Owners of private lands within the burn areas for the Atlas, Nuns and Tubbs wildfires face a new task now that the fires are largely extinguished – helping their properties recover.
Fire-burnt trees near roads or house sites might be dead and pose safety hazards because they might fall. Plastic pipe culverts for road crossings over streams might be melted. Scorched vines might be either in good shape or seriously damaged.
Speakers at Wednesday’s Napa Valley Vineyard Technical Group meeting gave tips on how owners can deal with situations that will vary property-by-property.
“There are going to be days when you feel like you’re making it up as you go along,” said Greg Giusti, a UC Cooperative Extension emeritus. “You are. You haven’t done this before.”
Giusti talked about forest health and recovery strategies. The Atlas, Nuns and Tubbs fires burned 145,000 acres in three counties. A conservative estimate of 100 trees per acre yields an estimated 14.5 million trees potentially affected by fire, he said.
Trees can be killed by either flame or heat. Radiant heat is a problem for trees that were near burning structures, cars, tractors or other objects, he said. These trees may have been exposed to intense, localized heat for a long period.
A tree killed by radiant heat might still have green leaves or needles, Giusti said. He told how to chip at the bark to look at the cambium layer that should be white, with watery resin.
If this layer looks like maple syrup, it’s been cooked, he said. The color is brown.
“Ten years from now, there’s still going to be dead trees standing out there,” Giusti said. “Over 145,000 acres, not every tree is going to be addressed. Your landscape in Napa County will have fire scars out there for a long time.”
Phill Blake, who is retired from the United States Department of Agriculture, talked about erosion and about runoff in small, seasonal gullies in burned areas.
Post-wildfire storms can result in higher-than-average runoff, he said. For one thing, there might be fewer trees in the watershed to intercept rainfall.
“Keep in mind your average runoff, erosion potential, sedimentation, is going to be pretty intense,” he said.
He showed a photograph of steep, burned slope near a farm pond. The potential exists for ash to run into the pond during storms. He suggested diverting runoff from this bare slope around the pond.
“This ash material when it’s mobilized is very slick, gooey stuff and difficult to filter with your filtration systems, obviously,” Blake said.
A USDA brochure recommends installing sediment control measures on burned properties, such as straw wattles, mulch, plantings and sediment traps. It recommends consulting with a resource conservation district – locally there is the Napa County Resource Conservation District.
In other cases, the best solution might be to do nothing and let nature heal the soils and vegetation, especially in wildland areas, it said. Tampering might even delay recovery.
A storm forecast to start Thursday could drop an inch or more of rain on Napa County over several days, a Napa County press release said. Much of this rain is likely to soak into the ground and large debris flows are not expected. Small amounts of ash may get into local streams and reservoirs, but not enough to cause health concerns, it said.
Meanwhile, the county continues to work with local cities on erosion prevention steps near public reservoirs and public roads, the press release said.
Andrew McElrone of the USDA talked about assessing the health of singed or burned vineyards. Damage can range from none to so severe that vines require replanting.
“Depending on the degree of damage, the vines can fully recover,” McElrone said. “They’re pretty resilient.”
Adam Schumann didn’t join the U.S. Army because he wanted to be thanked. It was something he’d always wanted to do, it was in his family and, when 9/11 happened, he knew it was time.
He was only 20 years old then. Over the next few years, he would serve three tours in Iraq. After the first tour, he was still optimistic, he said, despite his trouble sleeping.
“I still felt pretty good,” he said. He was good at his job – he was going to make a career out of it. But by that third tour, Schumann, by then a staff sergeant, said that he felt worn down. There was no obvious enemy to fight yet more and more guys, his “brothers,” were dying.
Soldiers woke up each morning just to spend the day driving through a mine field, hoping not to be blown up, he said. “(You’re) basically just waiting to die … you don’t really feel like you’re in control.”
Schumann was like a “lucky horseshoe” to his brothers, though, so when he was flown home early on MedEvac, it was worse than just staying and fighting, he said. He had been thinking a lot about everything he was missing at home, but if, when he went home, something happened to one of the other soldiers, he would have felt responsible.
“I would say those years after I got back were worse than when I was in combat,” he said Thursday.
When Schumann returned home to his wife and two children, things were different. He was different.
“It was like every day, something was different,” and nothing felt right, he said. In addition to dealing with symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and transitioning back into civilian life, he still had to deal with normal, everyday stuff.
This period of Schumann’s life – when he returns home after that third tour – is portrayed in the new movie “Thank You for Your Service,” released in theaters last week. Although some things in the film have been fictionalized, Schumann calls the portrayal “accurate.”
