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Napa on Fire

PostPosted: Wed Oct 11, 2017 4:42 pm
by balzaccom
Many of you know that we live in Napa. And if you've been following the news, you know that Napa has been suffering through terrible fires this week. Here's what we know.

We're in downtown Napa, so far so good. The fires are mainly in the hills above the valley floor, between Napa and Sonoma, between Calistoga and Santa Rosa, and between Napa and Fairfield. But none of the fires are close to being under control, and there seems to be no timeline for when that might happen. They are just too massive.

They've just announced mandatory evacuations of the town of Calistoga to the north...and lots of people in the outskirts of Napa itself are either evacuated or, frankly, burned out by now. We expect to have some houseguests tonight, who live up in the hills and haven't been home since Monday.

But so far we're OK. What happens next all depends on the wind--which direction, and how strong. There are major fires both East and West of us....but to the North we have vineyards, which don't burn very well. And to South it's clear, so far. But who knows what tonight and tomorrow will bring...I've seen weather reports of winds from 5 mph, which would be great, up to 35, which would be utterly disastrous. In winds like that, embers can carry more than 1/4 of a mile, and jump any barrier the firefighters might set up.

And the winds are projected to be from the that's the best direction for us, really. We can only hope, and suffer with those who are less fortunate than we have been so far.

Thanks to everyone who has sent us their wishes and prayers.

Re: Napa on Fire

PostPosted: Wed Oct 11, 2017 6:26 pm
by Phil
As you know, we're over in Healdsburg. There's an evacuation advisory through tomorrow. The fire is northeast of town. I'm not worried about it. I'll rationally do what I have to do, if and when the time comes, with no panic or anxiety involved.

I was down in Santa Rosa the other day. It was bad...cataclysmic in some areas that everybody is probably seeing on the news. Whole sections of town are either gone or going. One of my daughter's friends showed me her cell phone video of their 3am evacuation early Monday morning, and it was driving through a nuclear winter and surrounded by flames everywhere she panned her camera. On my way home, they had just opened Hwy 101, and in the area where the fire jumped the freeway, 15 hours after it happened, even the posts for the guardrails were still actively flaming when I drove through. It looked like a war zone that had just been carpet bombed that morning.

A lot of people are in a bad way, but on another tangent, we're starting to really see some interesting psychological dynamics.

Re: Napa on Fire

PostPosted: Fri Oct 13, 2017 7:25 am
by balzaccom
Well, made it through another night last night. But tonight they are concerned about high winds and very low humidity again, conditions expected to continue through Saturday evening. The winds will be highest on the ridge tops. No telling what that will bring.

We're fine in our house in the downtown part of Napa. The smoke is still quite think in Napa, and the streets are pretty quiet. No tourists, and even some of the local have left for greener or safer pastures. We've taken a carload of our most treasured items to my father-in-law's house in the East Bay for safe keeping. Calistoga remains completely evacuated, while in parts of Napa those evacuation orders may be lifted. Others have already lost their homes. Many businesses, including official offices, are closed due to the smoke.

And it all depends on the wind tonight. None of these fires is more than 10% contained...

Re: Napa on Fire

PostPosted: Fri Oct 13, 2017 11:07 am
by Justin-T
Wishing both of you all the best, hoping the weather cooperates to get the fires under control. It sounds very scary to be out there right now.

Re: Napa on Fire

PostPosted: Sat Oct 14, 2017 9:10 am
by balzaccom
One more update on the fires in California's wine country. We live in the center of Napa City, and so far we have had no fires or damage in our part of the city. The smoke has been quite intense from time to time. Since Sunday night the fires have burned some 200,000 acres in the hills on all sides of Napa, but the Napa Valley floor itself has had very limited damage.

Over the past few days, the fires burned in many directions, and fire crews have been able to use that development to establish burned out zones that give us some protection. The two largest fires are the Atlas Fire, in the hills between Napa and Solano Counties; and the Tubbs Fire between Napa and Sonoma Counties. Both of those fires are now more than 40% contained, due to these burn zones. The Nun Fire is in the Mayacamas Mountains between the towns of Napa and Sonoma, and it is still only 5% contained. It is in very steep, rugged terrain, and very difficult to manage. Even in the other two fires, we expect that there are areas that will continue to burn until we get a significant rainfall. But since they are now far from undamaged homes, and hard to access, those areas are not of major concern.

So what's happening right now? Strong winds from the Northeast are blowing on the fires at 20-40 mph. For the Atlas Fire, this means that most of the fire is being driven back over an area that had previously burned in Napa County, so we're hopeful that it won't mean much further damage. But the southern end of this fire is burning towards Green Valley near Fairfield in Solano County, and towards Highway 12 between Napa and Fairfield. We hope our friends over there are still safe. Some areas of southwestern Solano County are now under a mandatory evacuation order.

The more northern Tubbs Fire is burning into the southeast part of Santa Rosa. There are new mandatory evacuation orders in those areas, and the city of Calistoga in Napa County, also south of this fire, is still under a mandatory evacuation.

The Nun Fire is burning towards the town of Sonoma, and mandatory evacuation orders are now in place for most of area east of Sonoma itself. Those are new orders as of last night due to the wind and the growth of the fire.

So eastern Sonoma County is quite seriously threatened. The evacuation orders along the eastern edge of the city of Napa have been lifted in some areas, because there is nothing left to burn, and the active part of the fire is now farther east. And as a result, the evacuation advisories for neighboring areas of Napa have been lifted. Right now the biggest threat to Napa County seems to be the Nun Fire, to the West, which is burning up over the ridge from Dry Creek Road towards the main valley, and the Tubbs Fire threatening Calistoga at the northern end of the valley.

Today the air in the city of Napa is sparklingly clear---due to the winds that are pushing all the smoke south.

More than 90,000 people have been evacuated because of these fires, and the death toll now stands at nearly 40--although more than 200 people are still reported missing. Among our staff, we have one employee whose home is in the mandatory evacuation zone in Sonoma County, one whose home is still under an evacuation advisory in Napa, and another whose home is in an area where the evacuation orders have now been lifted. Friends and colleagues in Napa, Sonoma, and Solano Counties continue to have a gamut of experiences, from miraculous escapes to sad losses of homes.

We have taken a few of our most treasured possessions out of town to keep them safe, and among those are our backpacking equipment. We figured if we really had to manage to live away from home for a while, what is in our backpacks gives us most of what we need: clothing, shelter, water filter, first aid kit, raingear, etc.

The wind is expected to slowly ease later today, and after that we hope to get three or four days of calmer weather, followed by a tantalizing prospect of rain later in the week.

Thanks to everyone who has sent the kind wishes. And thanks also to the emergency personnel, who have done a really remarkable job in utterly overwhelming conditions.

Re: Napa on Fire

PostPosted: Sat Oct 14, 2017 8:59 pm
by Phil
If anyone is interested, here's a map of fire activity: ... g?ref=most

The threat to life and property is far from over, but the bigger hotspots are, as Balzaccom says, in very remote and rugged areas that had to be ignored when the firestorm was raging through entire neighborhoods and assets were limited. In fact, the smoke was so bad for the first few days that they weren't even able to fly air tanker missions, which is so much the norm in this area whenever there's a fire, often arriving before the ground crews, that it upset many people that questioned why more wasn't being done initially.

We're seeing mistakes and successes, the best in most people and the worst in others, but this is literally a trial by fire. As tragic and unthinkable as this is, I like to think that we'll not only come through it, but come through it and be better than before. "It's always darkest before the dawn."