Glass Fire Updates “Not The Greatest” As Refugees Wait For News
The Glass Fire has burned more than 67,000 acres since it sparked almost two weeks ago near Northern California’s Wine Country. Many of Napa county’s evacuated residents are being asked to wait patiently while crews battle the blaze.
In addition to a return home, these refugees need news of home. Information that — for one family — almost came too late. While many of Napa’s refugees, like the Brown family are left waiting in a crowded hotel, that news is trickling in at an agonizing pace.
September 27, 2020–5AM
“My wife got up, and said the power is out something is going on” says Derrick Brown — a husband and father of two young children, who makes his living as an independent professional wrestler (see: D-Rogue). Derrick got up and walked outside, “and you can see…people panicking, and cars screeching down the road.”
“and you can see…people panicking, and cars screeching down the road.”
The Glass Fire had only been reported about an hour earlier, but the sky was already glowing red over their panicked neighbors, who rushed to save what they could of their possessions, and escape with their lives.
The Browns received no notifications during that first crucial hour, something they’ve dealt with before, “When PG&E turns the power off — we don’t have good reception at my house,” Derrick says, “So we use the internet to get…updates…or anything like that. So when the power went out, we didn’t get any of the updates…”
Those urgent text messages arrived just before dawn, as Derrick stepped outside — into cell range — to absorb the scene unfolding on his street. “…It’s still semi dark. And to see the sky lit up like that, like it’s daytime, it was nerve wracking.”
“…It’s still semi dark. And to see the sky lit up like that, like it’s daytime, it was nerve wracking.”
Derrick grabbed the family’s ‘go-bag’ which contains “medical stuff, birth certificates, important documents, some pictures” and headed down the mountain. Uncertain when, or even if, they’d see their home again.
The Browns made it safely to one of the Napa hotels, where several displaced families are staying with assistance from the local government. “The response of people leaving and being able to find somewhere to go. It’s been great. Napa has really been spot on with that kind of stuff,” but, “the information that we’re receiving about the fires, hasn’t been the greatest.”
The Glass Fire was, as of the last update Derrick received, less than two miles from their home, “My daughter’s preschool already burned down. Just hoping it doesn’t come any further.” That’s the last specific piece of information they have. Residents are not allowed to venture back and check on their homes or property, despite updates being few and far between. And, though the thought has crossed Derrick’s mind he decided, “It would be a waste of a 30 minute drive.”
While waiting for word on the condition of the family home in Angwin — the Browns are doing their best to navigate the added logistical and financial challenges this new situation presents. “Three times a day, at least, you’re going out and buying something to eat. And that sucks really bad. I’ve probably spent a thousand on food alone this week.”
“I’ve probably spent a thousand on food alone this week.”
“Luckily, we were smart enough to save and have the ‘just in case’ money that we’re using now. Thank God! But if it wasn’t for that, we’d be in serious trouble.”
BROWN FAMILY UPDATE
I spoke with Derrick this evening right before publishing this and he says the information flow didn’t improve during their nearly two-week stay in that hotel. But — the most important message of all came in yesterday morning, “We are cleared to return through Pope Valley. Deer Park is pretty much gone.”
The family is home now, and the house is, according to Derrick, “Still standing…besides the ashes and stuff no damage I can see.” But this experience with the Glass Fire is the closest has left the Browns shaken. After being evacuated twice in 2020 alone they now face a difficult choice — that so many residents affected by California’s record fire season are facing. “We’re thinking about moving,” Derrick said, “this isn’t the way I want to be all the time.”
Of course, not all families are as lucky as the Browns. The Glass Fire has consumed more-than 1,500 structures so far, with 66% containment as of this writing. It’s not over yet.
For more information on The Glass Fire — check with Cal Fire. This story was adapted from reporting for the podcast Unpacked by Christopher J. Beale, the podcast and companion article were edited by Adam Vargyas. Special Thanks to the Brown family for sharing their story.
Christopher J. Beale is an independent journalist and radio host/producer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can reach him on Twitter at @RealChrisJBeale, listen to his podcast Unpacked, and reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.