In the movie, audiences see Schumann, played by actor Miles Teller, a war “hero” coming home to his family a broken man. He doesn’t talk to his wife, he imagines a gunman in the woods while out hunting, and he accidentally drops his infant son. He tries to stay strong for his family and for the other soldiers who have also come home – one struggling with his mental health while another is physically disabled – but struggles to get himself help.
Then, one day, he, just like the real life Adam Schumann, reaches out to The Pathway Home, the nonprofit program based in Yountville that helps veterans trying to recover from the psychological impacts of war. The movie doesn’t show exactly what The Pathway Home does for Schumann, but its importance is felt by the audience even if they don’t understand why.
Real-life Schumann didn’t make it into The Pathway Home until nearly four years after he returned home to Kansas. Although he sought other treatment, during that time he lost the life he had known.
It was “really shitty,” he said. “It f***ing sucked.”
“The first time I watched [the movie], it was very gut wrenching,” Schumann said. “But if it wasn’t hard to watch, they wouldn’t have done a very good job.”
For 35-year-old Army veteran Justin Moore, “Thank You for Your Service” was a lot to take in.
Moore, a Pathway Home graduate, watched the movie during a special screening at the Century Napa Valley last week along with others who are affiliated with or contribute to the local program based on the grounds of the Veterans Home of California in Yountville.
“As a combat veteran, I could definitely relate,” Moore said, noting that he was glad the movie was focused more on the effects of war on soldiers and less on combat. At times, he said, it was difficult to watch. He could feel himself tense up, his heart rate increase.
There were “a lot of white-knuckle moments for me,” he said.
Moore, who now lives in Modesto, served in the Army between 2000 and 2006. He didn’t get into The Pathway Home until 2010, almost a year before Schumann.
“It was … a transformative experience,” he said. But it wasn’t until he had hit rock bottom, handcuffed in the backseat of a police car, when he realized he needed the help.
“It took years to finally admit to myself there was something I needed to work on,” Moore said. He was spiraling out of control, he said. If he didn’t get help, he would end up dead or in jail.
“Everybody’s story is different but (there are) a lot of similarities,” he said.
Now a bearded full-time student and stay-at-home dad, Moore is still in recovery. But thanks to his encouraging wife and with the support of programs like Pathway, he said he can watch a movie like this without everything being a trigger.
The Pathway Home opened in 2008 as a live-in program aimed at helping combat veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, then had to deal with psychological wounds upon their return to civilian life. The program temporarily shut down in 2015 after treating nearly 450 veterans.
The nonprofit now serves veterans who are transitioning back into civilian life by taking classes at Napa Valley College. The program provides the veterans with housing, transportation to and from classes as well as counseling and other services.
“It gives them the tools that they can begin to get their lives together,” Kent Gardella, Vietnam veteran and Napa businessman.
“When you go through the things that these guys have gone through, life is not going to be normal without some type of treatment — you can’t just come back and suck it up,” Gardella said. “If we send young men to war, we ought to take care of them when they get back.”
Now divorced and with no promising career prospects, Schumann says he still isn’t “100 percent,” but his children keep him going.
“Everything is good and happy now,” he said, speaking of his kids.
Schumann said that he spends a lot of time fishing, hunting and looking for work.
He still misses the military every day, he said. “I’d still be in if I could.”
His plan was to attend Warrant Officer Candidate School and become a helicopter pilot. Now, he’d settle for a job.
Where he lives now doesn’t help with career prospects, he said, and neither does PTSD.
There are days where he is an “absolute mess” and can’t go to work, he said. And that’s something that most employers don’t want to deal with. On top of that, he said, “It’s embarrassing.”
The last month has been a whirlwind for Schumann as he embarked on weeks of press tours with Teller in order to promote the film. Now he’s getting back to his normal life, which on Thursday meant picking his children, ages 8 and 14, up from school.
They haven’t seen the movie, and, if it’s up to Schumann, they won’t.
Although the movie did comparatively poorly at the box office its first weekend, taking in roughly $3 million, it garnered positive reviews and inspired Napa vintner Warren Winiarski to pledge $100,000 in matching funds to support The Pathway Home. That’s on top of more than $350,000 he has donated to the nonprofit since 2010.
Schumann said that the movie based on a book of the same name to him acts as a benchmark.
“I can look back and see a measurement of success and how far I’ve come from that point 10 years ago,” he said.
For audiences watching the movie, Schumann says it will give people a “window” into what a lot of veterans go through. He hopes it will start a discussion about mental health and make people think more about the price of war.
As Napa readies a $1 million makeover of its Senior Activity Center, the city must decide where to move the numerous programs based there.
The Parks and Recreation Department on Wednesday laid out preliminary details about where more than 50 social, recreational and support programs may operate starting in March, when work is expected to start at the Senior Center.
