July through September, 2020

That afternoon and evening we watched (remotely) the video from our front security camera as the fire raced through the homes north of us. The fire grew from 400 acres to over 7,000 acres in six hours.

As it turns out, the houses immediately north of us were spared, but homes north of them were reduced to ash. We could hear helicopters on our security camera – they were carrying water from ponds on the canyon floor up to our property and to the homes immediately north of us. We later learned that when we were told to evacuate, the homeowners further up the side of the canyon were being told it was unlikely their homes could be saved. We assume there were not enough helicopters to carry water further up.

Those who have not seen a fire burn through a dry forest cannot appreciate how it does not advance slowly and remorselessly — it advances as trees literally burst into flames as their needles catch fire, as in the picture. It is somewhat like spraying gasoline onto your charcoal grill. Forest fires also advance by “spotting” as wind blows embers well ahead of the fire to start many small fires.

Our video feed ended when power to the canyon was turned off by firefighters. We were able to confirm our house was at least partly OK by calling the home phone to see if the answering machine was operational. Late the next day the UPS powering the answering machine ran out of juice and we started calling friends across the canyon who were not evacuated. Fire and smoke obscured their view but we were eventually able to get confirmation our home appeared to be safe. Once power was restored we were able to get views from the security camera again and things looked good. If the camera had been pointing more to the right the view would have been very different!