Wildfire in Clearlake, CA – A View from the “Rocky Fire”

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By Valerie Lemke
I’m in Clearlake, CA, and I’m staying a few miles from the perimeter of the “Rocky Fire”.

This wildfire broke out on Wednesday, July 29 and took off like a firestorm. So far, it has spread to cover a huge area of 60,000 acres from Lower Lake, up through eastern Clearlake and is heading north and east rapidly with an area that now includes 3 counties and many homes in its path. At this point, there is only 12% containment.

I’ve lived in California for my entire life, much of it has been rural. I’ve seen what wildfire can do, but I’ve never see anything like this before.

We are currently in the City of Clearlake, and haven’t needed to evacuate. We were under an advisory on and off for a while and had our belongings ready to go. That advisory has been lifted once again, and we hope it will stay that way. My thoughts are with all of those who have lost their homes, and those who have been or will be evacuated. I can’t possibly give enough thanks to all of the firefighters and responders who are out there battling this fire, as well as all of the PG&E linemen and crews who I know are on the front lines as well.

During the first day of the fire, and Thursday, the air was full of smoke and looked like a thick and eerie layer of fog. The smell was very strong, even inside of the house. On Friday, the smoke began to clear here at our location in south Clearlake near the lake. On Saturday, there was blue sky to the west, and black sky to the east. This morning, the sky is much lighter as the fire has moved north and east from this location but the smell of smoke is returning and the wind is picking up a bit.

The air response has been incredible. The air responders have been quite a sight as we have been watching the helicopters and airplanes go in and out of the smoke as they battle the blaze. Here in town, they fly low as they pick up water or circle around to enter again. I have to say the one of the most amazing sights is the big jet airliner tanker, a passenger jet body that is actually a fire fighting machine. It releases a huge load of retardant over the fire areas. It has been overhead throughout the day and evening, flying low enough to read the writing on the side. The skill and bravery of these pilots maneuvering all of these aircrafts through the smoke is nothing short of awesome, true to the word.

I took these dramatic photos yesterday and last night from Clearlake, Hidden Valley and Pope Valley. All of these locations are northeast of the Napa Valley, over a mountain range. There is one photo where one of the smoke clouds looks like a giant fist punching the other smoke cloud, this is exactly how it really looked, no editing needed.

For those who need information about the fire, the most accurate information is directly from CalFire. They provide all of the latest evacuation info and road closures. There are also several groups on Facebook with info.

CNN iReport vetted my photos for their use.  http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-1261933

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