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.
Hi, Antonia. Doesn’t seem possible that it’s been a year. Seems like yesterday much of northern CA was on fire. There’s a big article in the San Diego U-T about the added destruction the Army Corps of Engineers caused by just plowing up everything and hauling it off. So thanks, but no thanks.
The big UN report on Climate Change just came out. I am pessimistic about the global ability to stop this. Hopefully we can turn some of this country around at the mid-terms, but the damage being done can’t be undone.
The important thing is for us to VOTE!! Whatever we can do individually to cut down our own pollution is great too, but it is hard. I struggle with it every day, and the community/local government support is often just not there, ie. easy public transportation, more recycled products, etc. I have a single friend who walks and takes public transport ONLY, but my family obligations just don’t jibe with that. So, mea culpa!
Thanks for the reminder of times still not resolved for so many people!
Thanks for the reminder too, Christine, to vote!
Thanks for this riveting story, Antonia. Your writing is particularly compelling when you tell your personal stories. I still remember your description in one of your posts, of standing in a tall field of grass while a herd of deer thundered by you on either side, so close that you could see the wildness in their eyes. I tell everyone that story.
If you feel up to it, I would be both fascinated and I’m sure enlightened, to hear more about your personal experience of evacuation in the Tubbs fire.
“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.”
It’s the kind of experience which I never used to think about, but which is now in the back of my mind each night as I prepare for bed. “What if…” I lay out my day clothes carefully, so that I could jump into them in an instant if necessary. I put the dog leash where I could quickly grab it. I mentally review the locations of all the cat carriers. (how exactly, I wonder, would I manage my 3 cats and my large dog all at once, in a sudden emergency at night).
So yes, I would love to hear in detail how you managed that harrowing experience.
All the best,
Thanks for your compliments, Katie; it’s always reassuring to know when my words resonate with others.
Do you live in an area threatened by wildfires or other dangers? You have a load of fur babies, and, yes, it’d be hard to corral them in an emergency … dogs will come towards you but kitties run away in scary times. I put my cat carrier in a convenient place near the front door — decor be damned!
Last year I wrote a piece for Dear Sonoma, a community literary journal, however, that issue is no longer available for distribution. I’m happy to e-mail you my piece in Word format. It is a very personal sharing of one aspect of my experience.
Living alone as we age can be concerning all by itself; it can be truly terrifying if we think of all the possible emergencies that can impact us and our home. The fear is we might not have enough time to recover.
Take care, Katie.
Thanks so much Antonia. I loved your article for the Sonoma literary journal! I’ll be sharing this story of yours with everyone I know too.
Yes, the kitties are the big worry in an emergency, I totally agree. They hide when they sense danger, often in places that are difficult to reach. It’s the stuff of nightmares. I’ve trained my three cats to come running when I call them, but whether they would come if they were terrified, I have no idea. Very possibly not. I really like your idea of keeping a cat carrier by the front door, I’m going to start doing that too.
Fortunately we are not in quite as much danger here from wildfires as you are in Sonoma (I’m on the west coast of Canada). But with climate change accelerating as it is, the risk of fire, floods and storms is escalating everywhere, including here.
Thanks again for sharing.
I agree, Katie, it seems almost nowhere is safe from the effects of climate change.
Take care and thanks for reading!