Sunday, November 16, 2008

Fires in Orange County - California not like French Riviera.

Yesterday turned a bit dramatic for friends of mine : they were forced to evacuate their home because the blaze coming their way. A couple hours before their church went out in flames.
They live in Anaheim Hills, Orange county, California.

What struck me is how quickly the fires in Southern California spread to rather urban areas. In Orange County, it started at about 9 am and by the afternoon, it had burned more than 100 structures over a large swath of hillside land in Corona, Yorba Linda, Anaheim Hills and Brea.
The dry weather and gusty Santa Ana winds are obvious reasons, with embers flying miles away and starting new fires..

In many ways, Southern California is very much like the French Riviera. Both have Mediterranean climate (sunny, hot, dry summers and mild winters) and both have strong winds (the Santa Ana winds in CA and the Mistral in France). So both are regularly threatened by impressive fires.
However, there is a major difference : the fires in the south of France mostly burn the back country in the pine forests and only threaten isolated communities. The fires in California has quickly threatened even major urban areas and entire cities - not just small isolated towns.

I wonder if the rapid urban growth in Southern California in the last 20 years may not be the reason why the fires have been so destructive - but at the same time, the French Riviera is also very much built up. Or maybe, it is the type of construction. French homes are usually made of concrete or stones, not wood.....

Whichever it is, the consequences are dire, and I can only home that my friends there will not lose their house.

UPDATE : it turns out my friends didn't lose their house after all. Phew..... that was a close one!


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