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An entire neighborhood gone overnight?
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When I first heard about there being a fire raging through Wine Country, my initial thought was some high-end wineries were in danger of losing their harvest.
It’s kind of the same reaction that I had when I heard that a 6.0 earthquake rocked the Napa area in 2014, only to later find out that the damage was extensive – and even deadly – and racked up a repair bill of somewhere close to $1 billion.
It’s not that I’m callous, but living in the Northern San Joaquin Valley means that the areas that most Californians typically refer to as “wine country” is quite a bit out of the way. I’ve never spent a great deal of time in that area to forge a personal connection to the area or the people.
Save for a few weekends at Sonoma State University, a basketball tournament in Santa Rosa and a weekend spent in Healdsburg, my exposure to that area is quite limited and it makes news from that area seem like it’s taking place a world away.
Until I saw that picture.
Credited to the California Highway Patrol, the photo – which has been shared widely on the Internet and appeared on every news broadcast covering the myriad of fires that are currently decimating the area – showed what was a relatively nice-looking neighborhood reduced to smoking rubble after the fast-moving fire ripped through with seemingly little warning.
When all of the fires that are affecting the area are combined, a total of 31 people have died since the flames broke out late last week and hundreds are still missing.
That aerial view doesn’t look much different than the neighborhood that I live in, and I can’t really wrap my head around driving onto the street and seeing every single home completely gone – reduced to ashen ruins.
And the worst part? Because of nearly zero humidity and high winds, the fire crews that are battling in the area have yet to get a handle on the destructive blazes – calling in reinforcements from throughout the state, the West, and even overseas  in order to try and save more towns in danger of being eradicated.
When the raindrops were falling last winter and our reservoirs miraculously filled up in one storm season, I have to admit that I never thought about what that much water would do to the explosive grasses and underbrush that fuel these fast-moving fires once the October inferno season descended upon us. We had rain – we had been praying for rain – and all of our problems had been solved.
But when having a conversation with a firefighting friend – who may very well be on scene of one of those fires as I type this trying to save lives and homes – after that freak summer storm rolled through, he warned about what that water can do to the growth that has been largely absent for the last four or five years.
I didn’t take it seriously, and I absolutely should have.
I’ve seen what destructive fires can do to beautiful areas in Northern California, and the natural process of coming back from those flames can take years – if not longer.
So, my thoughts and prayers are with the people of Santa Rosa, Napa, Sonoma, Calistoga, Mendocino and the dozens of hamlets that dot the maps around them, as well as with the men who have grabbed their go bags and driven straight into the area that most people are trying to get away from.

Pigskin Prognosticators Pick Again
Some of us went out on a limb last week, and one of us picked the wrong limb.
While Chris Teicheira and I have been largely in-step with our picks, last week Eric Wohle and Mark Condit tried to take some chances and claim the top spot in what has been a neck-and-neck race to claim the throne this year.
Somehow Wohle ended up with the same finish as Teicheira and I – 4-2 – while Condit mirrored that with a 2-4 tally that only added insult to injury from the long, slow ride home from Oakdale in Tatanka after the Oakdale victory over Manteca Friday night.
That means that after three weeks, Teicheira and I remain tied for first place at 12-5, while Wohle slid into second place at 11-6. Condit, who was only a game off the lead last week, fell to 9-8.
But that’s okay – a lot of things can happen in the coming weeks, and the pressure is mounting to make moves. Let us not forget that bragging rights are on the line.
So, let us lay out what we think is going to happen.
uCampbell – I’m branching out on my own here this week (sorry Chris – I must walk alone) and picking Lathrop over East Union, Manteca over Kimball, Oakdale over Sierra, Modesto Christian over Ripon, the Raiders over the Chargers (I can’t bring myself to root for a Dean Spanos team despite my distaste for the Silver and Black) as well as the Redskins over the 49ers. Now, as one who subscribes to the group who believes the mascot needs to be changed, and as somebody who was born, raised and remains a fan of all things San Francisco, this should speak volumes. They’re terrible, and at this point – a No. 1 pick would be quite nice.
uTeicheira – Could the man who promised to wear a horse head if Manteca lost to Oakdale last week be the leader after the fourth week of Valley Oak League play? I’m sure he thought that wasn’t going to be brought up, and I’m willing to let that slide if the other gentlemen of the thread agree. Stay tuned – this could be an amazing picture. This week he’s of course going with his beloved Buffaloes, and striking out on his own by picking Ripon over Modesto Christian – “I’m riding the Red” is what he left me in a voice message. He is also taking Lathrop, Oakdale (he mumbled something about a defensive coordinator), his Raiders and the Redskins. Depending on what happens Friday night, he could be the leader come Monday morning. We shall see.
uWohle – The Lancer grad – who claimed sole possession of second place after last week – is putting all of his faith in his alma mater, and it could be the move he needs to inch into the top spot (both Chris and I are taking Lathrop). He’s also taking Oakdale, Ripon, Manteca, the Raiders and the Redskins (he said Washington and I just hope he’s not confused with his other alma mater, who destroyed my Bears last week.) If the Lancers can rally to victory, and Ripon gets past Modesto Christian, this could be the week that a Lancer claims the top spot.
uCondit – “Yoda” had a bad week last week, but he’s looking to rebound with picks that he submitted in all caps. Yes, this man means business. He’s taking East Union (probably the right play), Oakdale, Central, Modesto Christian and the opponents of both the 49ers and the Raiders. Making moves didn’t pay off last week, but he stands a chance at inching up this week, and nothing would make me happier than to get a boastful thread text after he finishes unblemished this week. I appreciate the swagger.
Until next week.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.