January 08, 2008

Fire on the Mountain

As I mentioned earlier, Kevin and I spent New Year's Eve at his grandparents' cabin in Green Valley Lake. GVL was hit by the wildfires in the fall and in fact, on one very tense night, all emergency personnel had to pull out of GVL because the one paved road in and out was nearly blocked. It was very sad to hear that the town was left unprotected until the firefighters coud get back in--and believe me, nobody was sadder than the firefighters themselves. However, most of the homes in GVL survived, including the grandparents' cabin (which will hereby be referred to as "the cabin") which is in the middle of a residential neighborhood, so to speak. Mostly houses on the edges of town were the ones that were lost. Here are some pictures we took--click on any for a larger version.

This was a pretty typical site--piles of rubbish and a chimney:

This is the back part of what used to be the lumber yard:

This site kind of broke my heart. The spray painting reads: "Thank You Friends; Thank You Firefighters; Red Cross; Salvation Army; Tzu Chi Buddhist Group; Cal Fire; Staters; Home Depot; CDF [California Department of Forestry]; Family; HOPE"

Piles of burned, rusted junk were everywhere:

...as were sets of burned out stairs to nowhere:

Nature's capriciousness: there are two completely destroyed properties next to each other here. The grey house on the left had some broken windows--no other clear damage. The home directly behind both destroyed homes was completely untouched:

Only a small handful of people had started to rebuild. I imagine most are waiting until Spring, if they rebuild at all:

Driveway to nowhere:

This stretch was the worst we saw. Each damaged or destroyed house had a green numbered sign. Standing where this picture was taken, I counted 10 green signs:

A burned-out Jeep. People took what they could, but a lot of people were stranded--they'd been out of the town for work and weren't allowed back in:

Another angle of the street with 10 green signs:

Untouched stairs, nothing else on the lot:

Again, the most common site--rubble and a fireplace:

This sight was completely incongruous. With the blanket of snow, it looks like a random chimney on a hill. For some reason it reminded me of the lamppost in Narnia:

This is a small valley in the hillside. The fire swept right down the valley. There are two homes in this picture, and if you turned around and looked up the hill, there were two more in the same path:

Stairs, retaining wall, green sign:

There were also lots of insurance recovery signs. This one has a photograph of the cabin that used to stand there:

There were several more destroyed properties but at one point it felt ghoulish to take pictures (or even to take a car tour). Most people have wooden signs near their front doors with their names on them--ours has a squirrel and says "The Hogans." I found it a bit ironic that one of the homes which survived the fires surrounded by destroyed homes was owned by a family called the Feurerbergs. Which literally translated from German means "fire mountain."

Posted by Shelby at January 8, 2008 12:30 PM

Those photos document the disaster so well. For those of us who haven't had firsthand experience with such a large fire, it's hard to imagine what gets destroyed and what gets left behind, and how all that looks. The rows of fireplaces and driveways are so eerie. And what an amazing, poetic irony you noted in 'fire mountain.'

Posted by: Anita at January 10, 2008 02:13 PM
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