John & Anne Wiley

2016/06/25

Wind, Dust, Ash and… Smoke?

Filed under: Flying,Has Photos,Nature,Random,SB Region — John @ 03:40

*Update: Probably just ash (see below).

I was worried when we flew over the Sherpa burn area and back to SBA lower along the shoreline today. The wind was quite strong from the North over the ridge, but more from the West down nearer the beach at the East end of the fire. We thought the whiter plumes above the beach fog might possibly be smoke, so we actually texted two pix to Edhat from the air. We wanted to warn people living in that area to watch for smoke just in case. But soon after we landed the wind had abated and we’ve not heard anything about fire flareups. Anyway, here are larger versions of the pix we sent Edhat.

8113 Fog, Dust, Ash, and??

8113 Fog, Dust, Ash, and??

At the bottom is the beach fog rolling in. The big brownish streak above that looks to me like dust. Off to the left looks more like blown ash. But in between the fog and dust are some small white plumes that could be any of the above – or smoke. Here’s a closer look at that area from a different angle.

8116 Fog & What Else?

8116 Fog & What Else?

Toward the left just above the fog is a clearing and on the hillside just above that and in a hollow on this side of the near ridge above those are bluish-white puffs that could be smoke. The fire has still not be listed as “contained” and that may be partly due to scattered smouldering areas that could flare up and/or blow embers. I wonder: has the wind stopped there, and is there smoke in these pix?

*Update:  I finally got time to look at more of the pix from Friday’s flight, and it seems to me the white plumes are just blown ash. First, here’s another look at the whole burn area past the NW corner down to the SE.

7994 Sherpa Burn NW to SE

7994 Sherpa Burn NW to SE

What had us most worried were those bluish-white plumes along the East flank in the distance. They’re a different color from the browner streak of ash and dust trailing up off the top of the pic toward the islands. But another pic, zoomed in to that East flank from lower offshore gives more detail.

8052 Blown White Ash

8052 Blown White Ash

The wind was quite strong, and there’s no sign of flames. There’s lots of white ash in the canyon left over from the thick brush and very hot fire there. It seems clear from this angle, that ash is blowing up the slope and into the air so that it looks very much like smoke from most angles. We also saw a gathering of vehicles in one area, so there almost certainly were many eyes (and possibly infrared cameras) watching the whole burn area carefully. It seems most likely the fire is indeed out, or we would have seen some flames.

What an amazing job the firefighters have done, knocking down this massive fire in such thick dry fuel with epic wind and heat. Thank you!

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2016/06/23

Sherpa Fire Aircraft

Filed under: Aviation,Flying,Happiness,Has Photos,Nature,Random,SB Region — John @ 12:52

Even snapping the fire from high above the fray, some of our pix included aircraft. For those who are curious how aerial fire attack looks from above, or my fellow aviation buffs, here are a few pix. First the biggest and baddest: the DC-10.

7900 Tanker 910 DC-10 N612AX

7900 Tanker 910 DC-10 N612AX

Going by the catchy name “Tanker 910” this flying fire extinguisher can lay a track like this 300′ wide and a mile long. At the other end of the spectrum is this trusty all-purpose helicopter (possibly a Sheriff UH-1N “Huey”) dropping water while a ground crew takes a break to enjoy the show.

7774 Instant Rain

7774 Instant Rain

This bigger helicopter I think is a Sky Crane, and it can deliver a larger load of water.

7890 Flying Fire Hose

7890 Flying Fire Hose

Managing all this were two “spotter” lead planes, mostly taking turns over the fire but while we were there they both made appearances. This King Air N463DF was higher, so we got a better look at it.

7886 "Sky" King Air N463DF

7886 “Sky” King Air N463DF

Down closer to the action during our time over the fire was this Cessna 525 N10R looking really cool.

7844 Cessna 525 N10R

7844 Cessna 525 N10R

This sleek jet we normally see whisking the well to do into SBA greeted by a waiting limo, was instead directing both the DC-10 and this smaller 4-engine jet that I think is one of Neptune Aviation’s BAe 146 tankers very precisely painting a red line of PhosChek fire retardant.

7876 BAe 146 PhosChek Drop

7876 BAe 146 PhosChek Drop

Last, another look at the tanker we saw far in the smoky distance, that I think is a Grumman S-2 Tracker.

7706 Grumman S-2 Tracker?

7706 Grumman S-2 Tracker?

There were more aircraft working the fire, but few were close enough to positively identify. Several times we could see nine or more inside the fire restricted area (red box) at once, using the Avare and HIZ apps on an S4 phone in our living room. Each of the blue dots in this cropped screen capture is an aircraft, the direction of the line shows their heading and the length of the line approximates their speed (so the short lines tend to be helicopters, and the long one approaching the box was the Cessna).

Avare ADSB Capture

Avare ADSB Capture

2016/06/21

Sherpa Fire Origin?

**New Update 6/22: I found another view of the NW corner, and added it below.

Note: *Update below with pix of another possible fire origin location.

We love flying, and snapping & sharing pix. Like this view from the North edge of the Sherpa Fire, looking along the mountain ridge toward the East. My imagination can see it as the olive green leopard-spotted back of an ominous giant beast, that luckily as of this writing has been nearly tamed.

7738 Green Meanie

7738 Green Meanie

Beyond flying & pix, I have the additional attribute of wanting to figure things out. I doubt there was anything criminal about this fire, but I was still curious where it originated. Using info found on Edhat & Noozhawk, I found approximately where the Sherpa Fire started. Comparing that with my 6/19 aerials it’s at the Northwest corner of the burned area at the bottom-middle of this pic from my post here yesterday, looking to the South.

7736 NW Corner S to Beach

7736 NW Corner S to Beach

More carefully examining other pix of that area looking more toward the East at closer zoom I spotted curious tiny white dots (inside the blue circle I added).

