June 27th, 2008


Hover through the fog and filthy air.

A fire truck from Monterey County just cruised up my block and back down. Then it headed east, following the path of the other fire trucks which have passed along the road leading toward the canyon. I haven't been down there to see the firebreak they bulldozed last night. I don't know how much clearing they could do in so short a time in what is essentially solid forest, because it would take a long time to bring down and haul away enough big pines to create a strip much wider than a city street. There are a few open fields inside the town which could be cleared of brush, and those could be decent firebreaks, but they would not be continuous, and a line so far from the canyon would doom dozens of houses along the very edge of town.

But as far as I know the fire is still east of the river and a couple of miles north of the nearest buildings in town. The north winds expected last night never got very strong so the fire has moved only a little way south from where it was yesterday. That also means the smoke didn't dissipate as much as expected either. I opened the windows before midnight, as the outdoor air was then no fouler than the indoor air, but it got pretty thick again this morning so I had to close the place up again. Most likely the smell had gotten into everything in the house and will be with us for weeks after the fires are out. Should the house survive, maybe it would be a good idea to get the drapes and carpets cleaned, at least.

I do not recommend fire as a cleansing agent. It stinks.

Edit: The town is doing a pretty good job of keeping its website updated.

Yay Internetz.
bazille_summer scene

It's Like This For Now

I found a YouTube video showing the old flume along the Feather River (this flume is aka the Upper Miocene Canal), a mile or so from my house (this video has a rap soundtrack with lyrics decidedly NSFW.) There are also scenes of the river itself, and a guy washing dirt for gold, successfully. About 1:40 in, you'll see one of the popular fishing and swimming holes along the river. It's a very scenic place.

The flume is owned by PG&E, which uses the water to generate power downstream in two hydroelectric powerhouses, but I believe it incorporates parts of one of the flumes originally built in the late 19th-early 20th century for the lumbering companies, which used flumes both to supply power to mills and to transport timber. Today, the flumes offer hiking trails and some people enjoy floating down them on inner tubes.

Even earlier, gold miners used to build huge flumes to divert entire rivers, exposing the riverbeds so the miners could more easily extract the accumulated gold deposits under the river rocks. Some of these huge flumes also supplied water to the hydraulic mining gear which was used to wash away entire mountainsides to expose deeply buried gold deposits. I think those flumes are all gone, though.

Anyway, if the fire crosses the river (and the scenes of the river in the video show how narrow it is) and moves south, the canyon-side woodlands along the flume will be among the areas in its path. The flume crosses side canyons on wooden bridges in some places, and those are apt to burn, too. The metal bridges will probably just bend and collapse. The scenery will be very different around here if the fire comes west of the river.

Erosion of the exposed mountainsides during future rainstorms will probably unearth more gold and send it into the river, though, so the handful of placer miners (mostly weekend hobbyists) still working the area will benefit, at least.