Tuesday, August 03, 2004

The Fire

On last Wednesday, I got two phone calls from neighbors. One said a small fire had started at Grouse Creek, probably nothing to worry about. Grouse Creek is three miles from my cabin in the midst of Forest Service land. He predicted the fire would go a direction away from our houses. The other neighbor was worried about all the smoke. She had just given birth to a boy and has a three year old daughter. I told her what I knew and didnt think there was any need to worry.

Later in the day:

Jennifer wrote:

So I am freaking out! We went to bed to
smoke, thought to call this
morning and no one was on the fire! They
didn't even know where it
was, but thought it was on Sims. Rick went
investigate and it is
near Richard's by the bridge on both sides
of the road. He went to
help the USFS, who sent only 3 guys to fight
it at about 9 this morning. Now the planes and helicopters are
overhead and I put sprinklers on all of the dry spots.
I hate summer!

The next morning I get this email:

Dear Marilyn,

I think that you have heard about the
intense forest fire that is moving through
grapevine/lower valley area. We stood by your
property till 6 pm and were asked to evacuate by the
CDF and the USFS. We took Samson and Bobo and got
your truck out. I returned back with Bill Huber at
8:45 to see and the fire had pretty much burned over
your place, but the houses were saved by the guys from
Calavaras county. Power out all over hyampom and talk
of evacuation. Phones work and I am at the Hubers
till the morrow. More later love liz and

Blows like this come in waves, washing over you and then receding into a sense of unreality, then wham, the wave of disaster knocks you over again. I call Liz and Bill and from the tremer in Bill's voice know it is bad. Yes it burnt through. No, he didn't know about the barn. They got my chain saw, they were in flip flops and shorts and had to drive through flames to get to there. House was ok, but fire close to the tool shed where all tools and important papers and my daughters' keepsakes are stored. Truck was driven out by old timer and sitting in his yard, in a "green area on the grass". The fire is still 7 miles from town. My neighbor and her babies leave for the coast. Her husband stays to help fight the fire, but finally bales, "whooses out" and leaves the next evening.

This is the first wave.

Jennifer wrote:

i don't know if our houses survived the
> > night...it
> > > > was coming down the hill behind the garden when
> > rick
> > > > left i am in arcata if you hear anything call me.
i don't have your number with me, i
> > hear one structure was lost as of last night
> > > >
> > > > ----- Original Message -----
> > > > From: marilyn renaker
> > > > Date: Thursday, July 29, 2004 4:42 am
> > > > Subject: Re: Fire at Grouse Cr.
> > > >
> > > > > Are yoou there? What happened? I'll try to
> > call
> > > > > later.
> > > > >
> > > > > MKR

> > > > ----- Original Message -----
> > > > From: marilyn renaker
> > > > Date: Thursday, July 29, 2004 4:42 am
> > > > Subject: Re: Fire at Grouse Cr.

> > > I don't know any thing other than they were trying
> > to
> > > evacuate Helmut and he wouldn't leave. I suspect
> > the
> > > barn is gone at my place. Manzanita lost
> > buildings
> > > and Mike Garrett place is gone

Your place was called very
> > > defensible so lets' hope and pray.
> > >
> > > Richard called this morning but he didn't know
> > > anything more except my place was there with all
> > > building intact by the road, the rest a charred
> > mess
> > >
> > > Call me when you
> > here
> > > anything and I will ditto.
> > >
> > > love,
> > >

My neice wrote:

I'm so sorry that this is happening. It is hard to be so far away when
things are going wrong. The only thing that I can remind you is that
youand your loved ones are safe. It sounds like you have friends who are
taking care of things for you, but what are you thinking? Are you
goingout? Connie says you are in Boston until the end of the year. I
hadn'theard that. I must say that I enjoy reading your blogs from grapevinecreek.

Connie wrote:

Marilyn, I'm so sorry. What will you do? Will you go back?

