The wildfire situation in northern California is slowly improving, but there’s still a lot of work to do. Video provided by Newsy Newslook
Rising winds fanned the California wildfires again Saturday, forcing hundreds more people to flee their homes in the state’s fabled wine country and testing the efforts of crews who have spent days trying to corral the flames behind firebreaks. (Oct. 14) AP
This drone video shows how wildfires have completely decimated parts of the Coffey Park neighborhood in Santa Rosa, California. USA TODAY
Two men who hiked for miles through Northern California wildfire territory in Santa Rosa expecting a grim discovery were met with a joyful one instead. (Oct. 14) AP
California crews continued to work various wildfires with a steady stream of helicopters on Sunday, hoping to come one step closer to containment of one of the most destructive group of wildfires in state history. (Oct. 15) AP
Many residents in Napa, California got the green light to return home on Sunday following a week of devastating wildfires – the worst in the state’s history – only to find rubble. (Oct. 16) AP
From the air, you can see parts of Sonoma County, California have been blackened by the wildfires there. Much of the state’s famed wine country share the same fate. USA TODAY
Firefighters by the thousands are converging on Northern California, using all their tools to keep wildfire hotspots in check, as the threat of higher winds and more fire danger looms into the weekend. (Oct. 13) AP
Newly released body camera footage shows a sheriff’s deputy braving flames to rescue a disabled woman and get people to flee from a lethal wildfire that was about to devour a Northern California community. (Oct. 13) AP
Search and rescue personnel were on site Friday at a mobile home park in Northern California, with the grim task of searching for residents who didn’t make it out. Meanwhile, crews reported their first progress toward containing the blazes. (Oct. 13) AP
California inmates fight fires for a buck an hour and love it Video provided by AFP Newslook
Melted cars. Mangled homes. Shocking drone footage shows communities of ashes created by California wildfires. USA TODAY
Fire officials say thousands of firefighters have poured into California in the last 24 hours and that more than 9,000 are now fighting several major blazes. (Oct. 13) AP
Firefighters gained some ground on a blaze burning in the heart of California’s wine country but face another tough day ahead with low humidity and high winds expected to return. (Oct. 13) AP
A couple survived the deadly California wildfire by spending six hours submerged in their neighbor’s pool. Time
In this drone video, you can see footage of the fire destruction of Santa Rosa in Northern California. (Oct. 12, 2017) Jay Calderon, USA TODAY Network
Some of the California’s most historic tourist sites, including Sonoma city and Calistoga in Napa Valley, were ghost towns on Thursday as firefighters tried to stop the advancing infernos that are becoming the deadliest in the state’s history. (Oct. 12) AP
Sonoma County Sheriff Robert Giordano says recovery teams, some with cadaver dogs, will start searching for bodies in some areas devastated by wildfires raging in California wine country. (Oct. 12) AP
Firefighters were on the front lines Thursday in Sonoma, California fighting to snuff out wildfire hot spots, as evacuating residents were leaving with the belongings they could carry and haul away, with fire danger still threatening the area. (Oct. 12) AP
Explore the elements of one of nature’s most destructive forces. USA TODAY
Drone images from fire-ravaged California Video provided by AFP Newslook
Jessica Tunis’ desperate search for her 69-year-old mother who had been missing since a massive wildfire burned through her mobile home park in California ended in heartache Wednesday. (Oct. 11) AP
Wildfires that raged across California wine country left little more than smoldering ashes and eye-stinging smoke in their wake. House after house is gone, with only brick chimneys and charred laundry machines to mark what were once homes. (Oct. 11) AP
California Gov. Jerry Brown warns that catastrophic wildfires will keep ripping through the state as the climate warms. (Oct. 11) AP
Drone video taken over part of Santa Rosa, California Tuesday shows residential areas scorched by the inferno that swept through the area late Sunday into Monday. Officials say wildfires destroyed as many as 2,000 homes and businesses. (Oct. 10) AP
A family member says an elderly couple that died in a Northern California fire was together since grade school. Mike Rippey said Tuesday his 100-year-old father and 98-year-old mother celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary last year. (Oct. 10) AP
President Donald Trump addressed the devastating California wildfires saying ‘we will be there for you in this time of terrible tragedy.’ He made the comments while welcoming the Stanley Cup winning Pittsburgh Penguins to the White House. (Oct. 10) AP
A Southern California wildfire remains active and residents are being told the evacuations won’t be lifted soon. (Oct. 10) AP
Residents of Kenwood, California are among those forced to flee for their lives ahead of fast moving wildfires Sunday night in Northern California. Some were returning Tuesday to inspect what was left of their homes. (Oct. 10) AP
The flames that raced across California wine country left little more than smoldering ashes and eye-stinging smoke in their wake. House after house was gone, with only charred debris to mark sites that were once family homes. (Oct. 10) AP
Napa residents that came back to find their homes saved, use fire from a swimming pool to put out any spot fires, so another raging wildfire doesn’t engulf them. (Oct. 10) AP
Visitors at California’s Disneyland are sharing shocking photos of the theme park under an ominous orange sky as deadly wildfires rage across the state. Time
As of Monday morning, two wildfires had burned more than 50,000 acres in Napa County. Video provided by Newsy Newslook
Two adjacent hotels burned in Santa Rosa, California as wildfires swept through the community. (Oct. 10) AP
As fast-moving wildfires spark evacuations and devastate communities, California residents shared these first-hand videos. USA TODAY
California’s fire chief says at least 1,500 homes and commercial buildings have been destroyed in wildfires ripping through Northern California. (Oct. 9) AP
Wildfires whipped by powerful winds swept through Northern California early Monday, sending residents on a headlong flight to safety through smoke and flames as homes and businesses burned in wine country. (Oct. 9) AP
Firefighters are battling several wind-whipped fires that forced evacuations of rural neighborhoods in Northern California. (Oct. 9) AP
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GLEN ELLEN, Calif. — Only remnants of the life the Ashton family spent 50 years building remained.
