Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Scorched Earth

Our drought has led to the inevitable - fire. Fires everywhere. Wildfires or wild fires or flash fires or fire zones or whatever you want to call them. In Bastrop, our friend Mary lost her home - everything. In Spicewood, our friend Regina watched flames come within 200 yards of her home. In Austin, we worry continually because we live on a greenbelt, now dry and parched looking and a potential firespot, as it is a popular hiking area and home to a number of transients.

Late edit: Our friend Susan S.and her mother both lost their homes in the Bastrop fires.

The image above is today's map of Bastrop, black circles mean heat/fire within the past 24 hours, yellow means some current heat, red means a still active fire. Current estimates are that 38,000 acres have burned and 885 homes have been destroyed.

Late edit (Thursday morning): 1,386 homes have been destroyed so far. The fire is 30% contained. The map above shows only a section of Bastrop, there are other areas that have been destroyed.

When most people think of a fire they think of the possible loss of life and then they think of the homes burning up and all possessions gone. It is more than that. It is the people frantically packing up their cars to evaculate, frantically calling for their pets that they eventually have to abandon as the flames come closer. How much time do you have to evacuate? Take a look at this video to see how fast fire can move. Now think about how fast it moves when the wind is blowing 20 miles per hour.

It is the exhausted firefighters, many of them volunteers, who haven't had a break for days, even to go back to see if their own homes were among those destroyed. It is the children, wary of their now unstable environment, not able to go back to the routine and security of school. Not because the school has burned down but because the buses can't travel down the roads, roads covered with ash, roads with bridges and guardrail posts burned out. It is the air that smells of smoke, even to us, miles away. It is the ash in the air that impedes the breathing of people with asthma, elderly people, babies. In the end, it is just scorched earth.

The map images are courtesy of Bill Gabbert's WildfireToday website. In the Bastrop image shown below Bill says: 
"An interesting footnote. You may have noticed on the lower-right side of the satellite imagery map the name “LUECKE” spelled out in green. The landowner clear-cut trees on the property, leaving enough to see the letters. They are huge, and span about 2.5 miles from the “L” to the last “E”. Astronauts on the International Space Station use these letters to check the resolution of their cameras."


Lost Aussie said...

I've done bushfire evacuation when I was a kid. It's terrifying.
Lets hope your greenbelt stays brown and dry.

magpie said...

i emailed you earlier but im just catching up online - sorry about your friend. what can i say. stay safe.

Leslie Avon Miller said...

I've been through wind storms falling trees on my home, sinking large bridges, etc. The power of nature can not be overestimated. It is mind boggling and frightening, and I hope you get some water from the skies very soon.

ArtPropelled said...

I have butterflies in my stomach reading this. Stay safe.