(Image by Chris Pugh, Photographer. https://twitter.com/chrispugh)
October 12, 2017
It’s 2:00 PM and I’m sitting in a bar in Ukiah, California listening to the Fire Bombers roar overhead. Ten miles away, a fire burns out of control, destroying homes and families. Like so many in my neighborhood right now, I’m hiding in my local watering hole with a glass of wine in my hand watching the news on the TV’s. So far, none of the news reports mention Mendocino County. We are too far beyond the San Francisco Bay Area and we all feel forgotten.
South of us, in Sonoma County, fires rage as well. Northern Santa Rosa, a city of 170,000 people, has burned. Entire neighborhoods have been flattened and thousands of people evacuated. Devastation in the Wine Country, the news reporters say. It is frightening and sad and I am sick with fear for all those people. But I understand why my neighbors in this bar are tired of hearing all the news south of us.
Mendocino County is on fire too. Why hasn’t anyone mentioned that?
On the other end of the bar, a man is slowly getting drunk while waiting to hear if his house burned down. A woman is collecting donations to feed horses evacuated to the fairgrounds. A teacher is crying because several of her students are now homeless. Everyone is hungry for information. Which roads are closed? Is Ukiah in danger? Has anyone heard from Andy? Or Lucinda. Is her family okay? A dog was found badly burned but alive; anyone looking for a black lab?
The bartender fills pint glasses and mixes drinks. She asks if I want another glass of wine. I shake my head. It’s time to go to the market and get supplies, just in case Hwy 101 closes and there are shortages. Everyone is surprised the power is still on. We all wonder for how much longer.
For now, Ukiah is safe. The town is filling with evacuees from Redwood Valley and Potter Valley. There are firetrucks and personnel everywhere and I know they will do whatever it takes to protect our vital airport. Ash falls and smoke burns our eyes, but the fires are burning away from us. We are safe. We are safe… I say this every night as I tuck my daughter into bed at night.