NAPA (KPIX) — The clear skies Sunday morning brought a literal breath of fresh air to the Bay Area but, in the North Bay where wildfires are still burning, it may be a case of good news/bad news.
On Sunday, Napa Valley got some of its famed beauty back. The air cleared and fires on the west side were mere wisps of smoke compared to a week ago. Sunday’s firefight continued in the rugged area east of Highway 29 at Robert Lewis Stevenson Park, where an evacuation warning became an order.
The heavy smoke layer was gone and a steady stream of military-style, aerial-attack helicopters took advantage of the improved visibility to make drops on the fire line.
Napa Co. Fire Chief Geoff Belyea says the smoke actually helped slow the fire during the past week.
“The smoke from not only this fire but the fires north of us essentially shaded this fire out so it didn’t get as warm, didn’t get quite as dry,” Belyea said. “So that did help us to experience a more moderate fire behavior than we did the first couple days.”
So now, with blue skies, the fire may actually become more active again.
“The visibility’s increased so that means the smoke layer isn’t laying down on the fire so anytime we get more visibility, that allows more airflow, the fire starts to burn more actively,” Belyea explained.
Some who have evacuated their homes say it was the smoky air, as much as the fire threat, that drove them away. Curtis Sosna left Angwin in a hurry but his home is still standing. He welcomes the sweeter-smelling air but not if it brings the fire back.
“It’s nice to see blue skies psychologically but I think it does invite more fire,” Sosna said. “I’m conflicted,” he added.
Vesna Sherman also fled Angwin and fears the huge fuel load in the forest near Stevenson Park could allow the fire to return to her town. That’s something she might not be able to handle again.
“It’s my neighborhood. I mean, people’s houses who I know have burned down and I drove past that,” she said. “I think if I was to buy a house at my age now, I would take into consideration the threat of fire and how that would affect my life potentially.”
Four major fires in five years have a caused lot of people to wonder if the beauty of the place they call home is worth the risk.