John Ann wrote:

My heart just skipped a few beats.  I had no idea.
>> Have you heard anything new?  When they say it
>> burned over your place what does that mean?  Does
>> that mean it burned everything but your house?  I'm
>> sick.  Let me know.
>> JA

I wrote:

The news is sketchy, because fire is now between
>myplace and town heading on through Jennifer and ricks
>and they  tried to evacuate Helmut but he refused,
>although they will force him to go if it gets nearer
>to his place--and it is on it's way upriver toward
>town.  Big fire camp now at mill site.  Milt went down
>and got my truck out--so that's one save.  I'm afraid
>the barn is gone--just restored it of course, but all
>news I get is that all building by house ok, but land
>totally charred.  Don't know if powerhouse  or tool
>shed survived.  
>Some buildings at manzanita burnt and Mike Garretts
>house is gone--he was terribly drunk and Neil said he
>got dui for rowdy behavior and driving.  Rk 's place
>is intact.  both sides of river   started at Grouse
>Creek  Rk says arson, but CDF says cause undetermined

Jennifer wrote:
> > talked to rick and our house is still there, but no
> > water as the pipe melted,it's a charred mess between
> > our places,still big trees, but snags and underbrush
> > still burning. they are using our driveway and road
> > to the river as a fire line, and i guess it hasn't
> > moved past there but the wind is picking up now.
> > tim and una are on their way here to escape the
> > smoke

Former neighbor wrote:

marilyn-I found out about the fire yesterday-a friend of aero's in
JCity is a fire fighter-needlesss to say we were both in tears. I heard right
away about your place and that Liz was caretaking-so i knew you were up to
date. I am so very sorry-though incredibly grateful your house is there! I
heard today thay "Ray Subdlands" cabin was gone-at least that is what Sue
Gilotti said-I calledd her last night late-she did not know yet-she lives in
colfax now. Lon was just on line and he put in Shasta Trinity national forest
and came up with a site. It said it was 40% contained-3,000 acres
burned-expected to be contaiined by aug 5!!! Will let you know if we
hear more-have not heard from Bryan-know he was evacuated last night. Crazy
time on this planet-it saddens me a lot-I still love hyampom so much-must be
hard for you! Take care----love to all kalia-----little mateo brings
much joy to me-sweet little guy-aero is a great mom!

The second bigger wave.

> My barn is definitely gone and tool shed there.
> Hopefully can get some digital pictures from someone
> before too long. Marni says new fire camp at
> greenleafs and 1000 guys on it.
> Hopefully John ann is coming up and will take pics and
> check on cats.
> love,
> Marilyn

Jennifer wrote:

I think we are going there tomorrow, it is Rick's birthday. we might
just come back here, but I really am going stir crazy and want to see my
home again. If so, I will take some photos and email them to you
tomorrow, if our system is still working. Don't have power though, so don't
know if there will be gas for the generator.

To all:

> The barn is burnt to the ground. The fire burnt down
> Mike Garrett's house and then came down and across my
> place, burning above and below the road to the river.
> It burnt the ridge between my house and Ricks; their
> house survived, and then turned up the mountain, more
> or less as far as I can gather. Although I just got
> news that it burned all around Bryan's place but his
> house survived which means itmust have gone through
> Helmuts also. Soooooo sad.
> Apparently my redwood tank survived and so getting
> water back to the house should be fairly easy. The
> area right around the house looks pretty good, they
> say, since the big trees will survive and only the
> brush burnt. the solar panels, the pelton wheel, the
> generator all seem ok and starband is going to ping my
> satillite to see if it is still functional. The
> garden is still green and the arch unharmed. Not
> nearly as bad as it could have been. Liz said it
> would probably be pretty again in the spring. Very
> nice of her to give me that hope.
> I had worried about the cats. The thought of them
> after I got the news was the first thing that brought
> tears to my eyes. Seems the firemen closed the window
> that they climb into the laundry room with and they
> came out from under the house to protest and demand
> food. The firemen fed them and they are still there
> ok, and their access window open.
> People keep asking me when I am coming and I need to
> say it is not that easy for everyone to turn their
> lives around and start working from home or find a new
> babysitter, so as soon as the smoke settles and I can
> think properly and have things in perspective, we will
> try to make plans.
> thank you all for your concern.
> love,
> Marilyn

