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LNU Complex Fire triggers memories of Tubbs Fire

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Fire engines at the Napa County Fairgrounds

A long arc of fire engines gathered at Cal Fire base camp Wednesday at the Napa County Fairgrounds in Calistoga. Firefighters are making progress in containing the Hennessey Fire.

These days there is a constant sound of humming coming from the Napa County Fairgrounds in Calistoga. The sound is like a beehive working together in harmony.

The noise is the sound of the Cal Fire base camp for the LNU Lightning Complex Fire that started mainly in Napa and Sonoma counties with reaches into Lake, Yolo and Solano counties.

The fires started the morning of Aug. 17, and I witnessed the fairgrounds turn into Firefighter City overnight with all the fixings in just a matter of hours. Trucks and trailers full of supplies were rolling into town at 2 a.m. Tuesday morning and by 7 a.m. that morning they were having their first meeting. The City of Calistoga’s population has temporarily grown in size by over 2,200 personnel that are working to fight this fire.

That Wednesday was the Calistoga School District’s first day of school. On our walk to pick up the school supplies for distance learning, we could see smoke plumes behind the mountains of Calistoga. A scary thought for sure. Checking the fire cameras and heat maps and with more fire trucks arriving, I knew it was time to pack our go bags just in case we needed to evacuate. As much as I was freaking out on the inside about the unknown, I calmly warned my kids to pack their go bags. I didn’t like doing it, or maybe it was denial, but was thankful to have time to pack clothes and the very little that means much to us, rather than the two minutes we had during the Tubbs fire and lost everything. The kids were scared, and wanted to pack everything. I don’t blame them; I didn’t want to lose everything again either.

Needless to say, I didn’t sleep much. Thursday brought its challenges. It was the first official day of distance learning and I didn’t know if we would have to evacuate. I saw the phone company hooking up a line for Cal Fire. If they were doing that, it must have meant they were in this for the long haul and a possible sign that we were safe.

Due to COVID-19, we can't donate food or supplies. So, I grabbed some chalk and wrote a “thank you” note to the first responders, service workers, and aerial firefighters. At times, I stand on the corner waving to the firefighters and watching the trucks go by.

Besides the constant sound of generators to power the trailers and tents, there is a consistent flow of people stopping at the fire information booth at the Tubbs Building to look at maps, media with their cameras filming for the news. CNN was here, Gov. Newsom was here. There is a consistent flow of fire trucks from California and other states, big rigs carrying dozers, water tenders filling up from the fire hydrants, and the various delivery trucks for food, diesel, and office supplies.

As much as I love them using the fairgrounds and seeing all the different types of trucks used to fight a fire, I want them to tame this beast and be able to return home safe to their families. I will miss them and hope we don’t have fires in the area, but I know if the call comes, the fairgrounds in Calistoga will be here to help serve and protect.

Michelle Hickman


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