John & Anne Wiley

2016/08/27

SBA High

Usually at SBA we’re low, either taking off or landing. So there higher views are a nice change.

1260 SBA High

1260 SBA High

It was great having a brief break from the smoke, which happily was hanging in that thick layer far to the West. Looking back toward the North, our hills were fairly clear too.

1262 Fairly Clear

1262 Fairly Clear

All the brown grass patches and the lack of green in the chaparral are pretty scary though, especially with the Rey Fire burning just on the other side of this “front range” of Santa Ynez Mountains. Looking to the northwest you could see the thinner layer of smoke from there, that had managed to slip over the pass and cling to the shoulders of our mountains.

1258 Thin Smoke Veil

1258 Thin Smoke Veil

We still love flying here, but are dearly hoping this Winter brings at least normal rainfall so we can see more green and waterfalls again.

2016/08/19

Rey Fire

Filed under: Has Photos,Nature,People,Random,SB Region — John @ 01:39

Here we go again! We’re watching a fast moving wildfire named the Rey Fire, apparently because it started near Rancho San Fernando Rey (here on gMaps). I might post a few pix here occasionally until it’s knocked down.

Update 11:15am 8/22:

Mixed news. This latest IR Reflectivity sat shows a new hotspot (white dot toward the right), but our Rey Fire is cooler so far today and the other regional fires are too. A few hours may tell us how this day will unfold.

IR Satellite 17:30GMT 8/22

IR Satellite 17:30GMT 8/22

Update 11:45pm 8/21:

Cool! That’s what the IR sat is telling us tonight. So cool in fact that the 11pm InfraRed Reflectivity shows no distinguishable reading for the Rey fire. The non-reflective IR shows a dim dot, so here’s that for comparison with today and last night.

IR Satellite 6:00GMT 8/22

IR Satellite 6:00GMT 8/22

There’s still smoke showing on some satellites, so probably lots of smouldering but nothing big and not hot enough to register on the low-res sat that’s updated every half hour. I’m also happy to see the Chimney and Cedar fires cooler, though the latter split in two probably making it harder to fight.

Here’s another composite color view (see below for comparison and Legend) showing two different IR satellites with no accurate time, but less than 12 hours old. Comparing the two you can see how far the fire spread East (the small blue squiggle is Gibraltar Res.).

Rey Sat Composite 11:45pm 8/22

Rey Sat Composite 11:45pm 8/22

Last up for now is this 8/21 color visible satellite image with IR readings from another satellite superimposed. This one’s interesting to me mostly in terms of how the smoke looks, but otherwise not worth much because the time is all but impossible to determine. My guess is it was mid to late afternoon because the cloud shadows are about 45 degrees angled on the ground. That one red dot to the right of the fire is probably a spurious detection because there’s no smoke from it.

Color Vis+IR 8/21

Color Vis+IR 8/21

Update 3pm 8/21:

Forgot to post this update on the frequently updated but low-res IR sat from 21:30 GMT showing how much the heat signature had enlarged by 2:30pm local time. Scroll down to compare with earlier versions of this same view, and you can see how much it’s expanded to the East relative to the SB County line to the right and Santa Cruz Island below the main hotspot. That corresponds with the shift toward the East in the location of the smoke plume we’re seeing beyond the ridge.

IR Satellite 21:30GMT 8/21

IR Satellite 21:30GMT 8/21

Update 2:30pm 8/21:

Looks like the East flank of the fire has flared today as the fire crew had predicted.

1483 Pyrocumulus Poodle

1483 Pyrocumulus Poodle

This monster smoke plume leapt far above the 3,500′ ridge line, upsetting many Santa Barbarians. Luckily it’s burning in an unpopulated area, so maybe that’s why I was able to see it as a fluffy white poodle shape. I was also reassured by the steady stream of big fire attack planes we could glimpse beyond that ridge as they went in for a drop, like this C-130.

1480 Heading In

1480 Heading In

Adding to the aerial entertainment was a flight of two Marine helicopters passing low overhead, probably returning to a SoCA base from weekend exercises (and maybe InfraRed fire spotting) in the Paso Robles area.

1474 Passing Low

1474 Passing Low

I hadn’t noticedĀ  before that SBC Fire posted a fire perimeter map at 8am based on this earlier survey from before sunrise.

Fire Perimeter 8am 8-21

Fire Perimeter 8am 8-21

About 1pm I did a screen capture on the free Avare (Android) & $2.50 HIZ ADSB apps on my phone to check out air traffic over the fire and it’s as thick today as what we saw from Cam.Cielo yesterday evening. Wish I’d thought to bring the little $7 SDR up there when we went. Anyway, here’s a cropped and downsized version of that screencap.

