Straight Outta Mordor: Notes from the LA Fires

(Photo: Dave Bullock, more here). Yes, they come every year, but the 2009 fires are now being reported as the largest ever in LA County's history. 122,000 acres and counting (the land mass of San Francisco and Las Vegas combined, with room to spare). Watching the blaze from a seaside rooftop last night was like gazing out at a distant, roiling Mordor.

Two firefighters died. Today, a quick Twitter scan reveals ambient "air-fear," worries over E.T's house, gay porn stars vowing to soldier on while studios scorch; confusion between snow and ash; citizens afraid their cars have developed dandruff overnight, and cigarette smoking as training. The web yields many a moody video of "pyrocumulus" and slow-moving doomclouds, and abundant photosets.

The hundred-year-old Mt. Wilson observatory is a site of huge importance in astronomy history. It's seen its share of blazes. And last night, it was as if the observatory webcam had suddenly plopped down on the surface of the Sun. Communications towers nearby carry signals for every major TV channel in LA, as well as a number of radio frequencies. The site is still at risk.

Some of what I'm following: On Twitter, hashtag #stationfires. @LATimesfires is doing a nice job. And Load this KML in Google Earth for a comprehensive data set. Please share other resources of note in the comments.

Todd "Telstar Logistics" Lappin is wowed by the giant planes we're using to fight the fires. Snip:

Aviation history was made today as a Boeing 747 Supertanker made its debut drop on a live wildfire.

Tanker 979 is a specially modified Evergreen 747 configured to carry 20,500 gallons of retardant, enabling it to lay down a fire line as much as three miles long from an altitude of 300 to 600 feet.

Things are slowing down today, as temps ease and humidity rises. The fire chief just downgraded the Station Fire status from "angry" to "cranky." But containment is still only at 5%, and officials say the fires won't be fully controlled for two more weeks. For now, my advice for fellow LA residents? Don't inhale.