California Wildfires

My older daughter lives in Santa Rosa, California. She was awakened in the early hours of Monday morning to learn that large parts of the city were being evacuated because fires were rushing into the city. Conditions were very dry and there were high winds, 30 mph gusting to 50 and even 70 in the mountains! There was no stopping the fires under these conditions and soon 20,000 acres, and more, were on fire, and this was only one of a number of fires in Northern California.

It is now Tuesday morning and it’s hard to find updated information. My daughter (with husband, two little kids, and a cat) first went to a friend’s house in a nearby town and later, when her in laws decided to evacuate also, they all went to her aunt’s house south of San Francisco so they are all safe. Her house is just outside the latest evacuation zone maps that I can find, and the in laws are right on the border so I think chances are good that their homes will be ok but it’s too soon to say for sure. As of last night fires were 0% contained and though the winds had decreased, they were still blowing.

This is my daughter and her sister on her wedding day.

This is Paradise Winery now, totally destroyed. The wedding photo was taken on the gravel walkway you can see on the left. (Above photo is from the winery’s Facebook page)

I have seen entirely too many photos like this of various houses and buildings on fire, and the whole area looking like an inferno. I saw a live broadcast from the Home Depot parking lot yesterday and the decorative trees  in the parking lot were going up like torches, one by one,  and smoke and flames were billowing from th buildings just beyond.

This is Fountaingrove, a lovely area on a hill with beautiful vistas and high dollar  homes, and it’s completely destroyed. These are affluent people who certainly have insurance and the means to rebuild, but can you imagine having no home today? Where would you go? How would you start to rebuild your life? Now imagine being a homeless person, and there are many in Santa Rosa. I’ve seen them in tents, and those with cars and RV’s fill the parking lot to overflowing every night where my daughter works in her government job. Oh, and BTW who knows the condition of her workplace. A mobile home park two blocks away burned to the ground.

I know disasters happen all over the world, often with huge losses to lives and property, and often to people who have no means to rebuild. But, this is my daughter, and a home and city I’ve visited many times. I know whatever happens they will come through but I hate to think of the trauma, and many of her friends and coworkers who have lost everything.

Today I am thankful to be in a Panamanian block house with a metal roof where pretty much nothing happens. But, my mind is mostly elsewhere at the moment.



About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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37 Responses to California Wildfires

  1. David says:

    omg ,i have friends who live in santa rosa,and cant contact them by phone ,phone just rings,says there are fires from one end of state to the other, something doesnt sound right here,.all at the same time??


    • Yes, there are multiple fires all at the same time. Many people are without power and cell phone coverage so I’m not surprised you have having trouble contacting your friends. I think it’s likely they are evacuated and out of touch, but ok. Their house might be a different story though.


  2. Anonymous says:

    ((( ❤ )))


  3. Suzanne Hatt says:

    Kris, I am so sorry to hear of your daughters evacuation and pray their home will be spared. We have been to Santa Rosa and it is a lovely town! This has certainly been a year for bad fires. We have had many fires around our home close to the southern Rocky Mountains with smoke filled days being the norm. Everything is so dry. Waterton Lakes National park townsite in southern Alberta was only spared due to the concentrated efforts of firefighters from surrounding cities and towns. The fire continues to burn today through mountain valleys and ranch lands, being only partially contained.
    Hopefully the fire in Santa Rosa will be quickly contained so your daughter and family will soon be able to return home.
    Take care


  4. Alan says:

    Kris I was in Marin and Sonoma Counties yesterday and the fires were all around us. Hwy’s 101 and 37 across the top of the bay were closed as well as numerous smaller arterials. The smoke was terrible, animals on the loose and scared and people with blank faced stares as if they’d seen the devil in person. We made it to Dillions Beach and the smoke was so bad you could barely breath let along see the ocean. These fires are well over 100,000 acres now and have killed 11 people and they are struggling to get any containment on the fire lines.My heart goes out to all the victims and all their families.and all the men and women fighting these fires!
    Alan Marshall


    • Thank you. Yes it sounds really terrible. My daughter is headed home now though I wish she’d wait a bit more. I have seen that many roads are closed, and you can see in the pictures that the smoke is so thick I don’t know how anyone can breathe. I hope you are somewhere safe now with some cleaner air to breathe.


  5. Sunni Morris says:

    So glad your daughter and her family are safe. I’ve been to Santa Rosa many times while living in CA. It’s a beautiful place. Sadly, there are wildfires there every year and also in several places in the western states. While living in CA we saw many and would watch the flames from our house on the mountains nearby. We came very close to evacuation one year. I hate to see this tragedy because many people aren’t rich enough to rebuild and all their precious memories are gone if their home burns.

    We’ve had high winds here too near Zion National Park, but thankfully no fires are burning right now. The wind gusts were strong enough to blow our heavy chairs off the patio along with some plant pots that became airborne.

