I’m sure you’ve noticed that DotD has been completely quiet this past week. I do apologize, but the massive disaster that popped up in the North Bay area of California has pretty much taken over life in the region. The “LNU Complex” fires hit hard, and have already been declared one of the worst (if not the worst) fire-related disasters in California history. DotD is quiet because I’m working on these fires.
I was among the crews dispatched Sunday night, after a wind storm picked up and triggered the explosive expansion of two major fires – the Tubbs Fire (the larger fire indicated by red hashed area in the mid-upper-left), and the Atlas Fire (far right). Hurricane-force winds up to 80 mph pushed the fires through treetops, spreading the fires far faster than anyone could keep up with, providing zero warning to thousands of residents in the area. The confirmed death toll on these fires is over 30, with hundreds still missing. The fires have devastated massive areas of not just rural homes, but urban neighborhoods, such as this one in Santa Rosa, a city of nearly 200,000 people. Large sections of the city, as well as many surrounding cities and towns, have been completely evacuated.
After an initial non-stop shift of 34 hours starting the night these fires sparked, I’ve settled into the standard pattern of 24-on, 24-off (which when you factor in travel times, being early for check-in each shift day, late release the following day as we hold lines along the fire’s edge while waiting for the next shift, etc. is really more like 29-on, 19 off). It’s been a pretty exhausting schedule, so I’ve been sleeping and taking care of other things during my down time. Mostly sleeping. We’re up to thousands of personnel working these fires now, including those from several other states, and the National Guard.
It’s not just us firefighters out there either – law enforcement has come from all over to help with the massive number of road closures, patrol for looters, and more. Utility workers assess, clear, and even try to restore some critical infrastructure through burned out areas even as firefighters continue their fight to contain the fire.
I do want to give special props to law enforcement here. Firefighters get all the glory in something like this, while cops tend to get nothing but disdain and hate these days. Especially Sunday night though, cops were critical to helping save hundreds if not thousands of lives. While firefighters were still responding and getting up to speed, law enforcement was already rushing in the face of the 80 mph firestorm to evacuate everyone they could, braving intense heat without the protective gear firefighters wear. This bodycam video shows what nearly every law enforcement officer in the area was up to Sunday night. We’ve even posted some similar-looking videos here on DotD before, but those were people trying to get out with fire all around them. These cops were not trying to get out. They stayed as long as they could and tried to get everyone out. These guys are the heroes. So don’t just “thank a firefighter” like all those social media things say… thank a cop every now and then too.
I was actually working right in the area this bodycam footage was shot from the first couple of days.
So yeah. My shifts aren’t over yet – still getting up at 4 a.m. tomorrow to head back over to base camp and hit it again for another 24. Without knowing how many shifts they’ll keep local government resources like ours, I unfortunately can’t say how long until I can start putting out regular posts again, but as always, it’s not intentional. If I decide to fold up and move on, I’ll definitely let everyone know first. So I’ll be back… just can’t say for sure when. For now though, I’m off to find some food, then sleep again for a few more hours.
I do feel sorry for this poor dog, but at the same time, I can’t imagine he was too badly injured or the owner wouldn’t have posted the video, so I hope he was fine. This is a good example of why at least a little fear can be a good thing, at least around something you’re unfamiliar with. On the other hand, a dog like this with no fear would definitely keep you on your toes…
Swedish car manufacturer Koenigsegg has just smashed the record time for 0-400-0 kph (0-250-0 mph), stealing the record from Bugatti. The Bugatti Chiron held the previous record of 41.96 seconds, running from full stop to 250 mph back down to full stop. Koenigsegg has taken their Agera RS to the same speed and back in only 36.44 seconds – more than 5 seconds faster than the Chiron.
The Agera RS brags 1,360 bhp (horsepower before factoring in friction from the various other parts of the car like gears, exhaust, etc.), with 1,011 ft-lbs of torque. You can compare that with an average Toyota Corolla that typically has around 132 bhp and around 128 ft-lbs of torque. And yes, the Agera RS used for the run was an actual production, brand new, street legal car, destined to be sold in the US. The fastest it had run prior to this test was 186 mph.
The track used for the test was also a concern. The original plan had been to use the Papenburg test track in Germany, but that had to be canceled due to bad weather. Instead, the track they used was an old runway converted for drag/speed tests. It was bumpy and littered with small potholes, and only 2.8 km long (1.74 miles). The car did use up nearly the entire track, finishing the run in 2.5 km. The RS can do 0-60 in 2.6 seconds. Definitely more car than I’ll ever own.
