Former Alaskan describes evacuating his California home following wildfires

first_imgHoward Grant rakes leaves away from his home as his wife, Laurie, wets down the roof of their home Tuesday in Calistoga. (Photo by Clark Mishler)A former Alaska resident who now lives in northern California is waiting to learn if his home will survive the wild fires. Clark Mishler, a professional photographer lived and worked in Anchorage for more than 40 years. Two years ago Mishler and his wife moved to Calistoga to be near their daughters and grand-kids. Mishler said Calistoga is the northern most community in the Napa Valley. He said it’s a small agricultural community of under 6,000, filled with hard working people. He said they had to evacuate Tuesday night.Listen nowMISHLER: It’s completely deserted. There are maybe ten people in the entire town who are there, patrolling. And so far, there have been no structures burned within the Calistoga city limits. This week is going to be very critical though, due to the fact that they’re expecting some very high velocity winds. So, this whole thinking can change in hours and it could go from “We’re okay” to “Oh my God! Everything’s on fire in all directions.”TOWNSEND: You’re a photographer and you were taking photos before you left Calistoga. Tell us about some of what you captured.CalFire firemen compare notes near the Tubbs fire just north of Calistoga. (Photo by Clark Mishler)MISHLER: I stuck around town photographing people as they prepared to leave. So I photographed the people at the old folks home, and they took them out pretty early on Monday, and I got photographs of them leaving there. So of them were in tears, not sure of what’s going on, and that was kinda sad. But then I came across other people in the community who had pretty much the same attitude that I did which was, “Hey. You know, we’re alive. We’re able to pack up our cars.” That’s a lot better than some people. There are stories of people who were woken up by this fireball that came through Santa Rosa. And they basically were awakened when they realized that their whole house was lit up inside from the fires outside the house. They literally ran out the front door in their pajamas — no shoes, no cell phone, no wallet — hopped in their cars and drove off to try to and out-speed these fireballs.TOWNSEND: You also mentioned that there were a lot of folks helping out, a football team helping out with emergency relief. What was going on there?Volunteers at a collection center in Vallejo accept donations for victims of the wild fires in Sonoma and Napa Counties. (Photo by Clark Mishler)MISHLER: We’re down here in East Bay and yesterday we went over to Costco and we bought a bunch of supplies. And we took them over to a collection center in Vallejo. And the Vallejo high school football team was there, along with a whole bunch of volunteers. And they were doing all kinds of triage on these things — all these paper towels in one pile, water in another pile and all the campers in another pile. And these volunteer trucks were rolling up, and they were filling up these trucks with supplies. And then these trucks were taking off for Santa Rosa, and they were dropping the supplies off at the various centers where people were waiting at the evacuation centers.TOWNSEND: Clark, what have you been told about when you may be able to go back? What’s happening with containment efforts?MISHLER: It wasn’t until today that they now feel that they’ve got ten percent to a high of 27 percent containment on some of the fires. There’s a number of major fires burning in the area, some of them have zero containment. So, this weekend is going to be real critical. We’re expected to have some more winds which are really the problem here. As long as the winds don’t come back, they can surround these fires, they can do some back burns and they can stop the progression. But if they don’t know which way the wind is going to be blowing, nor do they know the velocity, they don’t know how large to make that fire break. And so that’s the problem. If you get that winds at the speeds that we had Sunday night, there’s really no stopping it.last_img

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