Monday, October 9, 2017

Napa, On Fire

So here we are settled in at the Napa Fairgrounds, and last night just before bedtime we smelled smoke.
"Not again" we said as we looked at one another, and ran outside to see the hills behind the fairgrounds aglow.  It's like Brookings, all over again. The fires seem to be following us.

This morning we got some new neighbors, homeowners from the hill we saw glowing last night.  They were evacuated overnight. Just a few days ago, luckily, they accepted delivery on a new Airstream trailer, which they purchased with hopes of escaping stressful jobs to enjoy fun weekends, and now they are using it as a home base while they await word on the survival of their neighborhood. They slipped past security this morning and confirmed that their house is still standing, some of their neighbors were not so lucky. The scene they described was "three or four houses completely leveled, then a miraculous survivor, then the next one burnt to the ground again, with no apparent rhyme or reason".

At midday today Chloe and I walked around the fairgrounds, and noticed the directional signs posted around, this will be the new base of operations for the Cal Fire response team for the fire which has grown to several individual fires, collectively being called the Napa Complex Fire.

The high school 4-H kids have taken over the animal pen part of the fairgrounds and have safely ensconced goats, horses, a pony and some 20 or so pigs.  They have organized food, shelter and safe housing for these animals and are standing watch in a very organized manner, taking turns for meal breaks and animal checks.  These are very impressive kids, they seem to have their part of disaster recovery well in hand, but they do not yet know the status of their homes.

By dinnertime tonight the large equipment started arriving to our fairgrounds.  About 15 or so PG&E trucks line the back of the fairgrounds, ready to go, silently waiting their turn to rebuild as soon as it's safe.  Large fire-fighting equipment is pouring in from everywhere, accepting dispatch and taking off again, kicking up dust clouds from the large fairgrounds open lot where the rides and tasty goodies reside on happier days.  Big diesel pickups towing horse trailers hurry in, deposit their cargo and take off again.  I heard today there are some horses trapped in Calistoga and hope they managed to get them out, for all I know these same trailers hauled them to safety today.

Behind us Napans are pouring in to the arms of our Airstream-owning friends and sharing stories, there are tears and long empty silences as some stories do not have happy endings and a lot is unknown still.

And, throughout all of this, our RV neighbors to the left have a small campfire and are drinking and laughing; typical campground behavior but it just feels so wrong, this bit of normalcy and joy in the middle of the sudden crisis.

I became abruptly aware that we are strangers in our little bubble.
Part of the land we inhabit but not really of it completely.
Napa will always be our home, to some extent, but today I feel like an outsider looking in.

The view looking East from the top of the Imola bridge at about 4:00 on 10/9/17

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