I inadvertently ended up featuring fire damage in this new photo series when the intention was actually nothing more than to check out a bit of nature, have a brief change of air plus sniff around Lake County. I had not been there before.
Burned Forests and Homes : http://philipchudy.com/galleries/clearlake_fires/#1 (36 images)
Clear Lake Environments : http://philipchudy.com/galleries/clearlake (22 images)
But as it turned out, almost everything I photographed was fire-related. The route via Calistoga was freshly burned on one side of the road for probably 40 miles. That was to be expected given the proximity to Santa Rosa after the recent mega firestorms. But even the landscapes I photographed which were well outside the recent fire zones were scared, with dead trees from serious fires in former years.
And then, though proper photo-journalism is not really my thing, it was hard to turn away from the mass of freshly burned domestic infrastructure and destroyed vehicles I came across.
It was a veritable war zone in visual terms and of course unspeakably tragic for those who owned them. I spoke to one person at the ruins of his place who escaped in shorts and t-shirt and now had nothing else materially from his former life. A woman up the hill, I was told had slept through the entire event, to find that all her neighbors and everything around her had burned to the ground. How lucky but also how surreal.
Compared to Santa Rosa, 158 homes destroyed by the Sulfur Fire in the area around Clear Lake is extremely modest. But fire and the theme of destruction, even on other levels were amplified and constant, for the 40 or so hours I was there.
Clear Lake town itself is well known for its many meth houses and addicts. ‘Violence in this natural paradise’ is standard fare even without bushfires. While I was there I heard gunshots while 2 people were killed and a policeman injured a few miles up the road.
‘Characters’ – meaning derelict or apparently broken people wearing weird quasi-hippy/gangster garb are ubiquitous but are found in concentration in certain areas. And everyone smokes tobacco including mothers with infants. I did not realize how used I have got to never seeing people smoking.
A couple of images feature the homes of people whose actual lives had ‘burned out’. Meaning that they were addicts and had lived in squalor without water, electricity and even garbage collection for years ending up dead or in prison.
As an out of towner I was told it was not wise to try to photograph anyone there without having achieved some kind of rapport. It is probably inadvisable, for the sake of a few snapshots try to achieve a rapport with meth addicts under any circumstances. So being green behind the ears and from predictable Marin, I coulda’ but I did not.