Wildfire: Before and After
I've been showing pictures and writing about the effects of wildfire damage in California for a while now. I photographed the area of Santa Rosa in February 2018 after it had been heavily hit by wildfires two months earlier.
Early on with this project, I realized I had something of a unique perspective for a non-local in that I had rented a cottage for about a month on a ridge in the hills above Santa Rosa in the winter of 2014.
So, yes, these have turned into a "before and after" project of one small area, what I photographed when living there and what it looks like now.
Let me preface that this was an exceptionally beautiful place, a small two BR cottage on a ridge with a valley to the east and a valley to the west. Often I'd wake up to something like this:
with early morning fog that would burn off by 8 am or so.
Looking west across the valley the cottage was situated right on the ridge:
with some really wonderful oak trees nearby. These were irresistible:
Let me see if I can paint this picture. Often after returning from long days photographing and long drives (I was heavily immersed in the Tafoni pictures on the coast and Skate Park pictures that winter) I would kick back on the deck with a beer and the camera next to me on a tripod and just click off a frame or two as the sun went down. This was a paradise.
I even had the owner's dog, Din, as a companion at the place that winter:
In late February, from the air, this same property looked like this:
with the owner's house on the left and where I stayed in the cottage on on the right.
From the ground:
What do those same oaks look like now?
Evidently when the fire came through wind was so fierce the flames often scorched the trees but didn't kill them. You can see that in this last photograph. The hill behind the tree is darkened and some trees are stripped of foliage but not all of them.
Let me leave you with this as a symbol of the destruction: the property owner's fully restored VW Beetle:
Owners and dog all are well. They rode out the fire that night in an apartment down the valley in town.