Wednesday, October 11, 2017

We Are Fine But So Many Are Not
California Wine Country Fires

The view from our back porch Monday morning.

Thanks for your concern
Monday morning I was lazily resting in bed when our neighbor called to warn us about the fire. One might have walked past the window thinking it was a beautiful red sunrise but instead the mountains behind our vineyard were ablaze from one end of the horizon to the other. Santa Rosa, a mere 7 miles away, was burning and 50 to 60 mile per hour gusts of wind were blowing in our direction. It turns out this was only one of the many fires across Sonoma county that simultaneously erupted in the early hours. 

This could be the worst disaster in California's history when all is said and done and it's not the least bit done. Fires remain uncontrolled in many places. As of Wednesday morning, 90,000 acres had burned. And these weren't just acres of trees and wooded areas. These were acres full of homes and businesses - in fact 28,000 people live in these affected areas - most of whom are now in evacuation centers. There isn't enough resource to do the counting yet, but estimates say more than 3,000 homes and structures were destroyed as of Wednesday morning and fires still threaten many neighborhoods. Sixteen are confirmed dead and more than 500 people are missing. There isn't a person living in this town that doesn't know someone who has lost their home.

The blaze was so intense and the winds so strong that our house and yard are deep in embers. The largest is an entire page from a magazine that was charred - Doug found it under our back deck. He also found a burnt credit card receipt hanging from one of the vines. 

This charred magazine page flew at least 7 miles to our house.

Entire neighborhoods in Santa Rosa have been destroyed like Coffey Park and Fountaingrove. Landmarks, wineries, restaurants, music venues, schools, hotels - destroyed. Doug's Kaiser hospital, my Sutter hospital - not damaged but closed. The local airport is closed because there is no electricity for the terminals. Many roads are closed.

And it's not over. I have friends minutes from active fires knowing that tonight the winds are going to pick back up.

Doug was just at the grocery store. A man, about 70, in the checkout line in front of him had just lost his home in Fountaingrove. He had 10 minutes to get out. He remarked that he was numb but said there is simply nothing you can do in that situation but get out. Seven years ago this man lost his previous home in a fire. 

We are fine and thanks for your many notes of concern. The winds have shifted and even though they are going to pick up again tonight, they are blowing the other way. So unless they shift again, we will remain fine. Masks are needed to go outside and although they may remove the toxic particles from the air, nothing can remove the blanket of sadness that hovers over our beloved wine country. 

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