Something is not allowing me to continue updating the previous Firepocalypse post, so I am going to continue Fire updates in this new post.
The Valley Fire has now burned 73,700 acres, with containment holding at about 35%. There are upwards of 7,000 homes and businesses still threatened, although the rain we got yesterday helped a bit with the firefighting efforts. School throughout the county has been cancelled until at least Monday in some areas, and perhaps longer in places like Kelseyville where the high school is once again serving as an evacuation center. Support has flooded in from all parts of the state from individuals who want to help. The thousands of families who are now without homes, or unable to go back to their homes, have been the main focus of many bighearted people.
Unfortunately, not only charitable people exist during a disastrous time. There have been several reports of opportunists and their greed becoming a factor in this current crisis. In Clearlake Oaks on Saturday night, as evacuated families and individuals were flooding into neighboring towns seeking shelter, one motel decided to raise their price from $79/room to $250, in an attempt to take advantage of the surge in demand for shelter. There have also been many reports of thieves travelling into the evacuated zones and raiding the neighborhoods that are standing largely empty and unguarded. There is now fighting and competition happening between local evacuation centers, not wanting to share donated goods or turning people away who come for donations but are staying elsewhere.
These things are extremely disappointing and disheartening, but all we have to do is look around to see that where there is bad, there is also good peeking around the corner. While some lodgings have tried to price gouge, others like Robinson Rancheria, have opened their doors at a drastically reduced rate, even allowing pets to come with evacuees. They have also been feeding firefighters, law enforcement and evacuated people three hot meals a day completely free of charge. Several restaurants and businesses around the lake have followed suit, eager to help their neighbors and customers who have been directly effected by this terrible beast of a fire. Everyone knows of someone who has been directly affected. My father has several coworkers who were evacuated, and a few that have since lost everything they owned. My children’s internet school teacher from last year and the year before has possibly lost her home and her dog. This has truly been devastating, and this is such a small community that we all are feeling the devastation, some more than others.
Several survivors of the fire have been posting their video recorded experiences of fleeing the flames on Saturday afternoon. These harrowing recordings show what it was like to drive through the flames, watching the homes of neighbors become fully engulfed along the way.
The video directly below features an individual fleeing the fire in Anderson Springs California on the afternoon of Saturday, September 12th. It appears to be night, fully dark, in the video, but that is only the darkness caused by the thick, intense smoke from the surrounding fire.
The video below shows a 200 unit apartment complex located in Middletown California. The complex, all 200 units, had previously been full, with no vacant units. It was fully engulfed in the evening of September 12th and is a total loss.
Social media has been flooded with pictures and videos like these in the past week. Thousands of people remain displaced, living in tents with their children and pets, waiting for word that their home is still standing, or that their missing loved one has been found or that their missing livestock have been rescued.
In all the years that I have lived in Lake County, since we moved here in 1992, I have seen wildfires rip and roar through the land here. But never, in my life, have I seen a fire season with such a level of destruction.
In the above clip, Lake County Sheriff Brian Martin explains that they will be going into the fire zones with cadaver dogs, as the grim search for fire victims who did not make it begins. There has been an outpouring of desperate messages posted at evacuation centers and social media from people who are searching for still missing loved ones. Some people waited just a little too long to evacuate and ended up separated from their families, at different evacuation centers. As scattered as everyone is right now, it has been difficult for law enforcement to determine who is actually missing and who just has not been able to contact their families yet. We have already had one confirmed death during this fire, of an elderly woman who became trapped and died in her home when the fire consumed it. She was 72 years old and disabled, unable to evacuate herself and in a spot that fire crews were unable to reach in time to save her. Unfortunately, there are several people who are still missing, and their families are desperate for information. We can only hope that most of them are found, safe and sound, at area shelters.
I will continue my updates on this post from now on. I will include a link to the original post in the link list for this one as well.
Second Update: 9-17-2015
After publishing this post I came across a news article from the Press Democrat that was updated during the writing of this post. The article details reveal that the remains of two missing Valley Fire victims have been found in the fire areas. The identities of the two individuals found is still being confirmed, but it has been stated that based on the evidence and location of the remains that they are believed to be those of 69 year old Leonard Neft of Anderson Springs (his wife was featured in the news clip above) and Bruce Beven Burns of Hidden Valley Lake.
These two latest casualties join 72 year old Barbara McWilliams, the first reported and confirmed death of the Valley Fire. There are still many missing people to be found, hopefully not all of those will end with the same tragic conclusion.