Posted by: GeekHiker | September 15, 2009

L.A.’s Short Attention Span Theater

The Station Fire, as I write tonight, is now about 91% contained.  The estimate for full containment has been pushed back, now, to this weekend.

What surprises me more than how long containment is taking is how quickly the fire was forgotten by the local media, even here in media-driven Los Angeles.  By the time I returned from Kings Canyon, the fire was pretty much not mentioned, even though at that point the fire was only about 50% contained.  Even on the LA Times website, which had really spectacular coverage of the fires, most of the references to the fire had disappeared completely from the home page.

I suppose that a big part of this was because the fires were no longer threatening expensive homes, but I still found it surprising.  While gone in Kings Canyon, I’d found out (from a fire lookout in the Sequoia National Forest) that the eastern flank of the fire had had a blow up over the weekend.  Yet, when I returned to LA, it was as though no one was aware there was still a fire burning in the mountains.

Los Angeles, I think, suffers from a short attention span.

A lot of pictures of the fire have appeared, of course, but out of all of them this one is the most significant to me:

ANF Sign

Or, at least, the most perfectly symbolic.

Mel Heth also sent me a link to this group of pictures.  To say that some areas that were burned back to a desolate moonscape is an understatement.  Take a look at this video, shot by one of the Mt. Wilson Observatory employees:

This drive, heading up Highway 2 just outside of La Canada Flintridge, is well known to anyone who heads into the Angeles on a regular basis.  Usually the hillsides are covered in green chaparral, with small groves of trees in the narrow side canyons, even in the dry season.

Moonscape, indeed.

But of all the images that I’ve seen coming out of the fire, it was the ones like these that brought a smile to my face:

Children's letter

Children's letter

More images here.  (Or copy-and-paste this link if Firefox is giving you problems with the security certificate:

Adults may be playing the blame game (though, in my mind, only the arsonist is the one to really blame) for the firestorm, but the kids get it.  For a short while, at least, the hard working firefighters replaced the movie and music stars as heroes.

The weirdest thing, though, is that much like after the Secret Spot burned, I find myself wanting to get back in.  I want to drive the roads, see the damage with my own eyes, photograph the landscape as it is now, right after the devastation.

I guess it’s just the kind of curious guy I am.



  1. This is really incredible — I loved the kid’s letter to the firefighter and also the picture of the forest service sign on fire. Wow, just wow.

  2. That drawing with the letter is awesome. Kids are awesome.

  3. Ugh that picture of the Angeles Crest sign on fire makes me want to cry. 😦 I feel the same way you do – I want to get up there and see it all. That video was just eerie, though. It’s going to be bizarre to see it all in person. Just driving home at night and looking at the bald mountains is bizarre – and I’ve been doing it for weeks now.

    If you’re able to get up the Crest (I think they might still have it closed somewhere) please do post about it. If I can get to Deukmajian, I’ll try to take my camera too.

    And to answer your question, YES LA has a short attention span. I blame Hollywood for that.

  4. Sadly, the whole world has short attention spans.

    Those who forget history …

    • What about the ones who build where the insurance types won’t cover them?

      People are & always have been good at rationalizing the choices they make….

  5. Spleeness – Yeah, the picture of the sign is pretty amazing, isn’t it?

    Narami – Did you look at the whole series of them?

    Mel Heth – I know it looks bad now, but just wait until spring (and keep your fingers crossed for some decent rain). As for going up there, it may be a while, til they get it all cleaned up. Now here’s a question for you: which came first: Hollywood or the short-LA-attention-span?

    Homer-Dog – Indeed. As for history, just listen to all of those who plan to immediately rebuild in the same spot and say (and I really did hear this on the news) that they “hope it never happens again”…

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