Monday, August 31, 2009

Station Fire -- Monday Morning from East Pas

We awoke againt this morning to very strong smell of smoke. So much so that we did something we almost never do -- we turned on the air conditioner. Yesterday morning we had the same thick smoky air and it cleared by early afternoon. We'll see what happens today.

Meanwhile, we hear and read reports that sometime last night or today the fire should reach the transmitters high atop Mt. Wilson. Fire maps, like this one from google, show the fire bearing down on Mt. Wilson. We also keep checking the Mt. Wilson tower cam which, when its on, has tremendous photos. As of daybreak (photo above), the towers were visible and we didn't see flames.

I've since gone into work and am writing this from my fourth floor north-facing office in downtown Pas. Though just a few miles away, the mountains are entirely concealed by gray-brown smoke.

Lots of local bloggers are doing great work on this fire and we check them reqularly. Altadenablog has been the lead dog and a great source of information. Ben at the sky is big has a list of local bloggers following the fire, including yours truly.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Station Fire -- From Hastings Village

We awoke today to the strong smell of smoke, which thankfully has dissipated. But the fire seems to have spread east and north as this view from the Hastings Village shows. If you zoom in you can see the towers of Mt. Wilson shrouded in smoke. The Mt. Wilson tower cam has had some tremendous shots of the towers with a smoky backdrop.

Update: The Tower Cam is back up and now shows flames behind the transmission towers. (8/31 at 5:00 am)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Station Fire -- DC 10 Super Tanker

From our house we watched airplanes and helicopters fly to and from the Station Fire, which is burning west and north of Pasadena. By far the biggest plane in the sky was this orange and white tanker that flew probably a dozen or more missions. Based on a quick search, I think this is a DC 10 Super Tanker. Photos and film of the tanker are here. According to, the plane can carry 12,000 gallons of water or fire retardant and is a "game changer."

I was amazed at how low this huge plane was flying. On this shot, I just leaned back and looked up.

In other fire related news, we just took in some chickens that have been displaced. So far all birds seem to be on their best behavior. More tomorrow.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Record Heat

It is HOT. AccuWeather forecasts a high today of 106, easily surpassing the former record August 28 high of 102 set in 1995.

The heat's discomfort is compounded by smoke from fires in our local mountains. Earlier this week we could smell smoke from the Azusa Canyon fire. The last two days we have had heavy smoke from the Station fire in La Canada. I've watched the La Canada fire from my office in downtown Pasadena and last night could see the flames. As I look out at the San Gabriels this morning, I see a hazy blanket of smoke against the foothills north of Pasadena and east of Pasadena. Over toward La Canada, the smoke billows up, in kind of gray-brown clouds, against the blue sky. And then the gray-brown extends westward as far as I can see.

The heatwave is supposed to break on Sunday sending temps back down to the low 90s. Hopefully that will help the fire fighters.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

"One of the most charming grottos of the world"

Let's turn the clock back to 1876 and say you wanted to move from the cold snowy east to sunny southern California. Well, there was no California Aqueduct, no Colorado River water and no Pasadena Water and Power. You'd have to find water yourself before you could live here.

So it was in 1876 for William Cogswell when he purchased property in what is now east Pasadena and built the famous Sierra Madre Villa Hotel. When Cogswell bought his property, he also purchased rights to 1/2 of the water flowing over a water fall in Davis Canyon, just north of present day Pasadena Glen.

Since water was such a precious commodity in an arid area, it stands to reason people were fascinated with it. The capture and management of water -- purely local water -- made possible the groves and vines that flourished in the San Gabriel Valley.

So, in the 70's and 80's when people trekked to the Sierra Madre Villa, one of the objects of interest was the source of water that made this wonderful place possible. Cogswell enjoyed escorting guests on a short hike to the falls in Davis Canyon where water flowed from the mountainside into a refreshing pool. From there it was diverted into wood flumes and clay pipes which carried the water downhill to a reservoir behind the Villa hotel. From there, it was piped into each of the Villa's guest rooms (running water!) and sent downhill to water the Villa's citrus groves.

Los Angeles Herald editor, James Basset, visited the Sierra Madre Villa and took a walk with Cogswell up to the falls at Davis Canyon. Basset's account appears in Tourists Illustrated Guide to the Celebrated Summer and Winter Resorts of California, published in 1883.

Here is Basset's description along with present day photos:

"In company of Mr. Cogswell, we treated ourselves to a walk to the grotto which furnishes the water supply for the Sierra Madre Villa. It was distant about three-quarters of a mile. Part of the way, the water is conveyed in a flume and for the remainder of the distance in iron pipes.

We had to ascend some three hundred feet before we reached the brow of a hill from which one appeared to descend to the source of the water supply.

Of course, this appearance was deceptive.

Perseverance at last brought us to one of the most charming grottos of the world. In a crypt, hollowed out of solid rock by the rushing waters (doubtless the work of many years), a sharp turn to the right brought us to a cascade which plunged for a distance of fifteen or twenty feet over a shelving rock.

The crystal clear water, cool and refreshing, compensated one for the slightly trying walk."