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The Valley Fire

Page Type: Trip Report

Location: California, United States, North America

Lat/Lon: 50.06215°N / 62.58187°W

Object Title: The Valley Fire

Date Climbed/Hiked: Nov 30, 0000

Activities: Scrambling

Season: Summer

 

Page By: Noondueler

Created/Edited: Oct 10, 2015 / Oct 20, 2015

Object ID: 956010

Hits: 852 

Page Score: 86.85%  - 23 Votes 

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The Perfect Fire Storm

 
A DC 9 makes a drop on the Valley Fire
DC 9 makes a drop on the Valley Fire
"Hey Windsor! Hear the planes? We got a fire! It's down by Bottlerock Road. This is serious!" 
Micheal yelled in from outside the house.

This was the fourth year and worse drought in state history. It was hot. The winds were shifting upwards of 40 mph in places and the valleys and mountain slopes were thick with brush and tall trees.

It was September 12 around 4 pm.

I went up behind the house and saw a huge cloud of black grey smoke billowing several thousand feet above the west side of Boggs Mountain. The front of the blaze a mere 3 miles away on the other side of the mountain raging up out of Cobb Valley. A DC 9 along with the other planes was also circling overhead every few minutes.
I got a frantic call from Christopher whose house was up the side of Boggs directly in the path. He wanted me to come help him get his cats out. I headed over immediately but the roads were already blocked. I got hold of him an hour or so later and his house was already gone.
 By 6 pm the police car with loud speaker came down the road "mandatory evacuation".

Micheal and I started running around deciding what to take. What we could throw in the car and get by with for a spell. Cars and horse trailers were steadily going down the usually quiet country road. The atmosphere was thick with the potential for disaster.
Micheal took off, I grabbed my cat Stu Deans and took off too. We met up at the junction of Hwy 29 in Lower Lake. This rural intersection with one light usually entertains half dozen cars in all directions. This evening found it backed up with hundreds of vehicles choking the road as thousands poured out of Middletown and the Cobb Mtn. area.. Cops and sirens everywhere.
Stu Deans got under the front seat of the van. Micheal called the friends in Morgan Valley who had a farm with accomodations for several people.
Dandelion Farms was the name of the place. Way out in the sticks. No cell reception, limited internet , no wifi but very quiet. Across the road was Grizzly Peak (3,000') a totally brush coated mountain not worth the effort. It's an easy walk up now if you don't mind moving between the chard branches and getting dirty with ash! The Stolleys were very lucky. In June they had survived the "Rocky Fire" which devoured the surrounding terrain of mostly mountain brush in every direction.
Loren and Candace brought us up to a place for several to stay. I camped in the van. We were on a ridgeline at elevation and as I went to turn in for the night I could see a red glow on the horizon 15 miles south in Middletown and Big Canyon as the 3rd worse fire in California history had it's capricious way with everything in it path. Blazing rapidly though trees and steep slopes only to stop and devour a dwelling with intense relish leaving low piles of white twisted metal, ash and rubble defining the foundation of what a few hours before stood for someones life.
 A friend who stayed in the area to fight the fire said it raced along one ridgeline crowning the trees faster than a pick-up truck!

All we could do was pray the house was spared, that we dodged a bullet and could go back home soon.

2 weeks at Dandelion Farms

Grizzly Peak
Grizzly Peak, (on horizon) chard and largely barren like the hill in front from the Rocky Fire months earlier.
More people arrived in the morning having been evacuated at 4 am. Most lived on Shenandoah Circle at the top of a hill above Seigler Valley where the fire swept over leaving a landscape of black grey and brown peppered with piles of white which were the houses. Boggs Mountain (3,740') 5 miles long, totally forested now appears totally burnt out on all sides. Huge swaths of the east and south sides of Cobb Mtn. were burnt out all the way to the top.
The only good news that day was our house and the small neighborhood of a few acres was spared!
Quite a relief to be so lucky. Later I saw houses untouched next to utter devastation.
Reports came in. All roads were blocked. Total evac of area for indefinite period.
!0 miles out we settled in for what would be 2 weeks. The road to Clearlake was open to the right at Lower Lake so we could get to stores. Walmart had disaster relief booths giving away food and clothes etc. which was pretty cool. Got use to the slow rhythm of country life helping Loren with chores from time to time.
Stu Deans was not at home here. He stayed out until 2 am one night. The area had larger predators like big cats and coyotes. Then one night he got in a brief scuffle with the local cat and vanished into the woods for the night. Then 4 more nights. I went calling him with flashlight every night but nothing. He was a smart cookie who always knew where he lived. A very cool customer and best friend. I didn't feel our time was through. He's young and strong. Everybody at the farm knew him and liked him. When I had to leave it was great to be back to the comforts of home but seeing Stu's empty bowl saddened me.

