Drought and Fire in California

I know that this is my second post, and this site is supposed to showcase my photography. However, there are times when other things become more important. The western states are on fire. So far at least six firefighters in two states have lost their lives fighting these fires. And while the news agencies do an excellent job reporting from the fire lines, rarely do they venture further away to show that the area for many miles around is affected.

2015 is the fourth year of drought here in California. Fire season has been especially bad. The big 3 so far this fire season are the Wragg Fire, the Jerusalem Fire and the Rocky Fire. All 3 were in the same general vicinity. The Rocky Fire was the biggest burning through more than 69, 400 acres and stretched across Lake, Yolo and Colusa counties. The Jerusalem Fire has burned through 25,146 acres through Lake and Napa Counties and is 78% contained as of August 15, 2015. The Wragg Fire burned 8,051 acres through Napa and Solano County.

The Wragg Fire was 23 miles away from my home. That did not spare the people in my area from the effects of the fire. These photos were taken at my home on the first day of the Wragg Fire. I have lived in the area for over 15 years and never seen the smoke this bad.

Wragg Fire 1This was the scene that greeted me outside my office window. Talk about an apocalyptic scene.

Wragg Fire 2This is all we saw of the sun. Looked like a nuclear winter outside.

Wragg Fire 4And it didn’t get any better as time went on.

Wragg Fire 5The smoke spread all over the valley. This is looking east as it spread to Sacramento and as far north as Yuba City
Not long after this picture was taken, the owner of the trailer hooked up and took off. We were left to wonder if he knew something we didn’t.  Turns out he had returned from a camping trip and was going to a dump station to clean the trailer.

Made a trip to the town of Truckee near the Donner Pass and Lake Tahoe in the Sierras to see what effect the drought was having in that region. Normally, the Truckee River is flowing fast down the eastern slope of the Sierras to Reno and then on Pyramid Lake in the Great Basin. That was not the case on this trip. The Truckee River was a trickle. Lake Tahoe has gone down to levels not seen in decades.

Truckee Drought 2Lake Tahoe has receded from the natural shoreline. In a normal year the concentric ring artwork would be underwater.

Truckee Drought 7This is the same area in a normal year when the water comes up to the beach.

Truckee Drought 6This part of the Truckee River usually has rafters, tubers and kayakers competing for space on the river. Now the river is so shallow, no one competes for room.

Truckee Drought 4It is hard to believe that the river is this low. It is now a creek, and a tiny one at that.

It is still 3 months away from the start of the rainy season here. Those who prognosticate about the weather are saying that a “once in a generation” El Niño event will hit the west coast. News agencies are reporting this constantly which causes me to fear even more. Am I afraid that there will be record rain to break the drought and finally douse the fires? No. Given the press’ track record, I fear we may be headed into another year of drought and not record rain. I pray that I’m wrong. Either way, we still have at least three more months of fire season. And let’s all say a little prayer for the firefighters.

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