when there is nothing left to burn

Friday, September 22, 2006



I have been watching the hills of Napa burn since I got here this morning. They say there is vineyard land in danger. And 50 homes. And the fire is moving, and it is so windy today. (The photo above is from the Napa Valley Register.)

We are fine. We are on the other side of Highway 29, far enough away. But I still worry.

I've felt this way many times before. There was the Parkhill fire in Santa Margarita, where 1,400 acres burned. It was a Sunday, and I was the only reporter in the newsroom, so they sent me. I was wearing flip-flops and a tank top and the photographer had to teach me about wind direction and the best way to drive in close to a fire without killing myself. At one point, the flames jumped the fireline, and CDF shoved me in one of their trucks.

I remember a woman trying to protect her house. Like me, her toes were exposed. She was carrying buckets of water and pouring them on her lawn. Hosing off her roof. I remember chasing after her. Wanting so badly to help. But not knowing what to do, or if I -- a stranger with a notebook -- would be allowed to do it.

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