Fountaingrove

Fire Restoration

The northern California fires of last October left us all feeling vulnerable. The devestation and loss of peoples’ lives, homes, livelihoods, and more is not even close to being put in the past. I’ve been going back out to some of the burned neighborhoods I sketched a few weeks or months ago to observe the physical changes.

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fountain pen and watercolor in 8 X 8″ hand.book trav.e.logue sketchbook

After the fire you could always find the “steps to nowhere”, only then they were covered with the considerable debris of people’s homes that had burned down. Now almost 90% of the lots have been cleared and scraped and are theoretically ready for rebuilding, though little construction has yet to get started. Here you see a cleared lot, no longer blackened. All around one sees the irrepressible greening of nature. So many of the burned trees are now blossoming or budding out!

fountaingroveburn1 Here’s another lot which perches on the edge of the canyon with a jaw-dropping view. The cement foundation of the upper story stands clear and ready while a giant tractor claw rests in the green grass rusting. One wonders if the holdup is the post-fire discovery of toxins in the water system that must be remedied before construction gets underway? The lay of the land looked eerily familiar to me.

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It was the same lot I had sketched (on gray paper) last December when part of the house was still standing! All the homes seen across the way had also disappeared!

Then last week I met Peter Phibbs, the sculptor who works at the Paradise Ridge winery that burned in the fire. I had the opportunity to see some of his creations made from burned wood and grapevines. My favorite was his “Wave”, an on site installation which took my breath away!

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It was late in the day with not much time to hear Peter’s fire story or do more than one sketch. On October 8 he was busy at work building a stage on the property when the fire came roaring toward him and he just escaped in time, leaving all his tools and car to the flames. Since then he’s “rescued” a treasured oak tree by turning it into a sculpture that will last for ages. And he was just in the process of loading up and delivering a large burnt wood sculpture to a family who lost their home in Coffey Park (made of wood reclaimed from their property!).

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While he was talking I snapped a picture and sketched this later. Here you see one of the phoenixes of the Tubbs Fire!

The much loved Paradise Ridge wines survived and the winery will be rebuilt. Visit their website to read their touching story. I hope to go back soon to capture more of this scene. The land is still laced with dramatic sculptures and llamas and more! And the vines are thriving.

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Doorways to openess

Fountaingrove is where neighborhoods of gorgeous homes sit in the hills above the city of Santa Rosa. They are the homes to many of our doctors and other professionals. It used to be that if you drove around you’d notice the homes and landscaping. The properties cleared out now by the Tubbs fire of two months ago, your eye is now drawn first with dismay to rubble from the fire and then to the lovely brick and masonry entranceways that lead the eye unobstructed to open views of the valley below.

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Or in this case to a house across the ravine that did not burn.

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On this cul de sac the workmen were busy doing the work of clearing debris. No shovels and wheelbarrows here! I have captured only a couple of the machines at work. “The Claw” does most of the heavy lifting. And there’s a fellow who sprays a stream of water to keep any particles from going airborne. The woman in the bright vest was seated for a while watching the action. I figured she was there to direct traffic or something. But suddenly she jumps up and starts barking loudly enough for two back hoe operators to cease their machines’ noisy rumbling and listen to her instructions.

She came over to check out my drawing and introduced herself as a QC operator. That stands for quality control, if you hadn’t guessed. So the construction guys have to pay attention to her. She explained that there are different companies working contracted to work together to get the job done quickly and safely. These were homes built after 1980 so they didn’t have to worry about asbestos control and the job was going more quickly. It was getting dark when I left and they worked on. I liked the idea of a pretty lady boss, so I put her in the sketch twice!