Taking off from Oceano Airport near Pismo we looked South into this beautiful view along the beach and dunes.
Though I didn’t say anything to Anne, already I was pondering our route thinking those “low clouds” across our path might portend more as we approached SBA. But soon it was obvious that these were not clouds but smoke.
That’s the Santa Maria Airport (KSMX) just left of center, beneath a smoke colored layer that we could smell by now. Climbing to get above it, I was talking with ATC asking where the fire was. “Near LPC (Lompoc Airport),” came the reply along with an alert that water bombers were working the area so I increased our climb. Soon we could clearly see the fire area half a mile below, with a plane and a helicopter supporting many ground crews, and smoke far off into the Santa Ynez Valley almost obscuring Broadcast Peak.
In some places we saw open flames, but it appeared that the bright red-orange PhosChek fire retardant dropped by planes had helped ground crews establish a perimeter. As we passed the ridge line and began descending toward SBA, it was a relief to see the clearer air and the welcoming colors of home.