NAPA COUNTY (KPIX 5) — The Glass Fire in Napa County is now almost fully contained, but for those returning to the ruins the wildfire left in its wake, it is far from over.
“This whole length there was the living room,” said resident Mary Ann Parrish as she surveys the remains of her home in the Deer Park Community above St. Helena. Her family were pioneers in the area and built the first homes there.
“Unreal,” she said, shaking her head. “I mean, it’s what we work for all of our life, you know? Everything, it’s gone.”
She and many others now face the heartbreaking task of clearing away all that’s left of the places they called home.
And that’s not an easy process, said Diane Dillon, Chair of Napa County’s Board of Supervisors. County officials are dealing with not only the Glass Fire, but the lightning sparked Hennessey Fire from two months ago.
“We’ve never had this situation exactly, with fires of this significance, back to back,” Dillon said.
There are far more rules for dealing with structure fire waste than there used to be. Phase One of cleaning up involves inspections by hazardous waste teams to identify possible toxins. That begins Wednesday and could last weeks or even months.
That is followed by Phase Two, where ash and debris is removed, either by government contractors or by private cleanup crews hired by homeowners.
“It’s a very government, at the state level regulated process, because it’s all about public health and the disposal of the ashen debris in a safe manner,” said Dillon.
That means Parrish is prohibited from taking anything from the site, even though as she looked closely at the ashy gray piles she could see objects that held special meaning.
She spotted a flying pig given to her by her sister and the bicycle her now 40-year-old daughter rode in the 3rd grade. She also saw a blackened round disc that used to be a silver pastry pan.
“That was my mom and dad’s 25th wedding anniversary gift. I had it for cakes,” she said. What looked like a pile of debris was actually far more to Parrish.
“Oh yes, it’s our treasures that are mixed in with the ashes,” she said.
1,000 structures burned in the Glass and Hennessey Fires more than in the three 2017 Napa fires combined. And as those who lost homes try to console each other, those who escaped this latest blaze still can’t rest easy.
The forecast for this week is for more red-flag weather, which means they’re not out of the woods yet.