[via Top Gear]
In a move that surprises absolutely no one, Trump has nominated a prominent coal industry lobbyist (and just like the EPA director, a hardcore climate change/science denier) to be “second in command” of the Environmental Protection Agency. I mean, it makes complete sense – the oil industry already has effective control over the EPA with Scott Pruitt, so logically, the next in line ought to be someone from big coal, right? Who better to regulate pollution than two of the largest polluters there are?
You know, while we’re at it, why don’t we fix some of the other departments too? Why not make sure the person heading up the Department of Housing and Urban Development has a long record of discrimination and violating fair housing laws? And the Department of Education director really ought to be someone who never learned to read… I mean, Betsy DeVos is doing a great job, don’t get me wrong – she’s undercutting public education in order to funnel that much-needed money to private schools, and she’s making campuses less safe, but I feel like we could do even more if we had somebody who wasn’t merely unqualified, but the complete antithesis of what would help support proper education. Let’s allow people who have no fewer than five DUIs set the laws for DUI, and people who have shot and killed at least 10 innocent civilians manage all of our gun laws.
All of that would make total sense, right? Right?
[via New York Times]
Holy Schnikes, Batman! A Russian attack helicopter accidentally fired a volley of missiles into a parking lot during a large-scale training exercise in September. Apparently, the targeting system on one of the helicopters “mistakenly acquired a target,” causing the unguided rockets to damage (read: destroy) a truck. Other nearby vehicles were damaged as well.
In the video, you can clearly see someone walking directly toward the truck that was hit, but while it’s likely this person was injured, all reports indicate nobody was killed. Thankfully, no one was in the truck itself at the time.
The older I get, the more a pet peeve of mine becomes the fact that we in the US are still stuck to the ridiculous imperial system of measurements. We have 12 inches in a foot, 3 feet in a yard, 5280 feet in a mile, and so on. But do you know off the top of your head how many yards are in a mile? And how about the other official units of measurement? Did you know a chain is 22 yards? Or that a furlong is 10 chains? Quick now, how many inches are in 3 furlongs? Let’s see… 3 furlongs would be 30 chains, which would be 660 yards, and that’s… crap, 660 x 3? Where’s my calculator?
All that just seems completely ridiculous to me. Metric is just so simple! 10 centimeters in a decimeter, 10 decimeters in a meter, and so on. Conversion consists of just moving a decimal point back and forth – something you really don’t need a calculator for at all. So why did we ever decide to stick to such a convoluted system in the first place? Well, we kind of have pirates to blame for that.
Turns out, back in 1793, Thomas Jefferson (who was a major fan of the metric system) was trying to persuade Congress to go metric. At the time, there was really no “official” system of measurement, and it was causing no end of headaches. Different definitions of weights in different states meant that crossing state lines to sell your products could make you a nice little profit. For example, a bushel of grain in New Jersey weighed 32 pounds, while in Connecticut it was 28 pounds, so selling 300 pounds of grain in Connecticut meant you sold more bushels, and got more money out of it. Congress decided to standardize a measurement system to fix all that, and we had a major opportunity to go metric at that point. But being used to the imperial systems they’d used before they left England, they weren’t convinced yet.
Enter Joseph Dombey, a French botanist and aristocrat who had been communicating with Jefferson about the metric system. In 1793, Dombey sailed from Paris with two standards for metric – a rod exactly one meter long, and a copper cylinder weighing exactly one kilogram. He was traveling to meet with Jefferson in person and provide these standards in order to help persuade Congress to go metric.
Unfortunately, during the trip, a storm knocked Dombey’s ship off course, and right into a bunch of British pirates. They took Dombey hostage and looted his equipment, auctioning everything off to the highest bidders. Dombey died a captive. When Dombey didn’t arrive in America, a replacement was dispatched, but by this time it was too late – the US had basically adopted imperial at that point.
Still, the US has actually been very slowly easing into metric. Most car speedometers display both miles and kilometers. Soda and other drinks are sold by the liter. And so on. It honestly wouldn’t be that hard to convert over to metric entirely – the hardest part would be adapting to kilometers rather than miles, and liters rather than gallons for fuel. We could manage though. And I hope one day we do.
Oh, and by the way, there are 23,760 inches in 3 furlongs. But you knew that, right?
[via Science Alert]
This is a time lapse video of Hurricane Irma rolling in at Cane Garden Bay, Tortola, British Virgin Islands. It’s easy to see how destructive hurricanes can be when you look at the aftermath, but watching it as it happens can still give a whole new perspective. It certainly doesn’t make it any more comforting that we’re seeing more and more of these monster storms, either.