makeshift shelter under the 210 Freeway at the Foothill Blvd intersection. The unidentified man was found with his dog, also dead.

The fire has burned 3,700 acres and is only 5% contained. One thousand firefighters are assigned to the Marek Fire. More than 3 dozen structures have been destroyed, most from one mobile home park in Sylmar below the entrance to Lopez Canyon.

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Sesnon Fire Evacuations

Residents of Box Canyon, Bell Canyon, Woolsey Canyon, Lake Manor, Dayton Canyon, Brown Canyon and Twin Lakes have been ordered to evacuate.

Fire officials are convinced the Sesnon Fire will continue to track from the origin on Oat Mountain on a southwest track towards Thousand Oaks.

The DC-10 Supertanker, Tanker 910 was ordered however the winds are too erratic for the tanker to make safe passes over the fire.

Click image to enlarge. Wider view below

Sesnon Fire and Marek Fire Map

View Larger Map

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Sesnon Fire Satellite Image

I was just watching a press conference from the command post of the Marek Fire and one of the Chiefs noted in response to a question about the Sesnon Fire that his concern was the fire crossing the Santa Susana gap and running to the Pacific Coast!

Wow, that wasn't even on my radar.

*Quite a scene is developing on the 118 Freeway near the Porter Ranch area. Drivers are being turned around ON THE FREEWAY as flames beat down on the lanes ahead. CBS2 helicopter pilots are reporting fire helicopters are dropping water on cars on the Freeway!

SoCal Satellite Image (animated)

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New Fire; Oat Mountain Above Porter Ranch

Los Angeles CBS 2 News is breaking a new fire that started on the top of Oat Mountain just above the Porter Ranch community. There are no resources between the fire and the housing developments down canyon.
Will follow....

CBS2 News is calling this the "Cesnon Fire"
CBS2 News Coverage

Click image to enlarge

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Angel Island Wildfire

As if this fire season can't get any more strange. Angel Island is all of about 750 acres and offers camping and a spot for Bay Area boaters to anchor in a sheltered spot for a day.
Last acreage estimate, 250!
About Angel Island
Fire Info
Fire photos

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Marek Fire Web Resources

MyFoxLA Live Marek Fire Feed

Google News


CBS2 L.A. Live Fire Feed

L.A. Times

View Larger Map

GeoMAC Image of The Marek Fire Noon 10/13/08

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Marek Fire Bears Down On The San Fernando Valley

I don't have updated acreage figures but Los Angeles local TV shows the Marek Fire bumping against the 210 (Foothill) Freeway near the 118 (Reagan) Freeway interchange near Lopez Canyon.

In these winds aircraft offer little help. The wind dictates fire behavior. Spotting is occurring and structures are involved.

This is a developing story....

View Larger Map

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October 12, 2008

Marek Fire Ushers In The SoCal Fall Fire Season

Update: 6:00 pm per Inciweb, and local news sources. Two structures destroyed, numerous vehicles, 2,000 acres, minimal flame front.

Southern California's first fire event of this Indian Summer/Santa Ana wind season began at 2:00 am this morning and has consumed 500 + acres. The fire is technically in the Angeles National Forest west of Little Tujunga Canyon and Lopez Canyon north of the 210 Freeway.

No structures have been damaged though residents are evacuating horses. Overhead shots from ABC News 7 in Los Angeles shows an overwhelming firefighting force on the scene. Firefighters are backfiring and setting up structure protection groups just in case.

The predicted high winds are not due to until later this evening. With history as a guide the Marek Fire is the opening act.

Careful everyone!

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October 11, 2008

Pot Plantations Polluting The Sierra's & Endangering Firefighters

From AP via Breitbart:

"National forests and parks—long popular with Mexican marijuana-growing cartels—have become home to some of the most polluted pockets of wilderness in America because of the toxic chemicals needed to eke lucrative harvests from rocky mountainsides, federal officials said.

The grow sites have taken hold from the West Coast's Cascade Mountains, as well as on federal lands in Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia.