Avare+HIZ Air Attack

Avare+HIZ Air Attack

The blue dots of course are aircraft with blue line showing direction of flight, length showing speed, and the white text in gray showing altitude. The red polygon is the “TFR” airspace restricted to fire air attack traffic, though of course they’re shuttling back and forth to SMX at the top-left to reload fire retardant. At some points there were a dozen or more aircraft showing in the vicinity of the TFR.

Update 1am 8/21:

Here’s a last look at the InfraRed heat detection satellite, showing how much things have cooled down overnight. Hopefully tomorrow it won’t flare again.

IR Satellite 800GMT 8/21

IR Satellite 800GMT 8/21

Update 11:50pm 8/20:

Here are a few more pix from our drive up to the ridge line at about 5:30 8/20.

1433 Helicopter & Backfire

1433 Helicopter & Backfire

That noble white dot above the ridge toward the right edge is a helicopter (Chinook type) with a water bucket apparently headed to Gibraltar Reservoir to fill up. In the background is the line of backfires lit on this Eastern edge to expand the containment on that flank.

1443 Beneath the Plume

1443 Beneath the Plume

Those towering flames in the far distance in this extreme zoom shot are making lots of heat, and that’s what lofted the smoke very high to create the plume that freaked people out in Santa Barbara as it seemed to tower over our closer mountains and even SB itself. Last in this update is an ominous backdrop for the DC-10 (Tanker 911) that passed on the way to drop over at the West side of the fire.

1465 Tanker 911 DC-10

1465 Tanker 911 DC-10

Update 6pm 8/20:

We weren’t getting any info on whether the fire had started spreading East, so we took the short drive up to the Camino Ceilo road along the ridge for a look. Here’s what we saw at about 5:20pm.

1409 Rey West Flank 8/20 5pm

1409 Rey West Flank 8/20 5pm

The prevailing winds have been to the West, so this apocalyptic view was no surprise. Driving further we got this look at the East flank of the fire.

1454 Rey East Flank 8/20 5pm

1454 Rey East Flank 8/20 5pm

Talking to some of the small crowd that had gathered up there we learned that this East flank is a deliberately-set backfire to improve the containment while winds are favorable. You can actually see a line of flames near the bottom edge toward the left. While there we also saw the swarm of aircraft and helicopters working the fire, and we passed many fire vehicles along the way. We’re so glad to have driven up for a look, and hopefully some others who’d worried about the massive new smoke plume will find this and get some reassurance we can sleep safely in SB tonight.

Update 4pm 8/20:

Here’s a screencap of the InfraRed Reflectivity satellite image from 3pm, showing how large the Rey’s actively burning area is in comparison with the other major SoCA fires. The nasty Blue Cut Fire that was in the national news recently is all but out, and is indistinguishable from background variations on this satellite. This one is low resolution, but is updated online every half hour or so. It provides a good way of seeing what the fire’s doing at night. Last night for example, it was a small gray dot indicating not much open flame.

IR Reflectivity

IR Reflectivity

Update 3:50pm 8/20:

Here’s a screencap of the satellite composite map showing heat detections by two different satellites, mapped online as of now. The small red dot farthest to the right (East) is about five miles North of the Gibraltar Dam (blue squiggle below it) and coincides approximately with one of the green C-130 firefighting aircraft’s tracks in the earlier update below.

Rey Sat Composite

Rey Sat Composite

Update 3:40pm 8/20:

The only aircraft showing up on ADS-B tracking is the C-130 converted military cargo plane that’s ferrying massive loads of fire retardant to the fire from the air attack base in SMX (Santa Maria airport). Here’s a screen capture fromĀ 3:20pm 8/20 showing how it’s done so many trips the thin track lines have painted the aviation Sectional map green.

Rey Fire C-130 Track

Rey Fire C-130 Track


At the bottom of this post are some pix we shot about 5:30pm Thursday including one I’ve added since first posting this, but first here are some from about 7:30pm after the sun had gone behind the mountains but was still lighting the smoke plume.

1400 Painted Cave Nightmare

1400 Painted Cave Nightmare

In the dusk you can make out the community of Painted Cave, namesake of the scary 1990 fire that burned from the mountain peaks down to the sea in a few hours. Seeing smoke there is a nightmare for the people living up there of course, but pretty much freaks out everyone in town too. Here’s a wider view showing how close the fire was to them as sunset approached.

1398 Painted Scary

1398 Painted Scary

Last up, here’s a composite image of infrared satellite images from 7:30 & 10:30pm showing how the fire (white square) has died down as of this posting at 11:15pm Thursday local time.

IR Sat 730 & 1030pm

IR Sat 730 & 1030pm

Here’s another example of the “white puff” we saw when there had apparently been a well-placed fire retardant drop from an aircraft. We’d see a small plume of white smoke at the base of the large orange main plume, then the main plume would gradually die down before rising again a little less than an hour later. This is the last pic we got in the first set.

