Byron Duerksen's blog

Valley Fire of September 2015

September 12, 2015 was one of the scariest days in my and many people's lives.  We had just "dodged a bullet" a couple weeks prior when the Jerusalem Grade Fire just a couple of miles away turned east and north.   But this particular afternoon the word spread that there was a terrible fire in Cobb that had started on Bottlerock Road.  There were bulletins on TV about potential evacuations.  It was miles from our house and I was curious, so I got in my car drove over to Cobb, but was stopped by a road block.  You could see the glow from the fire behind the hill in the distance stretched from the extreme right to the extreme left.  The wind was swirling and as we watched the fire rose to the top of the hill and came down like an orange waterfall.  I went back home anticipating the worst although the fire was still two towns over and I wasn't sure we were in jeopardy. 

By the time I reached home, the air was thick with smoke and debris was raining down and the wind was roaring.  My wife and I packed two suit cases, and our two dogs and got into two separate vehicles.  Even then, I was thinking we'll drive a few miles and park one of the cars and go back and get the truck.  What a fool I was!  As we came up to Deer Hill Road, the main road out of our community, the traffic was bumper to bumper and crawling.  We managed to get in the conga line which soon slowed down to a stop, while watching houses two blocks up the hill burst into flames. It was hours from the time we left our house until we finally arrived at our friends in Lower Lake who had a lovely trailer on their property with lights, heat, hot water and was well out of the path of the oncoming fire.  For us it was the Ritz.  We stayed there for eight days, no TV, no radio, but were able to get information on a laptop.

I understand it was the third biggest wild fire in California history.  Our house was spared but the devastation was incomprehensible in its random pattern.  For instance, on one street four houses burned to the ground and one was left standing unscathed.  It was like that everywhere.  You just couldn't make sense of it.  It seemed as though the fire just picked and chose where it wanted to go.  A total of 1,955 structures have been destroyed including; 1,281 homes, 27 multi-family structures, 66 commercial properties, and 581 other minor structures according the Cal Fire. 

The fire fighters were incredible and so were all the local police, sheriff's department and CHP.  Many worked long, long hours to help citizens when they knew that their own homes had burned down.  There is no way to say thank you.

In the aftermath, everybody chipped in with food for families, clothing, bedding, lodging, transportation, you name it.  It made us proud to live in such an altrustic, caring community.

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