SFM #108: USA. Paradise on Fire

Star Ferry Musing #108, Paradise on Fire

Written by Robert Wu for his family and friends

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Rim Fire

A gigantic forest fire has been raging for the last two weeks in the Sierra Madre mountains in California.  The drought this year causes the forest to be very flammable, and is only 30% under control as of today.  Some 4,000 fire fighters have been deployed to fight this inferno named Rim Fire.

(Los Angeles Times)

The wildfire creates huge plumes of smoke that obscure the blue sky.


As of today, 300 square miles of forest have been destroyed.  As this map shows, Rim Fire has crossed into the world famous Yosemite National Park.  Yosemite has been translated into Chinese as 優勝美地, pronounced you-sheng-mei-di, and the words mean Excellent Winningly Beautiful Land.  This Chinese translation captures the sound of Yosemite as well as the image of beautiful sceneries.

(Googles Maps)

Rim Fire has consumed 300 square miles of forest, equivalent to the total area of New York City.

(From web)

Alternatively, it consumed an area 2/3 the size of Hong Kong SAR.

(Hong Kong Government)

Ten Years Ago

When we visited Yosemite 10 years ago, we were as astounded by its beauty as when we saw it for the first time 30 years ago.  The glacial valley was covered by trees, and was watched over by the Half Dome in the distance.  When our car exited a tunnel and we suddenly saw this scene, we instinctively let out a “wow”.

This Yosemite valley is about 20 miles from the raging Rim Fire.  It would be a disaster if this paradise is destroyed by a fire.

As we drove around Yosemite ten years ago, we were surprised to see thick smoke rising up from the forest below.  We feared there was a wild fire and wanted to call the police to report the fire.

Then we found out it was a controlled burn carried out by the National Park Service.  To clear the forest floor of dead trees, fallen leaves, underbrush, and other debris that can accumulate into fuel for large fires, the Park Service periodically conducts controlled burns to remove them.  The controlled burn fires are relatively mild and would not ignite the mature trees.  They clear the forest floor to encourage new growths and result in more diverse fauna and flora.


We flew from New York to San Francisco yesterday.  At 30,000 feet altitude, the air temperature outside was 40 degrees below zero.  Frost formed on the plane’s windows, and thick white clouds floated below.

The pilot made an announcement that we were flying over Yosemite.  Looking at the cloud below, I noticed bluish and brownish smoke drifting up through the white fluffy clouds.

I remembered there was a huge Rim Fire wildfire in this vicinity.  The bluish and brownish smoke from Rim Fire filled the valleys in an endless sea of haze, causing air pollution hundreds of miles downwind.

This satellite photo shows how the wildfire smoke is affecting a large area downwind.  This satellite photo covers an area 200 by 230 miles.


Sharp rocky mountains were still visible in the late afternoon sun through the smoke.

The bluish and brownish smoke drifting among cumulus clouds formed a rare and interesting scene.


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Author: Robert Wu

Two engineering and one business degrees, all from NYU. National president of Organization of Chinese Americans, two terms. General manager of a multinational corporation in China. Retired but still active. Married to a wonderful wife, one son & one daughter.

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