On Sept 9, 2015 at 2:26 PM a tree fell across a power line near the town of Jackson California, causing a widespread local power outage and sparking a fire that was to become known as The Butte Wildfire. It rapidly grew to 14,500 acres.
Twelve hours later in the middle of the night my house was awakened by a reverse 911 call from the Sheriff's office, warning us to be prepared to evacuate.
In the pitch black darkness, by flashlight my elderly mother and I gathered her four cats and put them in carriers; we grabbed what necessary personal items we could think of....(What do you grab in the middle of the night? What really is essential?)
Carriers, pet food, bottled water, two suitcases, two briefcases of vital papers were piled in the front hall.
I dashed to the 2 dozen boxes of Jody Scott manuscripts, papers and correspondence I'd recently shipped down from Seattle to prepare for the archive that'd be their permanent home. What could I rescue? What was there room for after four cats, one dog and two humans with their necessary luggage? I grabbed one ream of collected-together stories- not half of the total but at least something. The novels were easier, one copy of each, but none of the preserved preliminary drafts, none of the hand-written first drafts.... and nothing of correspondence, professional or personal...
The irony if after years in storage, Jody's papers were lost just as I was preparing them to be preserved forever in an archive, was not lost on me.
And then we waited. And we waited. In a few hours my mother went back to bed. At some point I let the cats back out of the carriers; they'd been in them for hours.
When daylight came I drove to the nearby state park and hiked out to the point, site of a disused fire lookout. I'd never seen more than 1 or 2 people there, today there were a dozen and a half gathered as we stood looking south to where the fire was. If you stretched our right arm out as a 45 degree angle, it'd point to where the fire had started. If you did the same with your left arm, that's where it'd spread to overnight. But the steep canyon ravine of the Mokelumne river seemed to be stopping the fire some 2 miles distant. We could see lots of smoke, but no flames. It seemed to all of us that we were going to be OK.
I drove into Jackson to the Starbucks. Time for coffee after the tense sleepless night. Time to relax. I thought.
Then law enforcement personnel from Sacramento came in, they were on their way upcountry to help with mandatory evacuations. "Upcountry" was where I'd just come from.
We were evacuated on Sept 10, 2015 at apx. 10:30 AM. Our destination, the Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort where the Red Cross had set up shop.
We could only recapture two of the cats; the other two were on their own. I left out lots of food and water and hoped we'd see them again.
At the county fairgrounds, ACART (Amador County Animal Response Team) had established headquarters to take in and care for pets and livestock for as long as people needed. For free. That's where our pets stayed. Later Laughton Ranch in Jackson took in livestock and horses as well. Plus similar operations in Calaveras County. Local businesses donated livestock feed, pet food and supplies. Hundreds of volunteers worked thousands of man hours caring for the livestock and pets of people they would probably never meet.
At the casino, where I was lucky enough to nab a room, we watched black smoke filled the sky in the shape of a gigantic mushroom cloud. The winds shifted and the air filled with smoke; I sincerely hoped the authorities who'd gathered us all in this location knew what they were doing because it looked far too close and menacing.
Cots were set up in every available convention space, a cafeteria and gathering room was filled with rows and rows of tables. The casino fed us abundantly and well. The Sheriff's Office and CalFire provided twice daily updates. As more and more people poured in, eventually the entire hotel, the entire RV park and several overflow parking lots were also given over to house and feed fire evacuees.
I cannot praise highly enough the generosity of Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort that took such good care of us all. If you are ever in this part of California, please do patronize them.
The evacuees, forced from their homes, sleeping on cots with no privacy, no idea if they'd have a home to go back to, or when, behaved with stellar aplomb and civility. Everyone rallied in a way that showed the nobility and intrinsic goodness of people.
After 5 days we were able to return home. We were lucky. The fire never did reach my town, instead it turned south and devastated, in some cases destroyed the small communities of Calaveras County.
The fire burned for another 2 weeks, destroying nearly 900 homes and outbuildings, and burning over 70,000 acres. Two people were killed. And this wasn't even the worst fire of the fall of 2015. Soon the Valley fire would prove even more destructive.
On Facebook someone posted video taken with their phone as they evacuated; it is well worth clicking over there to watch it. As much as anything can it takes you into what the experience feels like. I sincerely wish none of you ever experience it for real.
post by Mary Whealen
Oh not ALL of California, just that "other" CA, you know the part of it away from the coast and well-known population centers..... the part of it where most of us could afford to live. (Because real estate in CA is insanely expensive, but this is not a blog post about that.)
Most of it has to do with my dog, but a lot of it is cultural as well. Where I live right now is the California outside that desirable coastal range where most of the iconic locations are; the inland valleys of desert, farmland, ranches, former gold rush country, small towns and mid-size cities, rural, conservative, with flora and fauna that takes itself very seriously.
Now, when most of the northern hemisphere is blossoming with springtime optimism, here in the other California it is blossoming poison oak. Everywhere!
For most people nighttime temps above 55 degrees are a welcome antithesis to winter's icy grip, here, where winter is so mild it reminds me of Seattle's summers, it means mosquitoes carrying heartworms and a new monthly drug to give my dog. It means burs of every conceivable shape and design, all with murderous intent toward all dogs but especially long-haired breeds. (There is one with a viciously barbed point atop a twisted shaft, with a semi-circular hoop at the other end that looks likes like a piece of miniaturized mining equipment.)
These developments are followed by the beginning of rattle snake season, and minor annoyance of scorpions. Which is followed by daytime temperatures in the high 90's, sometimes 100's so that one must be up and out at the crack of dawn to get the dog walked before temp's top 80 degrees. The sun shines down relentlessly, day after day after day without respite, making me long for the grey skies and drizzle of Seattle!
Months of heat and sunshine bring fire season! A danger made all too real when last September we had to evacuate for 5 days because of the Butte wildfire that burned 70 thousand acres and destroyed 500 homes. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butte_Fire
On the upside, the ticks go away for the summer! (Winter and spring they are horrible.)
And I don't know if it's a climate thing or what, but outside of major metropolitan areas, there is no decent coffee to be had in California!
And no one here seems to know the difference! They just don't have coffee in their souls. Which for someone from Seattle, gourmet coffee heaven, is cruel and unusual punishment.
Three different individuals have had a go at running a coffee shop here in town-- mostly the coffee was not good but at least it gave one the option not to have to drive 10 miles to a Starbucks-- but apparently there is just no market for it and the space has languished empty since the last owner's girlfriend left him and absconded with the espresso machine. Payment for services rendered I guess. In any comparable-sized town in Washington there would be at least 2 flourishing espresso stands!
And that, dear reader, all of the above, is why I hate California!
During the late 40's Jody lived in Berkeley with George and Nancy Leite. They ran daliel's bookstore on Telegraph Ave. and published Circle Magazine. Both influential precursors to the birth of the Beat movement.
Jody and George co-authored as Thurston Scott the novel CURE IT WITH HONEY. Here is an entry in Jody's journal from Monday, Aug 30, 1948:
"Day as usual. G. in fine mood. All go to SF at 6 to De Angulo opening, then to A. Nin's, then to Italian restaurant, then to Mona's. Spend total of 1 fin. All somewhat sad. Bed late."
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