LATE SUNDAY, OCTOBER 8, 2017
The heavy rains of the past winter spawned a bumper crop of spring foliage. The unusually high summer temperatures had dried the grasses, brush, and trees to a potato chip crisp creating perfect conditions for what was about to happen.
It started with the winds. They were significant; enough to make me stop watching Ozark, the television series and walk outside to see what was happening. Large limbs were dropping from the oak trees surrounding my house. Like missiles, giant acorns were hitting my roof and driveway. I'd not seen anything like this since the hurricane seasons I experienced along the Gulf Coast, only this was a forceful, dry, hot wind.
I returned to my couch and continued watching Ozark. The message scrolling across the television screen warned, "HIGH WINDS IN THE NORTH BAY AREA >>>FIRE DANGER." Thirty minutes later the message read, "FIRES IN SONOMA AND NAPA COUNTIES>>>EVACUATIONS ADVISED IN SANTA ROSA AND SILVERADO."
I was mildly concerned, until I smelled smoke and looked out my upstairs window to the east and saw the red glow across the mountain range that separates Sonoma and Napa Counties. This was serious and it was close to home.
The photo above is not a good picture but the red glow indicates the edge of the massive fires, about twenty miles away. We later learned the winds gusted at 70 miles per hour. Power lines were broken and their sparks ignited the dry vegetation. The hot oxygen-filled air fueled the flames creating a fire storm that would envelop our beautiful farmlands; the grapevine lined fields and mountains of California's premier wine country. The flames would destroy entire neighborhoods in hours and more and more and more over the next week taking over 40 lives and the homes and businesses of hundreds.