Watching Cal Fire at work

After watching Wade drive away in the Rubicon, I turned my attention to grabbing some last-minute-forgotten items and getting the Volt out of danger.

The week before the big evacuation, I became motivated to re-do my office. Since we were now working at home full-time, I felt I needed to make some changes designed to increase comfort and efficiency. I had re-built my desk for better ergonomics and re-wired everything and decided to (finally) listen to my patient wife and get rid of old equipment that was no longer needed. My friend Ramin has a networking business and on the side refurbishes old laptop for underprivileged children. So my car was loaded up with old laptops and other equipment to take to Ramin. I quickly dumped it all on the garage floor – if I was going to save anything, it wasn’t going to be this old stuff!

Taking a look around the empty street, I saw that the sheriff had put yellow tags on everyone’s mailbox. My guess is that it indicated they had checked the house to make sure the occupants had evacuated and it was empty. I grabbed some last-minute stuff and was preparing to leave when Fred arrived and asked if I could help her move her husband’s car.

With our other neighbor Paul, we headed up to Fred’s place to see if we could get one of the cars out of the garage and into a nearby clearing. When we got there, we found Cal Fire on the job. Their strategy was to let the fire burn in uninhabited areas, and to spend their efforts saving houses. They were setting backfires around the house in order to starve the fire of fuel.

It was pretty amazing to watch the hillside burn so close to the house, but doing it in controlled conditions was far superior to letting Mother Nature do it. After a discussion with Paul and the Cal Fire guys, we decided that the car was safer staying inside the garage than it would be down in the clearing, The garage was stucco outside with a tile roof, so it wasn’t likely that a stray ember would catch it on fire. With the back burn that Cal Fire set, the fire wasn’t likely to work it’s way down, so it seemed the best option to leave things the car where it was. Since we were so close to the fire, we decided the best course of action was to leave as soon as possible. We thanked the firefighters from Cal Fire and the Boulder Creek fire department for their service, and got out of there.

After retrieving my car, I headed back to the Scotts Valley K-Mart to leave it in a relatively spot. I met up with Wade, who had rescued the Jeep, and left the Volt at his campsite. I went back to the RV where Cora, our German Shepherd, had been waiting patiently the whole time, and headed south to join up with Darryl and Jeanne at Marina Dunes RV Park.

Vehicle Rescue Squad

Wednesday morning we woke to find a parking lot full of RVs like a group of random animals who all found shelter in a protected valley. As the morning went on, they started filtering out to find more permanent places to wait out the upcoming days or weeks waiting to return to their homes (if they were even still there). Late in the morning a Channel 7 camera crew arrived and started to interview the stragglers who hadn’t yet motivated themselves to move on.

They eventually got around to us, and we talked for a few minutes on-camera to share with the world the harrowing experience of sleeping in a K-Mart parking lot. Afterwards, I went over to the cameraman to see if he wanted my footage of the lot when it was full (he didn’t), but he suggested I give the reporter my name, address, and phone number. If they could get in to the burn area by our house, they would check it and let us know whether it was still standing.

Our neighbors Darryl and Jeannie had already planned a camping trip to Marina Dunes RV park in Marina, CA so, lacking any other plan, we thought we’d see if we could head down there also. As luck would have it they had a 30′ spot available, which my 24′ rig would fit perfectly, so we got packed up to caravan down to the park.

Meanwhile, Jen had to head off to Redwood city to meet with her mother’s doctor. She had made the appointment back in the “normal days” and if she didn’t keep it, it would be several weeks before they could reschedule.

As our little modern-day wagon train headed south on Hwy 1 I received a call from Fred. She was able to get back to her house and asked if I wanted to go back to rescue one of my cars. I sent Darryl a garbled message on our crappy two-way radios that I was going to rescue my cars, and pulled off the highway.

We were going to meet at the K-Mart parking lot, and it occurred to me that if I could find one more driver I could get both my remaining cars out. When we had left the night before I had piloted the RV while Jen drove her car out, that left my car and my Jeep behind. If I had the choose I would drive the Jeep out, but with one other person I could rescue them both.

As luck would have it, Robin, a friend from the Jeep club, had also evacuated and had parked next to Darryl in the K-Mart parking lot. Unfortunately, he was not able to help, but he had a neighbor who was on the other side of the parking lot that might. We went over and I met Wade, who agreed to drive the Jeep back. He wanted to stop at his house and grab some more stuff, so it was a win-win for both of us. I asked Robin is he wanted to get one of his cars. He said yes, so the three of us met Fred and headed back to Boulder Creek.

