A Personal Anniversary
Source:  Kate Kisset, Press Democrat


The Tubbs Fire started near Tubbs Lane in Calistoga around 9:43 p.m. on Sunday, October 8, 2017.

During those moments, three friends were in my home for a fun evening of Mah Jong. Everyone had come to me because I was one month into a heel surgery that kept me in a wheelchair and homebound for three months. It was warm, the slider in the dining room where we were sitting was open, and we commented on the high wind that was uncharacteristic for that late hour of the evening.

Little did we know that just 17 miles to the northeast, in Calistoga, a fire of epic proportions was taking shape, a fire that would take over thirty days to fully extinguish. While no one knows the exact origin and cause of this blaze, it has been determined that poorly maintained power lines sparked an over-abundance of dry underbrush.

The forested land that has been one of the county’s main tourist attractions contained years of dried and rotted woodland debris. This extensive fuel created a dynamite fuse from one location to another. In addition, the winds that had occurred throughout the evening plus those winds created by the fire itself (because we’ve since learned that fires create their own weather), carried the destruction over highways and into densely populated businesses and residential communities. A few lucky homes and businesses situated in the heart of the inferno escaped perishing. Today those places eerily dot the blackened hillsides and landscape. It isn’t surprising to learn those owners struggle not only with the blight of ruined neighborhoods but also of being the only one on their street to not be currently living in a rental paid for with insurance money.

The Tubbs fire was the beginning of at least seven other out-of-control wildfires that would devastate the state over the next few months in 2017. During 2018 already, a total of 6,035 fires have burned an area of 1,508,915 acres in California.

This is a photo of my permanent evacuation bag and cat carrier. My car keys now hang on a clip next to the front door, and I am faithful about wearing clothing to bed … just in case. This is the new normal for many who have lived through these fires and other disasters including hurricanes, flooding, earthquakes, and polar chills.

Conversations of climate change have ramped up significantly in the last year. There’s been criticisms, denials, and all manner of “experts” warning the nation of what is too late to avoid. I’m reminded that it’s easy to complain about politicians who are relaxing laws that will affect climate change going forward – like auto emissions, industry subsidies, and manufacturing standards. But, it’s really up to us as consumers to lead the way with our purchase power to send the message if we really want to heed the warnings or not.

Surviving the Tubbs fire on crutches with a terrified kitty, being evacuated, and thankfully returning to my home in tact was something I pray no one ever has to do … but I’m pretty sure that’s asking too much.