Rosa wrote:

Dear Marilyn,

Yes, it is sooo sad. I'm in mourning, really. The flip side is that
cabin is still ok and you have a home to go home to....those
were pretty terrific...good kitties...where's the dog? Please let me
if you want me to do anything...
ANYTHING.... I Love you Dear Marilyn....kiss Anya for me, HI to
and Papajay...


My buddhist friend wrote:

Hey Marilyn,
i was happy to hear that your house and rick and jennifer's place survived.  there is just no escaping this uncertainty.

Date: Sat, 31 Jul 2004 12:47:57 -0700
From: "Marni Rapf"   Add to Address Book
Subject: Re: Hyampom FIre
To: "marilyn renaker"


I understand your frustration.
It would probably be a good idea to come for a visit, see for yourself
your place and the area looks and you could also see Dylan and Morgade.
Hopefully it won't look as bad as you fear and hopefully the fire
burned ata low intensity and will grow back soon. That's too bad you can't make
it out here before the end of August, but time goes by quickly.

Not as smoky here today, but still a haze that comes and goes. Nothing
new to report regarding the fire, but so far it is staying in the
containment lines, and things seem to returning back to normal. The power came back
on last night for those in town.
Next week we may go to the coast and drive down river after things
clear a bit to check out your place and others.
Tonight Universal Blues plays at Valleyview so that should be fun.
Bryan was supposed to play with them, so I am sure we will see him there.
Hope you are feeling better, drink some wine, enjoy the pleasures of
city while you are there.


Candice wrote:

Dearest Marilyn,
My heart is with you as you sit there so many miles away wondering what is going on here.
I KNOW that you are doing exactly what you need to do, and that you are so needed by Anya - I will not ask you when you are coming back.
Sharon called here a few minutes ago and she is the first person from whom we have had first hand news.  They let her go through to see your place.
The fire is now fully contained there.
As Sharon drove up she said that the sun was shining through onto your cabin, the beautiful garden and all the green lawns around.  She said that it looked like a glistening green emerald.  I am so sorry to have to tell you that everything else around that emerald is gone.
Lon is sending you his love and we are both here for you in any way.
All my love'

The third wave which begins to know me over.

Journal entry:

Tired not enough sleep, stress, Hyampom, my place burned, the barn gone, the trees scorched, the underbrush burnt to a crisp and what was green and lush is now charred and ash. And what happened to the birds, the Oriole, the Western Tanager, who live in the trees around my house, the insects gone the ash from their bodies landing on the roofs and the cars of the town, smaoke burning the throat, eyes, and ...

Marilyn wrote:

> Think, hope Sylvia is mistaken about Bryan's. Neil
> was down at Helmuts this afternoon and says there is
> no sign of fire below the road and that Helmut is fine
> and his place untouched.
> I have hit the wall and am slowly collapsing into bed.
> Night
> Marilyn

Bernard wrote:

Helmuth just called the fire got our drinking water and electrical
lines last night, also got around our water tank, they saved the house
built, I've been wanting to burn it for some time now, oh well, we are
leaving now to go to Hyampom. I will write from there if dish is

Fourth wave is a tsumani and hits the head and knocks the feet out fromunder me
The pictures arrive.

> Thanks for the pictures Jennifer. Feel sooooo sad
> today. whole mess trying to get Dick Arey to fix my
> waterline and RK and Wil being in the way of that and
> me being helpless from 3000 miles away. Then Dick
> said it was no use in his opinion to put in water line
> to pelton wheel as so much soil was going to wash away
> and trees falling on the line that it would be a waste
> of money and money better spent just running generator
> to keep batteries charged . Would like Rick's take on
> that. I could put in some more solar since shade is
> not such an issue now.