1397 White Puff 5:40pm

1397 White Puff 5:40pm

1380 Rey Fire Plume

1380 Rey Fire Plume

The low level winds in Santa Ynez Valley are 12mph from the West, yet the upper level winds are toward the West (the left side of these pix looking North).

1378 Rey Fire

1378 Rey Fire

The notch in the ridge line above is just to the East (right) of the Painted Cave community, and in it you can see white smoke that appeared suddenly after a 5:40pm aircraft fire retardant drop. The plume shrank to almost nothing after that, but rose to almost this size again by 40 minutes later. As I type this at 6:40 it has shrunk to a small dome again. Once darkness falls and the aircraft are grounded, fire crews are probably going to face a long and difficult fight overnight.

2016/08/15

On A Clear Day

Lately we’ve had many days in a row with hazy air from cool sea breezes, fires near and far, or more often both. So when Sunday looked clear we took off for a look at our favorite part of the world. The new kid’s museum being built downtown has wavy shapes on the roof, and when we spotted drains in the containers they form I wondered if they’d be aquariums but it turns out they’re planters.

1129 Kid's Museum Detail

1129 Kid’s Museum Detail

People passing in trains, automobiles, on bikes or feet can’t see this yet. We saw lots of residents and visitors enjoying the nice weather, including out on the water where we caught this moment in time on a local tour boat.

1213 Relaxing Moment

1213 Relaxing Moment

But on this “clear” day we could look East and see heavy smoke from distant fires, and looking West was whiter smoke blending in with offshore low clouds. Even in what had seemed like clear air looking down on our town, from offshore and above we could see that we’d been breathing the smoke down there before takeoff too.

1220 Above the Smoke

1220 Above the Smoke

Like when we saw planters on the new building, from just a little way up we could see smoke that’s all but invisible down there. Every time we fly it’s new.

2016/08/13

Ghost Mystery

Filed under: Flying,Has Photos,Nature,People,Random,SB Region — John @ 01:30

My article on a white “ash fall” at the Pine Fire burn area in today’s Edhat outlines the mystery. In essence, the phenomenon seemed to have been caused by some freak wind event that deposited heavy white ash down this cliff face.

9926 Ash Fall?

9926 Ash Fall?

Here’s a cropped look at the lower area, showing how it heavily coated the trees and cliff face yet didn’t seem to cause any fire.

9926 "Flocked" Trees

9926 “Flocked” Trees

Looking thru the rest of our pix from that flight I came across another area with white coating the trees next to some orange PhosChek fire retardant.

9812 Another Flocking

9812 Another Flocking

This pic of a similar effect on less of a slope along with the fact that the cliff face was also coated, got me thinking. For it to stick on the cliff face and so heavily coat the trees like that, it must have been something wet rather than a dry blown ash. What if it’s a white fire retardant? Maybe some PhosCheck that didn’t have the orange coloring? Perhaps dropped by helicopter, thus landing on a smaller area in the last pic and in a vertical line on the first two? Maybe a special mix designed to help protect firefighters? Hopefully someone familiar with the fire fighting efforts on the Pine Fire (or another wildfire with white retardant used) can post a clarifying comment on Edhat.

2016/08/05

Casitas to Coast

Coming back from a look at the Pine Fire burn area we enjoyed this first look at Lake Casitas in the distance made hazy by the cool coastal humidity.

9961 Cool Coast

9961 Cool Coast

One of the things that made it especially inviting was the much hotter air over the burn area. Another thing I like about this pic is how it shows the relative shoreline size. The full lake outline goes from the bottom-left off the right end. Closer in we could begin to get an idea of how much the vertical lake level has dropped from the drought.

9971 Drain & Plane

9971 Drain & Plane

I also saw again the tiny airstrip just above the dark pond at bottom-left that we’ve seen there on prior flights. Here’s the closer look I’ve been meaning to get for several years now, because we descended just to check it out and snap this.

9976 Plane Truth

9976 Plane Truth

I’d seen the “X” marks at the runway ends before, and thought maybe it was some rancher’s private airport for a “short field” plane. But in fact, it’s home to the Ventura County Comets Radio Control Flying Club, that used to launch “seaplanes” right next to the runway at lake level. For their planes, that airstrip is enormous! We went on for a look at the first of many marina slips next to the concrete boat launch ramp that now ends well above water level.

9966 Low Water

9966 Low Water

I like the different shapes, textures and colors in that pic. Next we came across the hills above Rincon, where I noticed these rows of buildings.

9997 Trees & Buildings

9997 Trees & Buildings

Among the wild trees, geometric orchards and patches of bare earth, the neat rows of long buildings tickled our curiosity. So we snapped this maximum zoom shot, and I’m reminded of a childhood memory.

9989 Little Chicken

9989 Little Chicken

My first look at a chicken ranch years ago makes me think that’s what this is, only this one looks much more humane and smaller.

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