    It’s almost impossible to make headway in putting out any fire with the wind blowing hard. I hope things are under control soon and your daughter can go back home to a house still standing.


    • Yes it is beautiful, but today not so much. I know fires are to be expected this time of year but I never thought fires would come into the city, and with such force. I hope in your area too that you get nothing more than wind. As you said, fire with such wind is an impossible situation. My daughter is headed back now so if she can navigate the road closures and heavy smoke, maybe there will be news of the house soon.


  6. Anonymous says:

    Oh golly Kris. So glad your girl is ok. This is so sad. Xo


  7. susie says:

    It truly is heartbreaking…I am glad your daughter and family are ok. It’s scary times we are living in…..hurricanes and fires have devastated so many areas in the US. So many people have lost everything.


    • Definitely crazy times out there but also, I have been listening to live updates and town meetings and there are so many people and resources pouring in to help. My family is ok for now but things are still burning and winds are expected to increase, and possibly change direction so everyone is packed and ready to run again if need be.


  8. Yella says:

    I’ve got lots of experience praying for rain, Kris, and in those prayers, I will include all the people of Santa Rosa – such a beautiful area. This is heartbreaking – I can hear the trees crying for their brothers.


    • Yes it has been something indeed. I’m fairly familiar with the city so this has really hit home. Thanks for the prayers, and more are needed since almost none of the fire is contained and winds are expected to blow again tonight, and Santa Rosa is only one of many areas affected.


      • Yella says:

        And the sad truth is that the fires not only create extreme damage now, the future of the land is also in jeopardy. In Colorado Springs, after an entire suburban neighborhood was leveled, the following years were a nightmare of floods and mudslides because of no vegetation in the burn areas. I’m hoping not only your daughters house is OK, but the surrounding vegetation. What a mess!


  9. ponygroomusa says:

    I have very spotty info coming out of the areas that are burning. I lived through Irma recently. I’d rather be in the track of a hurricane than in the path of the sort of fire that is eating parts of California right now. Very sad to hear your daughter is going through this right now.


    • Lots of power, internet, and phone infrastructure is out so communication is difficult, and it’s too early for much factual information. The destruction is immense though. Yeah, I felt for all of you facing down Irma and was glad it wasn’t worse than it was. I do NOT miss that! The fires though came blazing through in the middle of the night with so little warning. There were many who escaped with only their lives, no time to pack. Let’s see what tomorrow brings and I’ll probably write an update when there is more info.


  10. jim and nena says:

    Hola Kris,
    Praying for all those in California. And Texas, and Florida, and Puerto Rico.
    Our nephew’s family stayed with us while Harvey threatened their area. We have cousins and a niece in California who have so far not been near the fires. We have friends and a cousin in Florida who narrowly missed that hurricane. Crazy times, indeed.
    We hope everything is OK for your family.
    jim and nena


  11. chugwa says:

    Our thoughts and prayers are with you and yours, Kris.
    Doug and Mary





    • I know, we have been talking about that too as we sit in our Panamanian block house with a metal roof. Maybe they will rebuild in this manner? Somehow though I’m afraid they will do what they have always done.


  13. kris, this must be hard to be so far away, a bit of ‘reverse’ worry, as usually it’s those we leave behind who worry about us in ‘third world’ countries…. the wedding picture is lovely, as are those two stunning gals, and it is a very graphic contrast of that same site after the fire destroyed it.

    i’ve been offline but see that costa rica has really suffered from the heavy rains.. hope all’s ok there in david.



    • Thank you Lisa 🙂 We are used to living many miles apart and there isn’t anything I could do there anyway. Here I can research what current info there is and send moral support so it’s probably better I’m not in the middle of it.

      She works for the county and told me tonight that she has been on conference calls all day working on cutting through red tape and helping people with temporary housing and other needs. She is a strong and capable woman and I’m excited to hear more.

      And here, yes, Costa Rica had flooding in the heavy rains. I think there were some flooded areas here too, and rivers went a bit crazy but I don’t think we had the problems they did. Nothing much happened in David that I know about, thankfully.


      • how well i remember when katrina hit the mississippi coast.. at that time, it was brutally slow to get any news via internet.. but nothing compared to seeing it on television – i burst out crying and never watched any more on the news.. just too heart wrenching….

        it’s good that your daughter is helping/making a difference… she surely looks forward to what she does each day, and that’s so important…


        • It’s hard seeing photos and videos but for me the worst is the stories from the people who barely escaped, or didn’t make it out.
          My daughter is a planner for the county and loves her job. She is known as the queen of canabis for her work in developing regulations and policy, and educating the public and people in the industry. Now though there are more pressing needs and I’m glad she is in a position to help.


  14. I’m glad your daughter is ok!


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