This thing in LA has sprung up so fast you could be excused for missing it, but as of now 500,000 people have been evacuated from the area surrounding LA and San Diego in the past two days as fires burn through the tinder dry brush and race up the steep bluffs. To get an idea how dry it is, they have had 2'' of rain in the past year. When I was out there I visited a house that was perched up on top of one of these Santa Monica hills, and you can see how fast these things would go. Here is a photograph of the typical vegetation and the general angle of the terrain. The vegetation is low and dense but with lots of air available. So like the controlled prairie fires we did in Northfield, these things can get amazingly hot and move fast. Faster than you can run.
And perched all throughout the area, at the top of the hills, are rows and rows of houses. And snaking along the tops are miles of narrow roads, so you can see why so many people had to evacuate and how hard that would be to fight. I wonder if this is going to change some things about how houses are built up there. There are codes for earthquake proofing, but how about wild fire?
LA Times has the best reporting on this so far. Go check it out.