The home, a pile of warped glass and charred nails. Stephen Ashton’s studio, built with his bare hands, ashes. The vineyard Ashton and his wife planned to give to their children, a skeleton of what used to be glorious grape vines of old vine pinot noir and syrah.
The Ashton Vineyard built on the property they owned since 1968, a memory.
Their home was one of over 5,700 buildings that were destroyed by the merciless Northern California wildfires. The fires that sparked Oct. 8 continued to whip through neighborhoods, destroying everything in their path — including lives.
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On Sunday, Stephen and his two daughters visited home for the first time since the Nuns Fire raged through the area. Friends braced the family for what they had lost, but reality set in as Ashton and daughters Sarah and Tara walked up the winding driveway to what once was their home on Henno Road.
Nothing remained besides a chimney and warped remnants of the house that had hosted family gatherings and served as headquarters for Ashton’s yearly film festival — the same home where Ashton’s three daughters were born.
“I feel so much lighter!” Ashton bellowed, trying to make the crowd chuckle as he stood in the rubble of his studio. “Hallelujah!”
Broken bits of a past life were strewn across the landscape. Some pieces were recognizable — like an antique brass knob from a door in the studio or shards of melted glass that were once wine bottles carefully stored in a temperature-controlled room.
But, most pieces were just traces of what they used to be.
The family left Sunday after the fire jumped Highway 12 and the gusting winds showed no sign of breaking. They didn’t grab much — “Just the clothes on our backs and a few hard drives,” Ashton said, adding that the last thing he grabbed was his camera.
The hard drives he took only held a portion of his life’s work of filmmaking and photography — the rest burned to ashes. The 31 years of archives from Ashton’s Wine Country Film Festival — a yearly showcase of international and independent films — were gone. The films Ashton filmed and produced through his company Phoenix Productions were disintegrated.
“When I named Phoenix in 1970, I never thought I’d have to live up to the truth of that name,” he said.
As the flames started to rage towards the vineyard Monday morning, Ashton’s friend and heroic neighbor Robert Rex made the decision to stay behind and try to hose the home down in the hopes of saving it Monday morning, but, “It was too late,” he said.
Ashton’s next door neighbors were almost untouched by the fire’s harsh grasp.
“This is where my parents built their lives,” Tara said. “Their soul was here in a very, very creative way. …It’s not about the structures; it’s about what was created here.”
Ashton and his wife, Justine, bought the land in their early 20s even after “everybody said it was impractical,” he said.
“We decided to do it, and we did it damn well. We were just following a dream.”
The sustainable vineyard was hand-planted in 1970. Each vine was carefully tended to, their grapes harvested and fermented into rich, full-bodied wines. The family has a “few thousand cases” left of the syrah and pinot noir labels, which is “enough to get (them) through.”
“Pop, do you think the roots are still strong?” Tara asked hugging her dad as they stood on the driveway overlooking the charred black vineyard.
“We’ll have to see,” he said. “We’ll have to see.”
Ashton is already looking hopefully toward the future. Instead of focusing on the decades of mementos lost, he’s talking about rebuilding — about using the flames as a chance to rise above, just like a phoenix.
“We’re going to keep our wine business going,” he said sifting through the rubble. “We’re going to start again. We’ll rebuild the house. We’ll rebuild the studio — that’s for sure.
“Whatever we build will now be for the next generations. It’ll be nice — I promise you that.”
The fire didn’t show any forgiveness to the family’s belongings, passions and livelihood, but Ashton stayed positive. Even though everything was lost, their family — including Clementine the orange ranch cat found hiding in burned brush — were alive.
“Family is everything,” he said wrapping both daughters in his arms. “Especially when you have nothing else.”
To donate to the Ashton family click here.
Follow Sarah Litz on Twitter: @SarahMLitz
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