The devastation caused by the fires is unfathomable.
Here on the Valley floor, we’ve been spared the brunt of the fires. There are days where we can’t go outside because the air isn’t fit to breathe. We've canceled some events, avoided outdoor exercise. But at least our homes are still standing.
But the losses still feel personal.
Most of us have spent time in wine country, perhaps visiting wineries, patronizing the Calistoga mud bathes, or just enjoying the ambience of that part of our beautiful state. Many of us have stayed at the Hilton or Fountaingrove Inn in Santa Rosa.
So much gone.
We look at the photographs and try to understand how fire could burn blocks of suburban style home, homes that look so much like those in our town.
Those who try to make sense of the destruction talk about intermix – when homes edge into wildlands and how that provides avenues for fire. They talk about Diablo winds and Santa Anas, of drought and rain that brings new growth.
But none of it really explains what happened, how a mix of drought, rain and wind could create firestorms so intense that many had little time to escape and, for a some, no time at all.
As Californians, we are familiar with fires. Every summer, we see fire. Sometimes the flames are concentrated in wildlands. When homes have burned, they've been those on the edge of brush-filled hills or tucked in amongst trees.
We haven't seen parts of cities burned, nor have we seen entire towns evacuated. Until now.
So much lost.
Ironically, the fires started during National Fire Safety Week. It's almost as if Mother Nature wanted to remind us that we can prepare and prevent, but in the end, we're at her mercy.
The areas scorched by the fire will be rebuilt. Many of us will help with the rebuilding either directly or through donation or prayer.
Eventually the air will clear.
But for now, we mourn.