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Wildfires have killed 15, destroyed 1,500 homes
Maybe after Vegas nothing shocks us, or strikes us as beyond the realm of comprehension. This should. California is particularly susceptible to this sort of thing with its extended droughts and because of the nature of its terrain, but carnage of this magnitude is surprising nonetheless. The knee-jerk reaction is to say that people had plenty of warning and should have been able to get out.
Of course, the reality is often not so simple:
Newly homeless residents of California wine country awoke to shattered lives Tuesday, a day after wildfires killed at least 15 people and destroyed more than 2,000 homes and businesses. Hundreds more firefighters joined the battle against the blazes, which were still completely uncontained.
And authorities began to identify the dead, including a 100-year-old man and his 98-year-old wife who died in their burning home.
A thick, smoky haze cloaked much of Napa and Sonoma counties, where neighborhoods hit by the fires were completely leveled. In the Santa Rosa suburb known as Coffey Park, house after house was gone with only brick chimneys still standing. The flames burned so hot that windows and tire rims melted off cars, leaving many parked vehicles sitting on their steel axles. The only recognizable remnants at many homes were charred washing machines and dryers.
Some people can't move that easily. Some don't believe there is really anywhere they can go. Some believe, however questionably, that they have a legitimate reason to stay behind and try to protect what's in their homes. It's easy to say it's not worth your life, and I agree, but it's also fair to say that simply abandoning your home and leaving everything you have in the path of destruction is easier to tell someone else to do than to actually do.
My parents were actually in the area over the weekend for a wedding (they're fine), and my mother called today to tell me that their hotel was suddenly overrun with people who had fled their homes. She overheard conversations in the breakfast room, and most of them consisted of people wondering if their homes were still standing, and having absolutely no way to check.
She also said that the entire hotel had the small of the ash and soot the fire had produced.
In the meantime, firefighters from the region (and even some from neighboring Nevada) are doing everything they can to fight the fires, but you can only do so much when the flames are a force of nature like they are in this case. By the way, it's not only northern California that's in jeopardy:
More than 400 miles away, flames imperiled parts of Southern California, too. Thousands of people were displaced by a wildfire that destroyed or damaged 24 structures, including homes. Hot, dry Santa Ana winds swept fire along brushy outskirts of Orange County suburbs and equestrian properties southeast of Los Angeles. More than a dozen schools were closed.
The blaze, which disrupted major commuter routes, spread over nearly a dozen square miles in less than 24 hours as a squadron of helicopters and airplanes bombarded it with water and retardant, and an army of firefighters grew to 1,100 by Tuesday morning.
Pray for everyone there, and help if you can. An awful lot of people have lost everything in this fire, and while we're grateful that most appear to have escaped with their lives (and sad for those who did not), there's still an awful lot of work to do to recover from such a loss. And needless to say, pray for rain, because as it stands right now this is far from over.
Dan's new novel, BACKSTOP, is a story of spiritual warfare and baseball. Download it from Amazon here!