San Francisco, September 9, 2020: Sequestered in Smoke and Sadness
The American West, especially California, has been on fire. Three-and-half million acres burned in California during the first 10 days of September, the start of fire season. When a freak low-pressure system over the Rocky Mountains brought hurricane-force winds and September snow to Colorado, it also funneled choking smoke into the Bay Area at levels never before seen. There are few US cities that have been hit harder by the pandemic that San Francisco and it was hard enough to be restricted by Covid. With the smoke and bad air, there was no place to go. It was suffocating.
Several weeks later, I wanted to document some of the damage that occurred in the Santa Cruz Mountains, an eclectic area located about 40 miles south of San Francisco. If you live in California, images of devastation from the fires are all too common and too easy to dismiss--until you are onsite and talk with some of the people who lost everything they worked for their entire lives, literally in minutes. The "CZU" fire roared through the redwoods and rural landscape for days, leaving twisted wreckage that belied the area's bucolic old growth forests and rolling hills. Weeks after the embers were extinguished, there was a mix of tears and steely resolve. It wasn't a question of starting over, but how.