Visitors may be directed to other city facilities like Las Flores Community Center in northwest Napa or the Pelusi Building near Kennedy Park – or even two small houses that share a lot with the seniors’ building.
Remodeling of the Senior Center, which opened in 1976, is scheduled to last six months and include overhauls of its kitchen, entrance area, multi-use rooms, lighting, floors and walls – the prelude to a future multimillion-dollar expansion.
Construction originally was set to begin in January, but has been pushed back two months due to the October wildfires and other reasons, Recreation Manager Katrina Gregory told the city’s Senior Advisory Commission.
Rather than try to keep the building open during the project, Gregory recommended a full shutdown to let the work proceed as quickly as possible and for less cost – about 20 percent less than if the center continued hosting its programs, she told commissioners.
“You’re paying for a delay, instead of fresh paint on the walls or a new kitchen,” said Gregory, predicting that any delays would allow more time for labor and material costs to continue their upward march.
Parks officials did not release a full list of temporary locations for city programs and groups that rent the Senior Center. However, 16 groups are expected to shift to Las Flores Community Center on Linda Vista Drive, while 11 others will use the Pelusi Building in the south of town. Twenty-two groups will be moved to a pair of houses in the 1800 block of Jefferson Street, both part of the Senior Center complex, officials said.
Interim locations likely will be based on each program’s size of membership and space demands, with some larger gatherings taking place in Las Flores’ gymnasium, Gregory said.
Three Senior Center renters are exploring alternative sites during next year’s renovation, the city reported: a country line dance class, AARP tax preparation service, and the weekday lunch service provided by Community Action Napa Valley, which requires a commercial-grade kitchen.
Approved by the City Council in October 2016, the Senior Center project is aimed at making the interior more usable while Napa pursues a more ambitious upgrade, forecast to cost about $6 million, that would increase its floor space from 11,700 to 19,985 square feet. The larger area would provide space for new amenities such as a library, fitness room and meeting space.
The controversy over the ouster of Justin-Siena High School’s principal has apparently cost the president of the private Catholic academy his job.
Robert Jordan on Thursday afternoon announced his resignation as head of the school in north Napa, 10 days after the sudden and largely unexplained departure of principal John Bordelon. Jordan’s resignation is effective Friday, according to school spokeswoman Eileen Mize.
The end of Jordan’s career at Justin-Siena is the culmination of a week and a half of tumult over Bordelon’s exit, which triggered opposition on campus and online and even led to threats by donors to pull students or withhold funds from the academy on Maher Street, according to parents’ emails.
“Leadership is now needed to create peace in our community,” he wrote in a resignation letter released just after 3:45 p.m. “It is clear that my presence will prevent some of you from allowing that peace to develop.”
Jordan, who earlier said Bordelon’s exit was not tied to any misconduct or lawsuit, on Thursday described the decision as “necessary but unpopular” and expressed regret that the move “had to be made in the wake of the recent fires.” But he also castigated those he said turned a disagreement over school policy into a personal attack on himself and his family.
“While I know the change in principal was heartbreaking to some, it is also heartbreaking to see many of our parents, students and even staff members turn into people we profess not to be because they don’t have access to facts,” said Jordan.
“… I know that some of you will see this as a bow-down to bullying and entitlement, for you have told me so yourselves. Please know that if the climate were different, and if the only needs I had to consider were that of myself and the school, I would stay and press on.”
Justin-Siena began announcing Bordelon’s immediate exit as principal Oct. 23, the first day of classes after the North Bay wildfires shut down the school for two weeks. That morning, the news began spreading widely among students, parents and faculty, and students began a series of campus marches and other demonstrations protesting what they called the ouster of a well-liked principal with little explanation.
Bordelon was hired by Justin-Siena in 2015 and was early in his third school year at the helm.
Meanwhile, school parents and other allies launched an online campaign demanding the academy bring back Bordelon as the principal and force out Jordan instead. One such petition on Change.org, aimed at Justin-Siena parents, received its first 100 signatures within 12 hours.
Instead, Justin-Siena announced the hiring of Brother Christopher Brady as principal, three days after Bordelon’s departure. Brady, a former principal at other Catholic high schools who taught at Justin-Siena in the early 1980s, will stay on at the Napa school, Mize announced.
The hiring did little to stop the campaign against Jordan, and the story gained wider exposure after a news report by a San Francisco television station. Earlier this week, the website bringbackbordelon.com announced that 41 faculty and staff members had signed a motion of no confidence in their president.
School officials said students will have the chance on Friday to “come together in community” during the day, and to discuss the recent unrest with their advisory groups. Further details about the day’s schedule were pending early Thursday evening.