Rick is really upset about the whole way the fire was
handled, rumours of it being arson or that Barb and Sonny
started it with a campfire. I wonder how much water is in the creek,
that's why I feel ours is pointless at this time. Maybe it is soo dry
because they have been using it, Rick thinks all our creeks will dry
up since there are no trees above to shade it all. I just talked to
the fire fighters outside and told them to go pick food from the
garden. They come from Bakersfield. There are a lot of trucks here
and hand crews still on the job, but a lot of folks standing around
too. The city of folks at the mill site is crazy, complete with
t-shirts for sale. I can't help but feel gratitude to all of them, as
Rick bitches about how they fucked up and let it get out of control and
set up there city before they put folks on the fire. And Bear and Van
never got called as they hired folks from far away who do not know the
terrain or where houses are, etc. It is truly amazing your wood shed
did not go, it burned right up to it!

More panels sounds good to me at
this point, even contemplated joining the real grid, but know that
would cost a ton. rick said we should quit making payments on our new
piece, but I hope the creek will return. He also said I should apply
for a timber harvest plan. I'll ask Rick what he thinks about the
hydro. Maybe it should all just wait until you return, except for
getting the drinking water back up. Then you can see. I brought home
some poly pipe to try and get our creek back into our water that we use
for irrigation, but Rick says it is so burnt up. Check out the Times
Standard newspaper online, classic quote from Marion about how the
firefighters need to buy their cigarrettes. We are going back to
Arcata tomorrow, but will probably come back tomorrow to stay. Just
worry about little lungs and smoke. But think that Rick needs us here.
He has been dealing with this all alone and today is his birthday.

Neil wrote:

Hi Marilyn,

THe power is back on!

Must admit to a feeling of relief and even joy to see the laptop
battery recharge icon on and lights available at the flick of a

Water pressure has been reestablished and so battery op drip timers
will start going off in sequence at 6 am. Noted a couple of trees
looking stressed...they will get a drink soon.

I've noted fire related vehicles climbing up out of the valley
tonight. Good sign.

Tomorrow night Hippie Chuck and gang rock us at JC's. Can you fly out
for the weekend? :-)

Looking good here.

I'm driving in another load back to Helmut tomorrow early pm.
Anything you would like me to do at your place?

Love and surrender,


Marilyn Wrote to all:

Maybe you got the pix I sent regarding the fire which
swept through my place and on down stopping just
before Helmuts. They are posted on Jay's web site
www.jaybrewer.net As you know they saved my house and
tool shed, the little cabin I redid, but the barn
which I had just restored is gone as is, more
horribly, the woods all around me for several
miles--charred and ash. Friends have sent pix and a
movie and the loss hit home this weekend when I spent
Sunday in shock and sorrow, and awoke to heavy heavy
heart this morning. This a death. I have been there
36 years and all the woods around me I knew
intimately. I could live in a old log cabin with no
insulation and little convenience because I was
surrounded by such beauty.

Dick Arey came out and said it would be a waste of
money to put in pelton wheel water because when the
rains come the soil loss will be heavy as all cover is
gone and trees will be falling, ect. Richard and Wil
and Liz got my house water going, but the iron pipe
which has been there forever is flaking and has holes
from the heat of the fire and will have to be
replaced. But Liz has moved back out; I am glad for

Jennifer wrote:

Rick says the creeks are all dead and no point to put in hydro. He's
not going to do ours. He says it will be a winter time thing only for
us now. He is sooo down on it all. He says your creek really got
torched. Sorry to bring such bad news to you. he is really upset and
when I ask him about these things he is just so full of pessimism.

John Ann wrote:

Got your pictures. Oh my gawd....horrible except your place is like a
green lovely undisturbed island in the midst of charcoal and black.
let me see if I can get some time off to do the trip with you. Let me
know for sure when you will arrive and I'll make arrangements.
Sickening...but hopeful...your place looks good.

