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Notes on a Firestorm

Stories from the aftermath of one of California's worst natural disasters. 

The Atlas fire spews smoke over the hills east of Napa on October 9.


245,000 acres burned. 90,000 displaced. 43 dead. The wildfires that ripped through the North Bay left deep scars on the Bay Area—the severity of which may not become totally clear for years. They exposed economic divisions and environmental conundrums long ignored. They also revealed a communal spirit so strong as to astound the most cynical among us. In the wake of the greatest local catastrophe since Loma Prieta, we take stock of what happened, and ask where we go from here.

Paradise Lost: How a Tiny Sonoma Winery Became a Symbol of Resilience
San Francisco's editor on the making of a photographic icon in Wine Country.
Jon Steinberg 

Myth and Meaning in Wine Country
The fires have permanently altered our illusory vision of the California good life.
Jon Bonné

Safe, but Stuck in Limbo
As Sonoma County burned, thousands of displaced residents banded together to comfort, grieve—and wait.
Ahalya Srikant and Kelsey Lannin

Guilt and Gratitude
Two weeks removed from the fires, a survivor grapples with his neighbors’ losses and his own good fortune.
Ian Devereux White

The Fire Birds
A last-ditch aviary evacuation—done on a wing and a prayer.
Laura Rena Murray

The Air Is Wine
What my family lost, and what we didn’t.
Susan Kinkead

A Time for Giving
After the fires, North Bay residents turned to crowdfunding—and their needs continue.
Beth Winegarner

Another Way? Not So Fast.
An urbanist lawmaker walks a political tightrope.
Scott Lucas

Phoenix of the Vine
Napa and Sonoma’s tragic harvest season could culminate in an amazing vintage after all.
W. Blake Gray

My Brother’s Keepers
How a little-known healthcare system sprang into action to save a family member’s life.
Frances Dinkelspiel

Ashes to Ashes
The horror felt familiar. So did what came after.
John Godfrey


Originally published in the December issue of San Francisco

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