Seven hundred grow sites were discovered on U.S. Forest Service land in California alone in 2007 and 2008—and authorities say the 1,800-square-mile Sequoia National Forest is the hardest hit.

Weed and bug sprays, some long banned in the U.S., have been smuggled to the marijuana farms. Plant growth hormones have been dumped into streams, and the water has then been diverted for miles in PVC pipes.

Rat poison has been sprinkled over the landscape to keep animals away from tender plants. And many sites are strewn with the carcasses of deer and bears poached by workers during the five-month growing season that is now ending...."

The Cascadel Fire that burned a few hundred acres in Madera County last month offers an example of how pot growers present a danger to firefighters. An injured firefighter was airlifted to a Fresno hospital due of injuries sustained fighting the fire.

Officials stated marijuana growers were responsible for starting the fire. Local news did not follow up on this story, maybe they figured no one cares.

Towards the end of the Basin Complex campaign this summer firefighters stumbled upon a plantation with over 45,000 plants. During my time at the academy we were taught that pot growers utilized booby traps. Add toxic fertilizers and poisons to the mix now.

One outfit I would think should care is the Sierra Club. Where are they? Their endowments must run into the multi millions annually and surely they are sitting on tens of millions. Where are they? Surely their founder John Muir would support freeing up some funds. After all the Club got its start in the Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks.

Here is the mission statement of the Sierra Club;

"To explore, enjoy, and protect the wild places of the earth; To practice and promote the responsible use of the earth's ecosystems and resources; To educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment; and to use all lawful means to carry out these objectives."

Maybe it's time for environmental groups to step up and offer help to the National Park law enforcement people. Park budgets are stretched and there is little chance things will ever get better on that end.

October 10, 2008

SoCal Wind Event; State Prepares

Take a look at this Predictive Services Chart that calls for a Santa Ana wind event for sections of Southern California next week.

CalFire is pre-positioning resources in Riverside and elsewhere in the Southland. For a peek at some of the chatter have a look at Wildland Fire here.


October 07, 2008

Time For a Funny Video On The Economy

If you live in California this video will make sense to you.

"But you must speak JAVA"


October 05, 2008

Homeowner Safety During a Wildfire, Aussie Style

While looking around the CFA Victoria website after posting the story in the post below I ran across this very useful video on homeowner safety as it pertains to wildland, or bushfires.

Here is the link to CFA.Vic Youtube page.

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Australian Thugs Assault CFA Firefighters at Fire Scene

From AAP (Australian Associated Press) Via Yahoo! News;

"On Saturday afternoon, Country Fire Authority volunteer firefighters were called by residents worried about a large plume of smoke coming from a BMX track near Bendigo in central Victoria.

When they arrived at the Strathfieldsaye track, they found a car that had been deliberately set alight and about 250 people, many of them drunk.

"They threw stubbies at the volunteer firefighters, physically fought with them and got on the fire truck and attempted to interfere with its operations," Bendigo Sergeant Tony CommadeurAAP.

"The CFA called for assistance from police, one car drove into a volatile situation where a main bunch of 10-15 people surrounded them in a semi-circle and were closing in.

"They were told to back off, they didn't, so we used capsicum spray on one and then they got the message that we were not going to take it."

Sgt Commadeur described the incident in which volunteer emergency workers were physically attacked while trying to put out a dangerous fire as "outrageous".

"One CFA guy pulled up pretty sore, he was dragging people away from the truck after they jumped on it to interfere with their equipment," he said.

"They turned on him and hit him.

"It's disgraceful, no way in the world is that behaviour normal, to be intimidating towards or assault sacred volunteer community personnel such as CFA, SES (State Emergency Service), paramedics who are protecting lives and property......."

Disgraceful indeed. The CFA are the best bush firefighters in the world, on par with California's wildland firefighting professionals. These are the guys Aussies count on when the blue gum stands begin exploding as fire races through the countryside!