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Trial By Fire

It was late Sunday night and I was driving home, exhausted from a weekend of catering and a just-finished Greek wedding.  The October winds were particularly fierce and eddies of leaves swirled around my car as it clung to the highway, buffeted by gusts.  Returning to Sparta I felt like Dorothy searching for Toto, stumbling toward the apple cellar.  Karma, my 13 year-old terrier had been tied up all day (poor thing) and was clearly spooked.  Fifty mph winds continued to swirl around me as I scooped her up and hunkered down into the trailer for the night.  It was an especially strange one.  The winds howled throughout and Sparta was continuously peppered with falling walnuts which would land on my roof and blow across its surface like bowling balls.  Occasionally a small dead branch would break free and then, dragged by the wind, issue a tortuous scratching, like frantic fingernails on a coffin lid.  Sleep was pretty much out of the question.  The wail of sirens, not that unusual heading toward the retirement community to the east, were continuous.  I waited for 6 a.m. and my morning cup of coffee with no clue what I was in store for.  It was October 9th, 2017 and all hell had broken loose in Santa Rosa.

By now you have all read and heard about the horrific fires that swept through Sonoma and Napa Counties that night, destroying lives and property in mere moments.  I won’t repeat the dreadful facts and statistics here.  I faired better than many in Santa Rosa.  Although I was evacuated for a couple nights and subjected to day-after-day of noxious fumes, my trailers were spared.  Out of an abundance of caution, however, I decided to move them out into the middle of the pasture and away from foliage – especially that frail, old walnut tree.  Lacking a powerful truck with a trailer hitch, I walked to the gas station next door.  Although it was shut-down due to the power outage, its parking lot was filled with the displaced and those who simply couldn’t get to work due to the highway’s closure.  I found an idled construction worker with a truck and a trailer hitch and offered him $100 for less than an hour of his time.  The trailer got moved and I breathed a little easier.

Needless to say, little has been accomplished on Sparta over the last couple of weeks.  I am losing precious time and only a brief Indian Summer may buy me the time to insulate Sparta, get the walls up and create a dwelling to defend against winter’s inevitable chill. This is where I will live until the end of next spring so I have to make the best of it.

Here are a few photos of what I witnessed two weeks ago.

24 hours in and Fountaingrove is still in flames

Initial evacuation zones. My trailers lie just west of the red-lined section on the right. Utimately, the two zones would meet, squeezing me out.

Circle the wagons

The Sun on Mars?

Industrial strength mask

Saturday morning wake-up call on the ridge behind me. Time to go.

My look in the rear-view as I fled

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