Devastation in Larkfield

 

Chelsea Drive, Larkfield

Chelsea Drive, Larkfield

The photo above shows Chelsea Drive, Larkfield, just north of Santa Rosa, as it appeared yesterday. Google Streetview shows how this street looked before the fire.

As I mentioned in a previous post, between 2011-13, we lived in a house in Larkfield. That house just escaped the devastation of the Tubbs Fire, but elsewhere nearby entire neighborhoods have been destroyed. Chelsea Drive, shown above, is a few hundred yards south of the street in which we lived.

During the time that we lived there, our local grocery store was Molsberry Market. There are still a few items that I can get only there, so, yesterday, I visited the area for the first time since the disaster.

Fortunately, Molsberry Market itself, and the shopping center in which it’s situated, seem to have escaped unscathed. Yesterday, the sign below was posted on the store’s front door.

Thankyou Poster at Molsberry Market

Thankyou Poster at Molsberry Market

A Thankyou event for First Responders was taking place at the store, and presumably the poster was produced by local schoolchildren. On the bottom right of the poster, it says, “Thanks for Saving Molsberrys”.

Ramsgate Court

The Eastern end of the street immediately north of where we lived, Ramsgate Court, was completely destroyed. The image below shows the view looking East. Our favorite restaurant, Cricklewood, stood on the opposite side of Old Redwood Highway, behind the stop sign in the photo.

Ramsgate Court, Larkfield

Ramsgate Court, Larkfield

Here again is the Google Streetview version.

This tragic scene reminded me of some of those old photos we see of World War II battlefields. Although many of the tree trunks survived, I’m not sure how many of the trees are still alive. In some areas, many are already being felled.

Northtown Animal Hospital

From Larkfield, the burned area stretches south all the way down Old Redwood Highway as far as Fountaingrove.

The veterinary hospital that looked after our cats, when we lived in that area, was Northtown Animal Hospital. The sign in front of the building still seems to be in perfect condition…

Northtown Animal Hospital Sign

Northtown Animal Hospital Sign

…but sadly the building itself did not survive, as shown below.

Northtown Animal Hospital Building

Northtown Animal Hospital Building

The scene below shows the burned area on the opposite side of Old Redwood Highway from the Northtown Hospital. The cables hanging from the trees are power lines that were downed during the fire. (Fortunately, in our housing development, all cables are “undergrounded”, so we don’t have aerial cables like these.)

Burned Area near Northtown Animal Hospital

Burned Area near Northtown Animal Hospital

There’s no question that it will take a long time to rebuild many of these neighborhoods, and that work is just beginning. Those of us who were lucky enough to escape the devastation can only do what we can to help in the rebuilding process.

Santa Rosa’s Surviving Round Barn

De Turk Round Barn, Santa Rosa

De Turk Round Barn, Santa Rosa

Amid all the tragic news from Wine Country during the past few days, I’m happy to report that the De Turk Round Barn in Santa Rosa, shown above, was not affected by the Tubbs Fire this week.

The Round Barn that did burn down this week was the Fountaingrove Round Barn. However, that barn was actually polygonal or multangular, rather than truly round. As you can see in my photo above, the De Turk barn is clad with curved planking, whereas the Fountaingrove barn had walls of flat planking.

The De Turk barn was built in 1891 by Isaac De Turk, as a stable for his racehorses (hence the horse weather vane visible in the photo above). It was recently restored by the City of Santa Rosa, and can be rented by the public for special events.

The red brick building visible in the distance on the right in my photo was the De Turk Winery, which is currently awaiting refurbishment as an apartment complex.

Here’s a link to the location of the De Turk Barn on Google Streetview, and here’s a link to the location of the destroyed Fountaingrove Barn.

Interactive Fire Damage Map

In my previous post, I mentioned that fire had consumed Cricklewood restaurant, close to the house that we lived in from 2011-13, but I didn’t know whether the house itself had survived. According to the latest interactive map of the Santa Rosa fire damage, the house does appear to have survived, although it was right on the edge of the burned area.

