the fire in my heart

It may be old news to some, or too distant to matter for others, but for me, the King Fire hits home.

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Placerville is my hometown. Pollock Pines is just up the road. I can’t count the number of times I’ve driven past this sign on my way home from Lake Tahoe.

Smoke from the King Fire as seen from Main Street, in Placerville

The King Fire started September 13, just east of Pollock Pines. It is believed to have been started by arson. This picture shows smoke from the fire as seen from Main Street, in Placerville. The smoke has shifted as far as Nevada and, this past Saturday, September 20th, forced officials to cancel Ironman Lake Tahoe just minutes before the race was supposed to begin.

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smoke2(The above two images were taken over Lake Tahoe by Kristoffer Pfalmer. All other images in this post have been taken from the World Wide Web.)

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Nearly 8,000 fire personnel have been fighting the fire since its inception.

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Thus far, the King Fire has consumed more than 93,000 acres (or 145 square miles/375 square kilometers) and destroyed twelve houses and many other small structures. To gain some perspective about how big that really is, take a look at this picture from NASA:

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If that still isn’t registering, take that fire scar and put it on top of San Francisco.

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The devastation this fire is going to leave behind is unbelievable. People keep telling me that, “Isn’t that part of life and nature’s cycle? Fires burn down trees so forests can rebuild.” But my heart hurts when they say such things. A fire started by arson has nothing to do with nature, folks. This is thousands of acres of beautiful — and I emphasize “beautiful” — forest that is being destroyed for no reason and which will take hundreds of years to regrow. It has been propelled by the already dry conditions caused by California’s horrible drought. Much of the drive to Tahoe along Highway 50 will be ash and dust and skeletons of trees for years to come, not to mention the loss of habitat for wildlife.

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And all I can say is, how on earth could someone be so cruel to ignite such a monstrosity? And, thank you, firefighters. Your heroism will not be forgotten.

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18 thoughts

  1. Thank you for this. It is the 50 year anniversary of the fire in Napa Valley that burned from Mt. St. Helena all the way to Rincon Valley near Santa Rosa. I remember seeing the horizon glowing at night when I was a kid and realized then that fire was so powerful that it could night to day. Awesome pictures!!

    • Yes, that was a sad fire, too, although I was not alive then to remember it. I wrote a newspaper article on the Cleveland Fire, which happened in the Sierra Nevadas in the early ’90s. That fire burned somewhere around 21,000 acres, and I thought *that* was bad…

  2. I think you’ve done a better job than the media at showing through pictures and words the devastating impact of a fire like this. Well done. I live near Sacramento and am dreading the next time I drive up Hwy 50.

  3. Tough to read and hear about. A couple years ago, we had the Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado. Not two miles from our home, some of us watched from the street as the fire went UP and OVER and DOWN a mountain. DOWN. Fires don’t typically go “down” mountains, but the back blast from a storm in the canyon where the fire was pushed the fire up and over the ridge. We had our cars packed and ready to go on a dime for two days, but were some of the lucky ones who didn’t have to evac…while many did and many lost their homes. Two lives were lost. During and after, streets were lined with people and signs thanking all the fire fighters. Ours was human caused, last I heard, but still nothing concrete was found or released to the public.

    Another problem comes after the fire’s out, and if you get rains, and from what I remember you do get your “monsoon season” in November, in that part of the country (I used to travel a lot to San Jose)? The runoff. That will have to be mitigated, because the soil’s burnt and the trees are no longer there to do what they do best. I hope that doesn’t become an issue, but it probably will. That will be an ongoing issue for years afterward, I’m sorry to say–I hope it won’t be a problem in your case, but it’s a typical issue.

    So sorry to hear, but stay safe. Who knows why some people have such “evil” intent, but they do. It’s up to the rest of us to not let that intent get out of hand and mitigate THAT. My heart goes out to you and your region.

    • Thank you so much, fpdorchak. Yes, we are praying for rain in this region. Mudslides and run-off or not, California needs rain so badly that I’ll be willing to take the problems that come along with it. (I say that now, but just wait ’til we have slides covering Highway 50 this winter.) But last year was such a dry year that that would never have been a concern if this had happened. I wrote a newspaper article for my local paper recently about the Fire Safety Councils in the region. At the time, these people seemed a bit fanatical in their preparations, but I see now how important their precautions really are. A “fire ready” community stands a much greater chance of survival in one of these events than one who has neglected to trim back weeds and put space between their houses and businesses and the “wildlands.”

      Thank you for your kind comment and thoughts for this region. We all need love, and all of it that we can get.

      • People had the same intensity here for home fire mitigation. Hindsight is always 20/20, but learn from others rather then re-inventing the wheel. Seems stupid in winter and spring, but the weather patterns are changing.

        Again, wishing you all the best. Hang in there.

  4. Insightful article that really demonstrates the terrible impact of this. Friends of mine in America were lucky to escape a similar fire in Colorado but had to evacuate their family and farm animals to another farm, and then again when the fire changed direction. Huge stress followed by relief when it all passed through. It’s something we don’t have to worry about so much in the UK.

  5. amazing photographs you have found, and it looks and sounds so devastating, as Alex says this isn’t something we really have to deal with in the Uk (though floods are becoming more of a big problem) and I send my best wishes that the fire is put out very soon and things can begin the beginning to start over.

  6. Such a sad & intense series of photos ~ and powered by your strong, frustrating words of helplessness… And the brave faces and people who are out there living and battling, great post.

  7. Those are great photos. I was staying with some friends in Cedarville, California when the King Fire began in September. There was this massive plume of smoke that came up from the south through Surprise Valley and past Cedarville (Modoc County). I was in Cedarville for a month helping my friends and then I hitchhiked back to Idaho.

    So your hometown is Placerville. I did some work for this guy who was a contractor from Placerville; he was working on his brother’s house just north of Cedarville.

    I have been hitchhiking in and out of Cedarville since 2009. My friends own a motel and have a cow-calf herd that I help with. Great people. Cedarville is right next to the Warner Mountains. They call this area the California Outback.

    • Yeah, the fire was awful. I still really haven’t seen all of the damage. I lived in Berkeley when it happened. Not sure I’ve ever been to Cedarville. California’s a pretty big state.

      Thanks for reading!

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