Fires are burning in seven counties in Southern California. Three are incinerating parts of Santa Clarita, where I grew up, as I type. My parents' house is right in the middle. The theme park where I worked in high school, 10 minutes from home, looks like Baghdad.
My dad was in San Jose, about to fly home, when I spoke to him last night (Monday morning in California). It sounds like everything is OK, so far. A friend whose family lives in San Diego told me a few hours ago that parents had just evacuated.
Since it's the middle of the night back home, I've been digging up as much news on the fires as possible. I'm especially concerned with the Magic Mountain fire, burning in Stevenson Ranch, just across the freeway from my parents' neighborhood. Three newspapers cover Santa Clarita (to varying degrees). With that kind of overlap, there's a lot to sort through. I eventually found this nugget, which put me more at ease:
Stevenson Ranch appears out of dangerNear Valencia: "Stevenson Ranch is no longer in danger," Fire Inspector Mike Brown said this evening, adding that the wind seemed to be dying down. The 1,200-acre fire that started Monday afternoon south of Magic Mountain, which once threatened Stevenson Ranch, was 20% contained by 7 p.m.
Here's the best map I've found so far:
The LA Times posted a good map and has been "liveblogging" the fires. I put that in quotes because it's not really live, and not really blogging, at least not in the way I'd like to see it. So far, the posts have been more like a tumblog of vignettes about what people ran back inside to save and how they felt returning to the smoldering ruins of the place they grew up, with some political finger-pointing thrown in. That's all lovely, but I can't bring myself to care, not today, not when my parents are downwind of the Magic Fire. Print the feel-good stuff and the blame game tomorrow. Put it in the paper. At least separate it out from what I need to know, now, on the other side of the world when my home might be burning.
The Signal, my hometown homegrown paper, has gone low-tech, but they're also sticking to the basic and most recent facts. Whether one is related to the other, I can't say, but it makes it a lot easier to search when I don't have to filter out Malibu.
The LA Daily News has the best map. It's embedded above, and it gets my stamp of approval because it includes more than the fires. It answers questions I was asking when I went looking for news: What's burning? What roads are closed? Where are evacuees going? The LA Times didn't have that.
Here's what I'd like to see:
- What's burning, where, and how much is contained. I want constant updates on this.
- Updates separated by town. LA County is the biggest county in America. There are 88 cities and more than one million people living in unincorporated areas. Break up the information so I can find it.
- Evacuations. Who, where, and where people are gathering.
- What roads are closed. How can people get in or out if they need to? Where should people absolutely not go?
- Updates available by email, Twitter, RSS, mobile, radio, TV, and any other way the information can get to me.
I know most of this will be in news stories that come out over the next 24 hours. But news organizations dedicating the resources to maps and blogs--which they should--need to get this stuff up, front and center, somewhere I don't have to go hunting for it.
See why I'm worried?