7747 White Dots

7747 White Dots

Looking even more closely I also saw lots of fire vehicles parked in the area, and buildings that had very nearly been burned but probably saved by that PhosChek and determined firefighters.

7743 Signs Of Struggle

7743 Signs Of Struggle

Here’s a wider view of that area including the white dots, looking more toward the South-southeast. This shows how close the fire came to those buildings as it leapt down the slope driven by the wind and blown embers starting fresh blazes ahead of the main flames.

7736 Close Call

7736 Close Call

Finally, here’s another view toward the Southeast at full resolution of what’s probably a white square table with three people standing around it near a white rectangle that’s apparently a pop-up tent (top-right corner).

7746 Sherpa Fire Investigation?

7746 Sherpa Fire Investigation?

The shadow of the square object is smaller, so I deduce that it’s closer to the ground than the larger rectangle. The latter looks like the pop-up tents I’ve seen firefighters using on the news coverage of the firefighter rest area. I don’t know anything about fire origin detection, but this looks similar to scientific investigations I’ve seen on PBS. My guess is there’s a white tent there to protect the fire origin plus maybe give shade and wind protection to investigators, with a table nearby for them to work on.

I may not be the only one who likes to figure things out, because one of Edhat’s most popular features is the contests to name where random enigmatic pix of locations around town were taken. The contestants are many, incredibly skilled and knowledgeable, and tireless in deducing an exact location until they can accurately identify where in the world it is. We are it seems, a curious species. 🙂

*Update:

Thanks to helpful Edhat comments and Ray Ford’s excellent reporting in an Indy article, there’s another possible origin location for the fire. Here’s a pic of that area, circled in red.

7746 Indy Area

7746 Indy Area

A closer view of that area shows how the fire could have started near the building and raced up the slope in a thin burned area before spreading out at the top where the blue circled area is in the other pic.

7746 Indy Area Closeup

7746 Indy Area Closeup

**Update 6/22:

I found this additional view of the Sherpa Fire burned area’s Northwest corner. Since it provides a little more context on that area I’m adding it despite the fact it was taken from North of the ridge and is thus of lower quality. I like that it better reveals some of the small spot fires there, because the small smoke plumes are more visible than from more overhead as in the other pix. There seems to even be active flame visible near the top-left corner of the pic. Near the bottom toward the right is the probable spot where the Sherpa (aka Scherpa, Chirpa, Sharpa, etc.) Fire started.

7725 NW Corner from N

7725 NW Corner from N

2016/06/20

More & Bigger Sherpa Pix

Filed under: Aviation,Flying,Happiness,Has Photos,Nature,Random,SB Region — John @ 06:34

Here’s another batch of pix from our 6/19 flight over the Sherpa Fire. These were taken from our approach slowly climbing in the hot thin air over Montecito at 2pm to get above the 7,000′ safety area, until we first reached the NW corner at 2:30. They’re out of sequence with the ones hastily posted here and on Edhat earlier, but I’ll post more tomorrow to complete this set of larger and different views from those. First is this view into the smoke from over Montecito, unedited (except for size) to show how thick the smoke was. Most of the rest have been tweaked to better show detail.

7630 Smoky Distance

7630 Smoky Distance

Next a much closer view into the smoke as we neared the Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) area created to safely separate fire attack aircraft from everyone else (including photojournalists, of which we were the only aircraft there that long before TV news time).

7633 Nearing Smoke

7633 Nearing Smoke

Continuing our slow climb across the mountains into Santa Ynez Valley we finally got above the smoke layer for a clear look back SSW across the ridge.

7685 Clear Air

7685 Clear Air

At the left you can see some of the many expensive broadcast towers along that ridge that firefighters worked to protect the night before. Finally well above 7,000′ feet we turned SW back over the ridge and saw our first PhosChek drop of the day.

7707 Small Tanker, Big Red

7707 Small Tanker, Big Red

They were working spot fires at this Northern edge of the burn area, where they’d already painted the hillside to slow and eventually stop the fire’s up-slope advance well below the expensive TV towers. Here’s another angle on that spot, showing how the fire was affected a few minutes later.

7721 Bigger Red, Smaller Fire

7721 Bigger Red, Smaller Fire

Nearing the Northwest corner of the burned area we could see a few more spot fires well within the scratched-bare earth, already-burned, and/or PhosChek-protected areas.

7717 NW Corner

7717 NW Corner

Last up for this post is a view of the whole Northwest corner from more overhead, tweaked to better distinguish the burned areas in the dappled light from broken high clouds.

7736 NW Corner S to Beach

7736 NW Corner S to Beach

Straight up from the left red area and smoke plume is the El Capitan campground jutting out into the Channel. At the top-right is Refugio campground. Check out the layers of bare earth fire breaks, some quite wide, and multiple red lines of PhosCheck “insurance.”

3pm 6/19 Over Sherpa Fire

Filed under: Aviation,Flying,Happiness,Has Photos,Nature,Random,SB Region — John @ 00:38

I’ve just sent this to Edhat, and will try to post more and bigger pix later tonite:

We flew over the Sherpa Fire at 3pm Sunday and got a bunch of aerials. We’re in the middle of Father’s Day events but I wanted to shoot these off to Ed in case they have time to post them. I’ll put them on our blog too in case they’re too busy to post, because they show the whole burn area and though we’re seeing smoke in town the aerial views are very reassuring. In essence there are only half a dozen spot fires big enough to make a small visible smoke plume and they’re all inside the burned perimeter except one at the North edge that’s well-painted with PhosChek. In fact, while passing overhead we saw a small jet and then the DC-10 both do big drops to paint a bright red line above that edge. Lots of other pix including heli drop but I’ll put those on our blog later tonite.

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