Fire is ever becoming more of a part of life in California. And here in Northern California, we almost joke that our state bird is the jet that flies overhead and drops fire retardant. But, like so many other Californians, we never thought that the danger of a wild land fire would touch us so closely.
However as the River and Ranch fires that started in Mendocino county grew ever larger, it became concerning that they were coming ever closer. Every day we watched the local news sources and social media very closely and every day the air, which is usually the cleanest in all of California and the third cleanest in the entire United States, grew thicker and thicker.
Meanwhile planes and helicopters performed incredible stunts as we watched them pass overhead, the fire growing visibly closer in the hillsides above the Featherbed Railroad. Day after day the fire grew closer as news reports came in with increasing numbers of firefighters coming to battle the blazes that surrounded us. And they became visibly closer.
Around us communities were being evacuated - Lakeport, Kelseyville, Blue Lakes, Upper Lake and it became apparent that the fire wasn’t slowing down any time soon. We decided to start looking around in case we had to bug out and then the call came - we were under mandatory evacuation. Time to pack whatever we could in the car and give the Featherbed Railroad a last look in the rear view mirror just in case it became another casualty of California’s wildfires.
Our first stop was in Woodland where we holed up for a few days while firefighters from all over California and as far away as Idaho, Utah, Nevada and even New Zealand came to practice their craft and squash the monster that threatened so many homes and businesses on Clear Lake’s north shore.
As a small community we know so many of the local firefighters and peace officers and we knew from their social media posts that they were employing bulldozers to cut a fire break on the hill above us. If you haven’t seen the video of this operation it’s just like nothing you’ll ever believe.
Fire professionals set a line where they want to stop the progress of the fire and bulldozer operators take their huge machines and simply cut a giant path into the forest. Now this is compounded by the fact that many times these operators are literally cutting right into the fire at night, often times not knowing exactly what’s in the fiery path ahead.
Everybody on the fire lines has nerves of steel.
Once the fire line was cut aircraft dropped band after band of pink fire retardant in the hills above, working in tandem with ground crews and bulldozer operators to stop the blaze in its tracks.
Meanwhile we moved further south to Atascadero to Paul’s brother. While firefighters worked tirelessly day and night the fire grew and had now become the largest fire in California’s history. As we write this it has consumed over 300,000 acres which is about the size of Massachusetts.
As things progressed on the fire line the blaze continued, although it seemed that firefighters were able to keep the thing from coming down the hill into Nice and Lucerne.
Good news was popping up here and there on social media and, finally, the mandatory evacuation was lifted for our area and we were able to return to the beautiful slice of heaven that is the Featherbed Railroad.
While not everyone is out of the woods yet, things look good. For now. The hillside above us shows the scar that was the fire break that the bulldozers etched into the mountain and, on either side of the bare land, are pink ribbons dropped by the airborne fire teams.
We’re all very fortunate that we have a place to come back to and so much of this area shares our jubilation at the fire crew’s incredible work. But there are also a lot of businesses for whom a week off during the prime tourism season is a true economic hardship. Now that residents are coming back we hope you take some time to enjoy the vast majority of this area that remains as it has been and offers so much for the traveler.
As usual many of the businesses in the area stepped-up even though they had been evacuated for a week. Several Lakeport restaurateurs were allowed in despite the evacuation and served the first responders including Cassie’s Deli, Park Place Restaurant and Fresh & Bangin’.
Your visit will sincerely help all the businesses in Lake County so we hope you help us in recognizing the incredible work by so many in keeping this little part of the world intact.
Thank you to the firefighters, peace officers and all the people who were able to save this little corner of the world. And thank you for your continued support.
A blog about happenings in Lake County.