The week of October 8th, 2017 was the most bizarre week of my entire life to this point. The fires that struck the NorCal counties of Napa, Sonoma, Lake, Mendocino and Solano wreaked an incredible amount of devastation, yet as many disasters have shown around the world, it also taught the Lady and myself a beautiful lesson about community. While the #NapaFire flames destroyed much of our beautiful eastern and western hillsides in Napa along with homes, wineries, businesses and farms, it did not destroy the love that binds our Valley together, despite danger and distress.
We first sighted the #AtlasFire a little after midnight. We were celebrating our move with brand new neighbors who happened to have a third story window facing east. We all saw the flames coming over the Vacas Mountains, but I assured everyone that I had seen many fires during my life in the Valley and never had seen much destruction, much less see it make it down to the valley floor…this was obviously wildly optimistic about the final outcome. The Lady and woke up the next morning with the sun…with no power, cell phone service, internet (not that we had it anyway due to the move) or landline service, we had no idea how badly the fires had already spread. They were fanned by up to hurricane-level winds (clocked at 55 to 80 mph down the mountain ridges). Powerlines and transformers were quickly toppled, possible sparking the original fires, but definitely spreading those fires extremely quickly, at times faster than a human can run. We became worried once we saw the thick, smoky air outside and could not use any powered device or phone at our new home.
What followed was over a week of incredibly anxious and yet hazy stretches of time where we spent our days and nights pinning down fire updates by our own eye, and updating our friends & family by SM. We were briefly evacuated in our new home of Yountville, my parents were evacuated for ~3 days from their home in southwest Napa (Browns Valley), while our family HQ was at my sister and brother in-law’s home near my alma mater, Vintage High School. Our cousins’ home SW of Fountaingrove in Santa Rosa survived with minimal damage, though not all of their neighbors were quite as fortunate. All in all, we ended up being quite safe and very lucky as a family…the flames came about ~1.5mi at their closest, but were seemingly always threatening one home or another, all dependent upon the winds. The first, second, third, fifteenth responders that poured their entire, danger-wrought lives into saving people, animals and homes were brilliant and we will never be able to thank them enough for their hardest work and sacrifices. They came from all over the world in fact, Australia had a corp of firefighters fighting the #TubbsFire, as did Mexico and Canada.
It is in this spirit of support that the Lady and I quickly came to know our new community of Yountville in a very warm and loving light. Our new neighbors were constantly asking if they could help us move, as the flames and smoke would allow. Bardessono Hotel and Spa was one of the only businesses that stayed open all week, supported by their own generator and with cell and internet service the whole time. They graciously gave free coffee, power, internet and local news on tv to all locals and emergency personnel. Ranch Market Too stayed open by candlelight to provide goods for sale for locals. Bouchon Bakery provided free coffee and pastries to anyone in town. R+D Kitchen, also on a generator along with neighbor Kelly’s Filling Station & Wine Shop also stayed open and acted as a central hub to exchange news. Lastly, Pancha’s of Yountville, as always, was HQ for locals to gather, blow of stress and steam and find out the latest information from those of us that work for the city and county. Pancha’s, Bardessono, Kelly’s and all of these businesses kept our little village in a tight embrace and worked hard to take care of all of us, as they could. We can’t thank them enough during that first crazy week.
And it’s here in Yountville that I think I will finish…feeling so fortunate to be a part of a community of quirky, yes, but loving and fully supportive neighbors; blessed with wine, food, art and fun. Come support the valleys, virtually all of us are open, despite incorrect news reports that abound. You will find grateful independent business owners and industry workers, happy to serve you during what is typically the highest season of the year. If you would like to donate more directly, please click on the link below to be taken to the Napa Valley Community Foundation’s Fire Donation site. These funds go *directly* to those in need in Napa County. Thank you and I hope that all of you are safe and happy, around the world, as your read this post.