Monthly Archives: September 2014

California Fire Season: Goofing with Maps

I don’t really have too much time on my hands. I have actual work I might be doing and undoubtedly will do. But wildfires have been a major professional preoccupation this summer — here’s a current example of what I’m talking about. And visualizing where the fires are and how big they are (in both absolute and relative terms) has become part of that preoccupation.

There are lots of maps out there. For instance, both Cal Fire’s site (maintained by our state firefighting agency) and Inciweb (the site reporting fires on federal lands) both feature maps of each and every conflagration. And there are independent mapping sites — for instance, the one that created this rather amazingly detailed map of the King Fire currently burning northeast of Sacramento — that provide details that most people would never even think of (for instance, overlaying wind data on the area where the fire is burning).

But of course, if you have a map, you want another map. So I started goofing around with a site/service a colleague introduced me to several months ago, Mapbox. My original purpose was to create a map that overlaid the footprint of the King Fire (which as of today has burned 82,000 acres, or 120 square miles) on the Bay Area. In theory, that would allow Bay Area people to envision better what that burned area means in a context they may understand better than a) “82,000 acres” and b) 120 square miles. I discovered that it’s easy to find the data showing the footprint of the King Fire and others, and I wound up making the map above. Plenty of room for improvement there. For instance, including the date and size of each fire.

The execution of my original concept, accomplished with my crude beginner’s skills in Photoshop, is below. I tweeted that image, and someone out there on the twtinternets suggested I could make this image more interesting by rotating the overlaid fire footprint so that it’s aligned better with the San Francisco Peninsula. Well, maybe I will.

kingfireoverlay.jpeg

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Along the Road

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I have just gone an entire calendar month without a post on The Blog. I supposed that’s been a long time coming — I have been more and more occupied by my paid writing activities and have had less and less energy for my spare-time quasi-literary activities. So here it is, the first night of September, and I see that I went 0 for August.

I was on the road a little bit the last few weeks. A trip up to Yosemite to pick up Kate after a weekend science-teacher seminar. A trip down to San Diego to pick her up after a weeklong science-teacher training. Then last week, in a trip that had nothing to do with Kate’s science teaching, I went up to Northern California to do some reporting on a salmon-and-water story. Being up there, I also did some exploring, tracing the Trinity River its entire length below the last dam on its waters, then following the Klamath River as far as the Interstate 5 bridge north of Yreka. That river journey was on two highways — 299, which runs northwest from Redding out to the Humboldt County coast, and 96, which follows the Trinity River north from 299 up to its confluence with the Klamath.

That part of California has been a big blank space in my personal map of California, and I tried to stop and take a look at the countryside and the communities along the way; of course, that was a little bit of a challenge because I had set myself a nearly absurd amount of ground to cover in one day of two-lane driving, something approaching 400 miles. But I did take in towns like Weaverville, where I stayed for one night long ago, and places I had never seen, like Hawkins Bar, Burnt Ranch, Salyer, Willow Creek, Hoopa, Weitchpec, Orleans, Happy Camp, and Seiad Valley. To be honest, I think I’d need to go back again two or three times before any of them is imprinted on my brain, though I can tell you that Hawkins Bar has a saloon named Simon Legree’s. I did not get a picture of the place, and I did not stop to ask for an explanation of how the villain of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” wound up being the inspiration for a roadhouse.  

I did stop briefly in Willow Creek, where Highway 96 turns north from 299. From the superficial passing-motorist’s glance, it’s a pretty tidy-looking small town with a manicured business district (the town promotes itself as a capital of all things Bigfoot). I stopped because I had seen a couple small roadside memorials — crosses with flowers and other mementos — on the side of the road into town. The first memorial, at an old truck scale on a bluff above the river, included a rubber duck but didn’t have a name visible. The second memorial, about a mile and a half up the road, appeared recent and included a name, Alejandro Garcia.

Here’s the story of what happened to Mr. Garcia, as related by the North Coast Journal in late June:

Willow Creek Hit and Run Victim Identified

The pedestrian killed in a hit-and-run collision in Willow Creek on Saturday has been identified as 22-year-old Manuel Alejandro Garcia.

Humboldt County Deputy Coroner Roy Horton said Garcia appeared to have been walking on the shoulder of the westbound lane of State Route 299, where it makes a sweeping left-hand turn in front of Buddy’s Auto Center, when he was hit. Horton said Garcia lived close by, with his mother and brother, and appears to have been out walking his dog.

“I found a dog leash and chain at the scene,” Horton said, adding that the dog returned to Garcia’s home after the accident, which occurred at about 10 p.m. Saturday.

The California Highway Patrol responded to a call reporting the accident and found Garcia dead, but the driver had fled the scene. A short time later, officers found a car believed to have been involved in the accident parked behind Ray’s Market in Willow Creek. With the help of a dog from the Arcata Police Department, officers spent four hours searching the scene but were unable to locate the driver.

California Highway Patrol officer Michael Berry said officers used the vehicle’s registration information to track down its suspected driver, Daniel Roy Jones, 36, of Arcata, who was arrested at his home without incident at about 11:30 Sunday morning and booked into jail on suspicion of driving under the influence, hit and run, manslaughter and delaying or obstructing an officer. …

That was more than two months ago. The only postscript I find in the local media is that the suspect in the case posted bail, apparently the day after he was arrested. You kind of wonder what the legal consequences will ultimately be.

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