Still Burning

posted Oct 14, 2017, 8:57 AM by Paul Wagner
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. 
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