California’s wildfires, day eight: More than 40,000 people are out of their homes, reportedly down from 100,000; the death toll is at 41, mostly in Sonoma and Napa Counties.
My brother and sister in-law live in Mendocino County. Other areas just seven miles north of Ukiah where they live are flattened, out of the 200,000 acres of land the fires have scorched as approximately 11,000 firefighters battle the siege.
But they are nervous, humbled at nature’s power and watching the weather forecast for rain, expected by next week.
Although they have been spared, family has been evacuated from Redwood Valley, co-workers have lost their homes and his employer is keeping workers on standby in case the fires take out generating stations at the power plant where he is a manager.
I talked to him last night about his experience. He offers these observations:
Once the wind gets going, it creates its own firestorm. They burn crazy hot. You have the firestorm created from it.
All this fuel and the fire in the air just goes shooting up. It’s like a blowtorch, and sucks in this air behind it. They can create their own 40-mile winds. And once the air gets into it, it just feeds itself.
Ukiah, for some reason, hasn’t been getting the Santa Ana winds. The weather reports will show winds of 25-30 MPH in Santa Rosa. And then Ukiah is just zero. It’s crazy. Dead calm. Meanwhile, you can’t get a hotel anywhere for 80 to 90 miles, so many people have been forced from their homes.
What is so deadly about these fires are the embers. The smallest pine cone catches fire then explodes and spreads more embers, which feeds the fires.
Seven miles up the road from their home, authorities are recovering bodies, the fires came up so fast and overtook residents’ homes overnight.
My co-worker lives on a two-acre lot in Redwood Valley and he happened to be up after he heard a big explosion. The wind had blown one of his trees over, snapped it in half. He went out and down the road a ways to discover embers and fires moving his way. He ran back.
Once he let his goats and horse out, he threw rocks at his neighbors’ houses to wake them up. He tried to grab his guns and his wife’s jewelry but forgot to as his house was already ablaze and they had to flee.
The L.A. Times picks up on “all the signatures of a massive, Southern California Santa Ana wind event. Driven by hot, dry winds blowing a sustained 50 mph, the Tubbs fire — one of the most destructive of the wine country blazes — chewed across a small mountain range in a few hours on the night of Oct. 8 and roared into northeastern Santa Rosa.
“Local officials estimate the city of 177,000 lost nearly 3,000 homes, or roughly 5% of its housing stock. Even big-box stores and a Hilton hotel next to Highway 101 went up in flames.”
My brother continues: They’re fighting the fires in the Redwood Valley to the North and the pocket fire to the south, which is threatening the geysers now.
Fortunately the wind has been blowing north and south, which is how the mountains run. It sucks for people in the wineries in the mountains.
Why do these rage every couple of years? Well, the drought conditions for one, the dry grass, and the fact that [the state] doesn’t do controlled burns like they used to and they don’t clean up the deadwood off the forest floor. And they don’t let people do that anymore. You can’t even pick up up driftwood off the beach in California. It’s like it’s the King’s woods now.