This was the house when we lived there, during the Fall of 2012:

Fall in Larkfield, 2012

Fall in Larkfield, 2012

Wildfires Will Always Happen

There have already been some claims in the media that the fires were caused by Pacific Gas & Electric company’s (PG&E’s) power lines coming into contact with trees during Sunday night’s high winds.

Whether or not those claims turn out to have any foundation at all, playing this “blame game” will never solve the problem of wildfires. In a dry climate like that of the California Wine Country, there have always been wildfires and there always will be. Such fires can be started naturally by lightning strikes, or by somebody dropping a cigarette, or by a vehicle driving along with something scraping the road surface, creating sparks. There are many ways that such fires can start, and it will never be possible to eliminate all the possible causes.

What is needed instead are better building techniques, so that buildings are more effectively fireproofed. (For example, in the latest fires, flat-roofed buildings seem to have been particularly prone to burning. This is probably because flammable material can accumulate on the roofs for many years, just waiting for a falling ember to set it off.)

I can only hope that this disaster will lead to new ideas and laws for better building practices in future.

Fire in Santa Rosa

Clouds of Smoke over Santa Rosa

Clouds of Smoke over Santa Rosa

The photo above shows the view from our bedroom window at about 8am yesterday morning, when I was getting ready to go to work. Unfortunately, the “threatening clouds” in the distance are not rain, but smoke. I was to discover a few moments later that I wasn’t going to be able to go to work, because my employer’s offices are within the evacuation zone of the fire causing the smoke.

As many of you have probably heard on the news, we have had serious fires in the Wine Country since Sunday night, and some are still burning. Shockingly, fire even spread into some parts of urban Santa Rosa, destroying many homes, shops and hotels within the city.

It is ironic that, in my previous post, I mentioned how, during the week of my return to the UK from my first visit to California, thirty years ago, there was a hurricane-force storm in Southern England. Now, thirty years later, these fires in Wine Country were fanned by hurricane-force winds that blew in this region on Sunday night.

I usually get up on workdays at 7am, but on Monday when I woke up it was so dark that I checked the clock several times, thinking that I must somehow have got up too early. It was only later, as I was preparing to go to work, that I discovered why the sky was so unusually dark.

Parts of Santa Rosa Still Evacuated

Much of the northern half of Santa Rosa has been under mandatory evacuation orders since early Monday, and thousands of people are in temporary shelters as far away as Marin county. Most of the evacuation orders are still in force tonight (Tuesday).

Fortunately, our house is not (currently) in the evacuation zone, so we’re still at home. The only inconvenience for us at present is that I cannot get to my employer’s workplace.

Only the media and emergency services are being allowed into the evacuation zones, so I cannot get close to devastated areas (and nor do I want to). Therefore, the only photos I can obtain currently are from a safe distance.

Hilton Hotel burning, Santa Rosa

Hilton Hotel burning, Santa Rosa

I took the photo above from the West side of the US101 freeway. It shows smoke still rising from the Hilton Hotel, on the hill in the center background. The tall building just visible across the freeway on the right is the Kaiser Hospital, which was evacuated and is still closed.

Smoky Sun

Later in the day on Monday, I drove my normal work commute route, to see how close I could get to my employer’s offices. The photo below shows the closest I could get, Chanate Road near Hidden Valley Road. The sun is so shrouded by smoke that it looks like a hazy sunset, but in fact it was only about 3pm.

Smoke-shrouded Sun

Smoke-shrouded Sun

Destruction in Larkfield

From 2011-13, we lived in Larkfield, a community just north of Santa Rosa, and outside the city limits. Parts of Larkfield were burned by the Tubbs Fire on Sunday night, and unfortunately that included our favorite restaurant in that area, Cricklewood.

Cricklewood Restaurant was named after the suburb of London, having been founded by a British expatriate. As shown below in my 2015 photo, above the bar was one of the name signs from the BR railway station, in its original London Midland maroon color.

BR Station Sign at Cricklewood Restaurant

BR Station Sign at Cricklewood Restaurant

Sadly, I doubt that the owners had time to save the sign when the building burned, and that probably was not their top priority anyway.

We don’t yet know whether the house we lived in in Larkfield was destroyed, but we hope not.

Status Updates

For updates on the constantly-changing situation, the best source seems to be the Santa Rosa City Emergency web site.