– Fires

The Woolsey Fire

Voices from the Future | Greg Kochanowski

The Event: On November 8, 2018, a small fire started in the Santa Susana Mountains’ Woolsey Canyon, near Simi Valley California. But then the Santa Ana winds gusted, and the next day, the fire had crossed the Ventura Highway and was heading south toward Malibu. By the time it was done raging, the Woolsey Fire would burn 96,949 acres in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, along with 1,643 structures. Nearly 300,000 people were evacuated, and for two weeks, they were told not to return to their homes. If their homes remained.

Greg Kochanowski knew that wildfires posed a serious danger to his Los Angeles community. He had lived in the L.A. area for over two decades, worked as an architect and taught about landscape design sustainability. But did he believe that he would ever face them?

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Dark Clouds Over Paradise

Voices From the Future | Sandee Babcock

Dark Clouds Over Paradise

The Event: In November 2018, the Camp Fire erupted in Butte County, California. The deadliest fire in the state’s history began as a brush fire, fueled by hot and dry breezes in extremely dry weather conditions. Ultimately, 85 people lost their lives, and total of 18,804 structures — homes, barns, churches, schools and a hospital — were destroyed.

Wildfires are nothing new to the residents of the tightly knit community of Paradise, California. Nestled in the foothills and canyons of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the town has long been prone to small seasonal brush and forest fires.

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The Highway

Voices from the Future | Heikki Ketola

man watching fire

The Highway

The Event: On November 8, 2018, a small fire burned in the Santa Susana Mountains’ Woolsey Canyon, near Simi Valley California. But then the Santa Ana winds gusted, and the next day, the fire had crossed the Ventura Highway and was heading south toward Malibu. By the time it was done raging, the Woolsey Fire would burn 96,949 acres in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, along with 1,643 structures. Nearly 300,000 people were evacuated, and for two weeks, they were told not to return to their homes. If their homes remained.

In Heikki Ketola’s mind, the memory of that November morning is still very vivid. Around 5 a.m., the phone rang in his Malibu home, disturbing his sleep. He answered and heard his neighbor, a retired fireman, on the line.

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The Furious Fire

Voices from the Future | KerryAnn Laufer

The Furious Fire

The Event: The Kincade Fire sparked in late October 2019. It spread from a power plant area in northern Sonoma County, California, to homes and businesses in other parts of Sonoma, mainly to the towns of Windsor and Healdsburg, and to the northeast part of Santa Rosa. It burned 77,758 acres of land and destroyed 374 buildings. The fire prompted the largest mass evacuation — 200,000 people — in county history.

The alert to evacuate came around 10:30 a.m. KerryAnn Laufer didn’t have long. “I remember thinking, ‘Oh, I’ve got five and half hours,’” says the locally known textile and pottery artist. She made some tough choices: two suitcases; some documents; her two, 40-year-old Amazon parrots; and her 14-year-old cat. “I wish now, that I took some pictures, too.”

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The Survivalist

Voices from the Future | Peter Bigfoot Busnack

The Survivalist

The Event: On June 8, 2019, a wildfire erupted a few miles northwest of Superior, Arizona. It came to be known as the Woodbury fire, and it would consume nearly 113,000 acres of land in the Superstition Mountains before being extinguished. Fueled by tall grass, brush and chaparral, the Woodbury fire ranks as the sixth largest in the state’s history. The cause is unknown, but human origin is suspected.

A week after the fire erupted, Peter “Bigfoot” Busnack was visiting his son in North Carolina. Busnack’s partner telephoned him to say that the Woodbury fire was coming closer to their home in the Superstitions, where they run the Reevis Mountain School of Self Reliance. Authorities urged her to evacuate the area. Continue reading

The Rancher and the Wallow Fire

Voices from the Future | Wink Crigler

man watching fire

The Rancher and the Wallow Fire

The Event: On May 29, 2011, two men left a campfire unattended in the Bear Wallow Wilderness of Eastern Arizona. Driven by heavy winds, embers flew into the forest, igniting a blaze that eventually claimed 539,049 acres in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests of Arizona, as well as 15,407 acres in New Mexico’s Gila National Forest. Firefighters achieved 100 percent containment at 6 p.m. on July 8, 2011.

Wink Crigler wasn’t afraid when the Wallow Fire came within 200 feet of her back door. Continue reading

The Australian Bushfires

Voices from the Future | Carol Duncan

brushfire

The Australian Bushfires

The Event: Close to 200 bushfires ignited in Australia in early October 2019. They torched nearly 15 million acres of land and destroyed more than 2,000 homes in the Victoria and New South Wales provinces along the country’s eastern seaboard. A total of 24 people lost their lives, and an estimated one billion wild animals perished in the flames.

Carol Duncan wasn’t sure if her father would survive. She was in Newcastle, New South Wales, and her 83-year-old father, John Duncan, lived about six hours north, in the small village of Rappville. Continue reading