Marilyn wrote:

I appreciate you support of my grieving and your offer of help. Hopefully my calls will make an impression on him. I'm sure everyone is stressed and upset who lives beyond the fire line. I don't think, from talking to Dick yesterday, that he will get involved again.

Jennifer mentioned that Rick was mad and of course I have heard at least 3 stories casting blame for the fire on arsonists, from campers cigerattes, on PGE who was replacing poles, on disgruntled people feuding with neighbors and on the Forest Service for not getting on it soon enough. I was so glad to get the pictures and the video because it made it real for me. One of the insights I got about my life there is that I could live in that old cabin that most people would not tolerate because I had such beautiful surroundings and my anger flairs also in surprising ways. I got furious when Lon and Candice reported to me that Sharon, who has not been a friend to me for many years and refused to visit or have anything to do with me, drove out to see the damage at my place. It was so painful to hear that that I got enraged, but fortunately did not respond with my anger. I mention that because the pain comes in such unexpected and ignoble ways. And anger is part of the grieving process.

Milly wrote:

The anger..well, it seems perfectly reasonable, not surprising..and as for Sharon (of course you know I don't mean it but..) ALL GAWKERS SHOULD BE SHOT !!! It is a disappointment when those who have been our friends cease to be that and even worse, more painful when it seems they must view our plight from a distance...somehow seems disrespectful...
so..I'm drinking a gin and tonic for you tonight...reciepe follows and I think you will find it a usefull "tonic" about 6 or so ounces for tonic water, a FULL shot of gin ( I like BellRingers brand, nice label) and a splash of Rose Lime juice... great drink for evenings like this...
Your thoughts about your log house and the enviornment, surroundings, what makes it a home for you..I can certainly get that. Sitting on my porch (in my very comfortable house) and looking out at the yard etc. can;t quite imagine how less inviting it would be to sit on the porch and look at char... not to be dismal, but ..
anyway, all the view will eventually grow back, different and definately changed, time will tell, and maybe you'll need to be away for a while...ok, I'll stop...words are stupid sometimes...
thinking of you

----- Original Message -----
John wrote:

> This is how we spent our afternoon recovering from Saturday night
> JC's:
> About 3pm the thunder and lightening rolled in. Marni spotted a
> downstrike directly across from us above Maddox Lake. Within minutes
> could see flames. I called into town to get word to Jay that George
> and I were headed out to get on it. Marni then called the Forest
> George figured out the best way to get to it and we drove up the
> Rd, where we parked my truck. After walking in a straight line for
> mile and we came upon the fire which was then about 60' in diameter.
> were quickly able to get a perimeter around it. About an hour later
> Forest Service crew of about 20 folks showed up to relieve us. We
> happy to leave and even happier that it is out. An added plus is
that my
> hangover is gone. --- JR

Jennifer wrote:

Have not seen Bernard, but left a note in Helmut's mailbox that they
should come pick tomatoes. Your wise words are very comforting. I
gave Mark Arnold from USFS your number in Boston, he is contacting land
owners. The deer are returning to our meadow! Rick left to go fishing
in a much better mood, as if life may be returning to normal. I am
being called by Mikayla, so got to run. Seems to be no time when the
generator is on to do it all. I don't know if we should buy some more
panels or what. There is quite a crew here everyday and voices
surround us in the woods. Smoke isn't bad tonight and temps are going
down. Powerlines is another suspect for the start of the fire,
supposedly the investigators were going to be done at noon today. I'll
go visit Liz tomorrow and give her the starband news. I am so thankful
for you as my neighbor, you always ground me and keep me from falling
into the pessimistic hole. I hope you do return to our scorched homes.

Neil wrote:

...And this evening, from the east, arising out of nothing, comes a
large lazy thunderstorm. The light dims. Dark clouds return to cover
the sky again. But these clouds are not the hot black smoke of
vaporized dead that have hung over us for these past days.
These clouds are filled with water vapor.
They slowly follow a track down river.
And it is raining.

From up river around Butter Creek, clean through Hyampom, Grouse
Creek and beyond, cool wet air kisses the land.

