Battleground Orange County, CA, On Fire, with Worst Air Ever

Battleground Orange County, CA, On Fire, with Worst Air Ever

It is shocking to wake up with the smell of smoke, and then to go outside and discover that the sunrise is blurred by smoke and the air is full of smoke.  A quick call to the UC Irvine campus police tells me the fire is in eastward Silverado, and to turn on KTLA channel 5 to see the fire coverage.  The sunrise picture that I took from smoke over faculty and staff housing in University Hills.

Looking at the air quality monitors, show the fall Santa Ana winds blowing the smoke in a narrow wedge right over Irvine, my home and the campus and out over Newport Beach.  Note the incredible high 669 PM2.5 reading over UC Irvine.  Laguna Beach to the South still has excellent air, and so do cities to the North.  I have breakfast to think and get energy, then hastily pack for a few days and head to Los Angeles to stay with my son and his family.

Here is the Southern California wind map with the relevant stream just below the center of the picture.  This is from

This is the trace of the monitor at Aldrich Hall, the UC Irvine Administration building next to Campus Drive across from the University Center.  The extremely high value hit 550 but was short lived.  Still, bad air from 150 to 200 has recurred.  The “Worst Air Ever” was for Irvine.


Soon, 90,000 residents of Irvine, a city of 300,000, and Trabuco Canyon, are ordered to evacuate, since 65 mph winds are carrying embers into Irvine.  It is a brush chaparral fire, and spreads rapidly in the Santa Ana winds, growing from a few hundred acres to 8,000 acres in a day.  It is now over 13,000 acres.  500 firefighters are battling the blaze, and, unfortunately, two are badly burned.

After a day, the Santa Ana winds let up, the smoke spreads out around Orange County, and even into Los Angeles, and I return to my more comfortable home, but still to bad air.  A second fire, the Blue Ridge fire, has started up northward of Irvine.  Southern California, and even more so, Northern California, has been in a drought for years.  It hasn’t rained here all summer, and still hasn’t yet rained in the fall.  

Northern and Central California suffered all summer from forest fires, fueled by drought, a months-long heat wave, and an unbelievable 150 million dead pine trees killed by pine bark beetles, which were not frozen during the warming winters. 

The University Campus closed up for two days, and the schools in Irvine closed and sent students home.  The schools are being used as shelters for Irvine residents.  The Red Zone is mandatory evacuation, and the Yellow Zone is a Voluntary Evacuation Warning.  The Irvine Police Department has just removed all of the evacuation orders, at 3PM Wednesday.


Today, the Fifth hurricane of the year is hitting Louisiana.  They are already into Greek letter names this season, having exhausted the 26 English letter starting names.  Hurricane Zeta has rapidly increased to a category 2 storm, with maximum sustained winds of 110 mph, even this late in the season.

Worldwide, this September was the warmest ever, due to climate change.  This year may be on track to be the warmest year ever.

I have been writing for years about the health costs of bad air quality around the US and the world, as an immediate human suffering of the long term global warming.  It is unimaginable that people in the industrial areas of China and India breath this horrendous air pollution a majority of days in the year.

With Trump, one can Never ignore his role in this.  Trump has just fired the Acting Chief Scientist of NOAA, Craig McLean, through NOAA’s newly appointed chief of staff, Erik Noble, from the White House.  McLean had been at NOAA for 32 years.  Trump has constructed a new Schedule F of federal political appointees, which he can transfer the government scientists and conscientious workers to, and then fire them.  Remember, Trump made a fortune on The Apprentice, where his key line was “You’re Fired”.  Trump can then put long-term political climate deniers in these key positions, even if he shortly leaves office.  Hopefully, this is unconstitutional, since he is doing it by Executive Order, obviously without Congressional Approval.  Trump has said that he has given us the Cleanest Air and Cleanest Water, which I can testify to that he hasn’t from the last few days.  Clean air and water is not any answer to mitigating climate change.

Trump just had added his third Conservative, Federalist Society Chosen Judge to the Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett.  She tows the Climate Denier line that Climate Change is a controversial matter, and a question of public opinion.

By coincidence, Republican are trying to regain Conservative Orange County, which went totally Democratic in representatives in the 2018 off-year rebellion against Trump.  If 90,000 being forced from their homes, schools closing, and two days of breathing the worst air ever don’t keep them Democratic, nothing will.

By coincidence, Trump was just in Newport Beach at a $150,000 a couple private fundraiser.  Oh, if it had only been scheduled a week later.  As these couples return home and start cleaning up the Eucalyptus bark shed by the high Santa Ana winds, they may think twice about their commitment.  The fundraiser was held on exclusive Lido Island in the Newport Bay and Harbor, soon to be inundated by rising sea levels. 

One cannot fault Mother Nature from doing her utmost to send us record Fires and Storms to emphasize the horrors awaiting us with more climate change.  

About Dennis SILVERMAN

I am a retired Professor of Physics and Astronomy at U C Irvine. For a decade I have been active in learning about energy and the environment, and in lecturing and attending classes at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at UC Irvine.
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