Here is some of what I saw this past weekend when driving up into Santa Rosa's Fountain Grove area, a development high in the hills where, when you ask someone in town if they had people who have lost their homes, they'll say, Oh, yes, a few board members did (they would have been in Fountain Grove) and a few of the staff (they would have been in Coffee Park, the working class neighborhood on the flat, across the freeway, where nobody thought the fire rampage would reach. One man I met said he thought the fire would never consumed Coffee Park had it not picked up so much fuel here, with all the big, close houses with the many fuel-filled cars snuggled in garages.
Another man I met pointed across the hill and said, "There's the San Andreas Fault. Runs right through here." Somehow the winds converge in the valley and the fire roars up from the valley and tears through the houses, as in the photograph above. Another man asked me as I was coming down the walk from one house if that had been mine. I said not. He said, gesturing to the place next door, "Oh, that was mine." He described looking out the window and seeing fire on the hills in the middle of the night, and not thinking too much about it. Then their son woke them later and said it was getting closer. They packed the file with the passports and birth certificates, grabbed a wedding picture, clothes for the kids and got out, thinking they were perhaps being over cautious. By the time they turned a corner, he said, "the whole valley was on fire." They fled for their lives. Luckily, he said, they are well insured, like most in this area, and unlike most down across the freeway. Still, many feel the loss.
One woman I saw the next day, picking through the rubble of her house just said, "It's devastating." A film student I met said she thought the place had a strange beauty. I did too. Almost as if the land was relieved of the weight of all those houses. Iris bulbs were coming up. Little pink succulents were blooming. An old man walked on the periphery of his land, watering plants.