by Nicha Jones
Whenever I'm back home, I go on the same hike I frequented growing up. The last time I was there, I remember thinking to myself: "This mountain knows me and it knows my secrets. It misses me as much as I miss it." Shortly after, it had been burned down by the recent Sonoma/Napa County fires. The mountain range is now black as night.
Amongst my peers, we used to conceptualize what it must be like if we experienced an apocalypse. When asked the proverbial existential question of "if you could save three things from your burning house what would they be?" you don't ever think that scenario will actually play out. Your answers to these questions will not be the same as you believe IRL.
Recently, I moved back home to Sonoma Valley to buy myself time for a big relocation in the near future. I remember finishing my last leg of my Californian road trip in Los Angeles and waking up one morning to vibrating texts about a massive fire in my hometown. I drove back that night and it was the most surreal moment of my life.
Upon approaching Napa, I drove straight into a dense smoke cloud that looked suffocating. The moment I pulled into my father's driveway, an orange glow back-lit the mountain range in the near distance. The whole town was circled by life threatening fires. I spent the evening chain smoking cigarettes while watching the fire creep down the hill. I was instructed to pack another bag and TBH, I brought one month's-worth of clothes, my baby blanket, iPad, phone, and charger. I didn't grab a bunch of sentimental items, mainly because the adrenaline kicked in and I was operating on survival instincts. We evacuated the next day. My dad's car was packed to the brim as we drove off with the cat crying in its carrier.
By the time we went back to my dads house, half the town had evacuated and I had to hold down its fort. Every night for the next week was creepy. Looters from out-of-town were breaking into homes with weapons and I was not in shape to deal with that. Most of the neighbors were gone and if anything happened, I didn't have immediate sources to turn to.
Now, I drive by these neighborhoods tucked away in the secluded hills that have been destroyed beyond belief. Metal stairways that stand amongst the rubble. Melted car frames.
No one can anticipate what it feels like to go through the possibility of losing a home. There are those out there where it has already happened. There are those out there that will have it happen to them, but the uplifting lesson from all of this is that there is support out there. It will draw your community closer together because despite all the shit that's going on in the world, we have an innate instinct to care about one another--especially if your neighbors are involved.
With everything being said, climate change is REAL. Had there not been a heavy influx of rain the past winter, the grass wouldn't have grown as long, and dried up, and made easily susceptible to flame hazards. There's also risks from the aftermath to consider, like landslides and erosion, which could potentially destroy more homes in the areas that were already susceptible to the fires. The intense heatwaves make a difference, and in California, it's something to consider. I can only hope this ignites the kind of change we would like to see in the world at large.