Aftermath

 
Stu Deans rolling in the dirt.
Stu Deans
 
Lived here last year.
A foundation
 
Shenandoah hill, left, and Seigler Valley
Shenandoah Hill (left) where the fire raged over the homes of many friends
We lived in the thick of it. A blessing to have a home to go back to when this place could have very easily joined the ranks of 1200 others including those of many friends burnt to the ground.
It's not a pretty place around here now and won't be for many years. Boggs Mountain and State Forest is absolutely devastated on all sides and closed for the foreseeable future. Harbin Hot Springs is no more. Big chunks of Middletown and Collayomi Valley liberally fried on all sides.
I never saw any of the news coverage for weeks and we just got internet yesterday. I was very impressed at the ferocity of the thing as a reporter covered it in then real time. Frightening power!
Seems all my friends have insurance plans and life here goes on in the burnt but still vibrant mountain landscape. It's nice to be able to look out the window and still see green trees.

So I get a call from Max! He was still at the farm and was pulling for Stu Deans. He'd call me if he showed up. It was just that. Stu was galavanting the countryside for 12 days. He'd shedd a few pounds but no worse for the wear and very hungry! 

I drove out before sunrise and retrieved the bugger. He is very happy to be home, has a huge appetite and very affectionate. Normally not a very vocal cat, he was carrying on at length with long meeowws all day when we got back home telling us about his adventures.

You wouldn't know it today looking out the window on this beautiful fall afternoon that this was a National Disaster zone covered by the President getting Fema  and Red Cross relief. But only a few hundred yards down this road are very really reminders of the destructive force of nature and it's utter disregard for what we hold precious. In all 76,000 acres burned.

We didn't lose our home here but even friends who did feel like something good will come out of this. Personally I'm delighted to have internet again and able to write this report.

You Tube clips of the Valley Fire

Valley Fire
Driving into Middletown
Aerial coverage

More photos

 
A chard relic of times past.
!6 track studio tape recorder.
 
A light rain falls
A light rain falls below Cobb Mtn. burnt to the top like Boggs
 
Close up of Boggs Mtn. from Singing Rock
East slope of Boggs Mtn.
 
Firefighters descending Boggs Mtn.
Firefighters on Boggs Mtn.
 
Blackened Boggs Mountain
Burnt out Boggs Mtn.
 
Casual view from Manzanita Flat
Casual view down to Middletown surveying the devastation.

Images

A DC 9 makes a drop on the Valley FireStu Deans rolling in the dirt.Upper Boggs Mtn.Helicopter water dropFirefighters descending Boggs Mtn.Black forestGrizzly Peak
A light rain fallsBurnt out slopes west of Cobb Mtn.Blackened Boggs MountainClose up of Boggs Mtn. from Singing RockLived here last year.A burnt out valley east of Seigler Mtn.Casual view from Manzanita Flat
[ View Gallery - 7 More Images ]



Comments


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Viewing: 1-5 of 5    

colinrThat darn cat.

colinr

Voted 10/10

Glad to hear you, your cat, and your belongings made it through the fire! Funny, I read your report, got up, gathered some kitchen scraps to add to the garbage can already out at the curb, walked out front, and was greeted by a friendly meow from a feral cat that has been hanging around for several years, but recently spending more and more time in my front yard rather than elsewhere. This friendly vocalization was a first, as was her allowing me to pet her and hold her in my arms, so I reciprocated with another first-- a donation of leftover chicken. I suspect I now have a friend for life. My lone remaining pet cat watched from inside the front window and vocalized his jealous protest as I walked back in. Oh well, at least he then got to plant himself on my lap as I typed this. Anyway, I hope we make it through this Indian Summer without any more fires and see El Nino put a dent in the drought before summer returns.
Posted Oct 12, 2015 1:09 am

NoonduelerRe: That darn cat.

Noondueler

Hasn't voted

Thanks Sean. Stu Deans is not a very vocal cat but he was carrying on at length all day after we got back telling us about his adventures on the farm.
Posted Oct 12, 2015 2:09 am

markhallamGlad you are OK...

markhallam

Voted 10/10

...including down to the return of Mr Deans! What a horrific event... I have family in Australia and we have had occasional times worrying about them with similar occurrences over there. As you might imagine doesn't happen a lot in UK - can't say never though, once in a while it gets hot and dry even here. Sad for all those who weren't as lucky as you...
best wishes, Mark
Posted Oct 12, 2015 1:14 am

silversummitScary experience...

silversummit

Voted 10/10

Windsor - I can't imagine deciding what to take with us in an emergency so I'm glad you got through it relatively unscathed. Must be hard seeing the devastation around you but I am so glad you and Stu Deans are okay.

Kathy
Posted Oct 16, 2015 11:15 am

NoonduelerRe: Scary experience...

Noondueler

Hasn't voted

Thanks Kathy. I've moved several times in the last few years. Everything I own here and there in storage. I just grabbed my computers and important daily stuff and lived in the van for 2 weeks. I been camping in it in the mountains for years anyway. I even had electrical power extended to the van. I never saw any of the news our anything about it on media because we were we out in the county with no cable etc. Yes the devastation is remarkable.
Posted Oct 17, 2015 6:59 pm

Viewing: 1-5 of 5