And the roads change color. And the atmosphere is soft and still, and
fragrant. The popping of new rain drops on leaves, limbs, and gray
are tapping out the opening of the age old Return Song.

The temperature drops 10 degrees. Road dust lays down. The air,
crystal clean, displays the White Moon. The four nights of the Red
Moon are passing.

A miracle day of no wind on Wednesday and now on Sunday - RAIN?

With the rain the mothers are returning. The two, less than month
old, babies are being carried back to their mountain homes.

No rain puddles forming but the grass is damp, the trees are
dripping. Dropping from the sky, here comes the next generation of
fine forest floor.

And I think of the magical vine cathedral and of the great old mother
oak my friend took me out to see last fall. I can imagine chaotic
climbing gold flames becoming a climax circle wall of fire blazing to
a Gone With the Wind score, the vines combusting and lifting swirled,
tossed into the hot air...I land in gratitude, so very grateful to
have had such a memorable visit there. There, where there is likely
fine dust and black standing tree carcasses. And I imagine the oak,
500 years old, with the massive arched trunk, barely blinking an eye.
And I imagine the offerings placed at the base of that trunk,
offerings from this generation of humans living on the hill, received.

And we are moved. What seems so solid shown, in a frightening flash,
for its ephemeral fragility. And the small mountain voices heard
grieving at the losses are quiet music that will again pull green
from the ground.

Today, Aug. 2, we have 90% containment. Fire teams are being sent
home one after another. Hand shakes, back slaps, hugs, and we return
to our places. We repair water lines, return water cans, store the
generators, look again to our children, our elders, our gardens,
pets, the laundry, our work...

and we offer thanks.


Sylvia wrote:

Just wanted you to know how bad I feel about your fire and the loss of your barn. George was working there for the Hyampom fire dept. and said it was all green around your house, but the rest burned.
We had one at Maddox Lake, but John & George got it contained until the fire crews arrived.
What sadness fire can create.


>I am thinking of coming back Aug 22nd to 29th as Maya
>and Jay are in Martha's Vineyard then and I have free
>ticket and probably need to see first hand. I would
>love to drive up with JA if that could be arranged, if
>not, Rena said she will go in with me if I can fly to
>Redding. I certainly don't want to go in alone--I've
>learned something from therapy, and thank you,
>Katherine, for your offer of help. I am ok, but this
>is not the simple change of seasons, the flooding of
>the river, the slide going out. Something magnificent
>is gone.
>I had interview with one of the teachers at Cambridge
>Insight center. It helped. For one thing, he just
>said when he heard what the issue was, "Oh, my god!
>That's horrible!" This is my feeling and was a real
>response so that I didn't have to struggle to be
>understood. He agreed that there didn't have to be a
>positive side to this. The loss is real. It is a
>death which is made of many smaller deaths--the trees,
>the insects, the birds and small animals who couldn't
>get away, the life in the soil, of micro organisms
>whose names I don't know. He reminded me that
>mindfulness keeps the heart from contracting and was
>my protection against closing off, that I should keep
>doing what I was doing, letting the sorrow, the anger,
>the frustration come and focusing on it until it goes.
> And doing that over and over.
>He said maybe the universe was telling me to move to
>the east coast. I said in that case the universe was
>a very sloppy messenger burning 3000 acres and killing
>off millions of lives so that I move. That got a laugh.
Then he said that I probably didn't want to hear this
>but that his friends would tell him in a similar
>situation--I should reflect on uncertainty and also on
>gratitude for what I have.
>I have a lot to be thankful for. I did the
>reflection on uncertainty and impermanence and what
>came to me is that GONE doesn't go away--it is one
>permanent experience.
>Somehow that made me relax. I realized later
that is was the beginning of acceptance.
>Thank you for your love and concern.

The story is not over, but most everyone has returned to their normal lives, the fire a blip of excitement and source of gossip during the summer. For those of us beyond the fire line, our lives have changed in ways we cannot measure.


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