CZU AUGUST LIGHTNING COMPLEX Downtown Boulder Creek Monday August 24, 2020 (Shmuel Thaler – Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Heading towards home, the horizon featured a dark grey layer obscuring the sunlight, and as we arrived in Boulder Creek the haze had cut visibility to a minimum.

After dropping Robin off at his home, we pressed onward. At the intersection of 226 and Jamison Creek road we were stopped by a police cruiser blocking the road. As the office approached the car she saw Fred and said “Oh, it’s you”. Fred had come through earlier and always leaves an impression with people. She waved us through and we continued to our house, where I got the key to the Jeep and sent Wade on his way. It’s funny that an emergency would put you in the situation where you give a stranger the keys to your Jeep and watch him drive away.

Red sky in the afternoon

You probably have heard the sailor’s expression “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in morning, sailors take warning”. But what about a red sky in the afternoon? Before we left for Vasona park on Tuesday, I noticed that the sun was very red and it actually made a red square on my living room floor.

I did some research and found that the colors we see in the sky are due to the rays of sunlight being split into colors of the spectrum as they pass through the atmosphere and ricochet off the water vapor and particles in the atmosphere. The amounts of water vapor and dust particles in the atmosphere are good indicators of weather conditions. They also determine which colors we will see in the sky.

During sunrise and sunset the sun is low in the sky, and it transmits light through the thickest part of the atmosphere. A red sky suggests an atmosphere loaded with dust and moisture particles. We see the red, because red wavelengths (the longest in the color spectrum) are breaking through the atmosphere. The shorter wavelengths, such as blue, are scattered and broken up.

In our case, the particles in the air were smoke and dust so thick that everything outside had a sepia tone. It felt very weird, sort of like living inside a 100 year old photograph. By the time the sun’s shining rays hit our floor, they had turned a deep blood red. Hmm, looking back now it seems like a warning of things to come….

Time to Evacuate!

Monday, August 17th was like any other unusually hot, 95 degree day in San Lorenzo Valley. At around 2am we woke to the sound of thunder and the flash of lightning – even more unusual for this area. In addition, there was sporadic rainfall in huge drops that evaporated almost as soon as it hit the ground. Little did we know that the lightning was going to touch off the largest forest fire in recorded California history.

By Tuesday, the smoke from nearby fires was so bad that we could no longer see the mountains is the distance. It was difficult to breath outside so we decided to take the dog to Vasona Lake County Park in south San Jose for a pleasant walk in clean air. We had a nice afternoon walking around the lake and finally figured we should go home and start dinner. As we got closer to home, the smoke got thicker and thicker making us glad we went to the park.

When we got home our friend Winifred (Fred) called and said she had heard there was an evacuation order and asked us to check the neighborhood online chat to see if we could verify it. Within about 30 minutes Jen and I both received emergency text messages on our phones that the Boulder Creek Country Club (were we live) was under an immediate evacuation order. Time to go!

Luckily, we had brainstormed earlier that day what we would bring if we had to evacuate, so we already had an idea of what to grab. We packed up our RV with “survival gear”, important papers and personal belongings. We loaded the dog and I hit the road in the RV around 10pm with Jen following behind in her Volt. Darryl and Jeannie, our neighbors across the street, are big campers and had their trailer ready for an upcoming trip, so they added some personal stuff and extra clothes and had taken off a few minutes before we did.

While on the road, I got a call from Darryl and he said they had stopped in the K-Mart parking lot in Scotts Valley. There was plenty of room (the K-Mart had closed months ago), so I decided to head there for the night also. As the night went on, more and more ‘refugees’ came into the parking lot and by morning it was completely full.

First TV show on Community TV is live!

My first TV production on Santa Cruz Community TV is live! The show is called The Santa Cruz Music Show and features the Avi Zev band. It’s a power pop band and their music is excellent.

The show had three studio cameras on tripods, and I was running around with a handheld camera. The three studio cameras were mixed live, and I edited the show afterwards to add the handheld footage. In addition, we recorded interviews with the band members and I added those in between the music. All in all, I think it was a great first effort.

Jen and I have been volunteering at Santa Cruz Community TV for over a year now. I’m certified to operate both the sound board and studio and field cameras. Jen is certified for studio and field cameras, and can also operate the teleprompter and CG machine.

Check out Santa Cruz Community TV! It’s fun, you can meet a great bunch of people, and do something to help your community.


Community TV

Last December, Jennifer and I attended the Orientation class for the Community Television of Santa Cruz County. We have learned many new things, made new friends, and have had a lot of fun.

We started with the Studio Camera Class, then the Field Camera Class. For the first couple of events, we were “shadowed” by an experienced camera operator, to make sure we understood how to operate the camera during a real show.