Cal­i­for­nia wild­fires re­duce years-long dreams to em­bers

Manila Bulletin - - Views • Features -

SANTA ROSA, Cal­i­for­nia, United States (AP) — Jose Gar­nica worked for more than two decades to build up his dream home that was re­duced to ashes in a mat­ter of min­utes by the deadly firestorm strik­ing North­ern Cal­i­for­nia.

Gar­nica, who moved to the US from Mex­ico over 20 years ago, had fi­nally de­cided he could af­ford to upgrade parts of his Santa Rosa house af­ter build­ing a sta­ble ca­reer with the lo­cal garbage com­pany and sav­ing nearly ev­ery­thing he and his wife earned.

Over the past two years, he re­placed the sid­ing and in­stalled a new air con­di­tioner, stain­less steel ap­pli­ances, and new floor­ing. He bought a new 60-inch tele­vi­sion. On Satur­day, the 44-year-old got an es­ti­mate to re­place the fence, one of the last items on his list.

But at 3:30 a.m. Mon­day, he watched his house be­come one of the more than 2,000 homes and busi­nesses de­stroyed by the se­ries of blazes across the re­gion that has killed at least 17 peo­ple.

“You feel help­less,” he said Tues­day. “There’s noth­ing you can do. Ev­ery­thing, your whole life, goes through your mind in a minute. Ev­ery­thing you had done. I left all my fam­ily be­hind in Mex­ico to get a bet­ter life. Fi­nally we were just com­ing to the com­fort level, and this hap­pens.”

Gar­nica tried to save the home with a gar­den hose. He and a neigh­bor tried to cut open the neigh­bor’s above-ground pool, hop­ing the water would pro­tect their homes. In 15 min­utes, the en­tire neigh­bor­hood caught fire, he said.

“If I knew this was go­ing to hap­pen, maybe those 45 min­utes I spent try­ing to put the fire down, I should’ve just grabbed all the be­long­ings,” Gar­nica said. “But I didn’t think it was go­ing to hap­pen.”

Those de­struc­tive flames raced across the wine coun­try of Napa and Sonoma coun­ties and the coastal beauty of Men­do­cino fur­ther north, leav­ing lit­tle more than smol­der­ing ashes and eye-sting­ing smoke in their wake. Whole neigh­bor­hoods are gone, with only brick chim­neys and charred laun­dry ma­chines to mark sites that were once fam­ily homes.

“This is just pure dev­as­ta­tion, and it’s go­ing to take us a while to get out and comb through all of this,” said Ken Pim­lott, chief of the Cal­i­for­nia Depart­ment of Forestry and Fire Pro­tec­tion. He said the state had “sev­eral days of fire weather con­di­tions to come.”

In some torched neigh­bor­hoods, fire hy­drants still had hoses at­tached, ap­par­ently aban­doned by fire­fight­ers who had to flee.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Philippines

© PressReader. All rights reserved.