Thursday, October 12, 2017

10/12 A Tale of Napa Fires

I have family members who live in Napa, California, so I try to stop by there for a visit as often as I can while not making a nuisance of myself.  I arrived on Saturday afternoon (October 7) and set up camp in the county fairgrounds, aka EXPO.  It is really an extremely nice campground within a few blocks of downtown with the city bike trails handy for getting around.  It has nice, long, paved pull-through sites and a few back-in sites with full hookups and nice grass between sites.  

I was only planning to be there for two nights, so they assigned me a back-in site close to the Silverado Trail, which is one of the busier roads in Napa.  My family members live about half a mile east of the campground, so it is very handy.  

Sunday, we went to the pumpkin patch to pick out pumpkins, as I wrote about in my last post.  I had seen on TV that there was a junkyard fire about five miles south of town.  The newscasters said the smoke could be seen from San Francisco, which is a very long way away, but that evening, I went to bed thinking that is all that was happening in town.  However, starting at about 10 p.m. until at least 3:00 a.m., I heard constant sirens going past on Silverado.  And I really mean constant, but I thought it was the junkyard fire.  There was also a heavy smoke odor inside the RV even with all my windows and vents closed.  The strong wind was also rock and rolling my vehicle.

I had a very early doctor appointment and had to wake up at 5:30 a.m. at which point I realized from the news that more was going on.  Silverado Trail is the main north-south road that goes to the Silverado Country Club and the surrounding subdivisions about three miles away from me.  That is the main area you see on the news when they show Napa homes and buildings destroyed.  I cancelled my doctor's appointment because the smoke was getting heavier and headed out to the ophthalmologist to get my new glasses.  Luckily, they were opening, and I picked them up, then headed out of town on my way to Oakdale, CA and Yosemite, still not really knowing the extent of these fires. 

This is what it looked like as I headed out of town early Monday morning:

This photo was taken from the west side of town, looking east to what became the Atlas fire.

The sun really looked weird because of all the smoke.  Also, my camera lightened this image a little, but in reality the sky was much more orange.

I headed east of CA 12 towards I-80 in Fairfield and took this quick picture looking north from my window, which is back toward Napa.  It is hard to tell from this photo, but this area is maybe 10 miles south of Napa, which shows how big the Atlas fire was and where it was spreading.

(I did not take the next few photos.)  By Monday at about 7:00 p.m. the Atlas fire was headed east and was n a ridge about half a mile from my relative's home.  They had spent the day packing up and getting ready to evacuate, so that is exactly what they did this evening--heading to another relative's home away from Napa.  This was a cell phone photo and NOT taken using a telephoto lens.  

The scary part about all of this is that nobody was yet fighting the fires.  The fire crews were focusing entirely on evacuating people and not much outside help had yet arrived.  If your house caught on fire, you were on your own!

This next photo was taken the next morning, Tuesday, by a friend of the family who had returned to check things out.  (Note: the construction vehicles have nothing to do with a fire, but were there for a new subdivision.)  Overall, things looked better and no flames could be seen.  That is because the winds had changed and the fire was continuing to head south to Fairfield. 

My relatives returned on Tuesday, but everyone stayed inside because of the smoke.  Things were looking good because of the changes in the wind.  Unfortunately, things took a turn for the worse on Tuesday afternoon.  This photo was taken facing east, so winds were now headed north instead of south. 

These next two photos were taken later Tuesday afternoon. Part of what is burning here is Skyline WIlderness Park, about 3/4 of a mile away.

It is amazing how fast things change depending on the whim of the wind.  For while things look better, and then they get worse.

Notice that wind has calmed down because smoke is going up more than across.  

This was taken late Tuesday.  However, this flareup is at least 200' wide, so still a scary fire.   
Napa issued a warning to get ready to evacuate for anyone east of Silverado Road on Wednesday, so my family left again.  As of Thursday morning, the mayor gave a positive report that the wind seemed to be staying calm and that the fire had not spread much overnight.  There are now about 600 firefighters from all over the country working on just this fire.  Many more on the other fires.  We are hoping things get better soon and all these fires are put out. 

While all of this has been happening, I have been in Yosemite.  I will post more photos later on that, but this picture taken on Tuesday afternoon as I drove into the park shows that there is smoke from other fires even in this area, as you can see from Half-Dome!  

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