The Sonoma Fire Aftermath
In October last year, fires raged through bucolic Sonoma County for 22 days.
Along with thousands of others, I was evacuated from my home during a
firestorm that ultimately killed 43 people, destroyed 4,658 homes, scorched
36,807 acres, and will cost more than $1 billion.
Over the past five months, I have been taking photographs, meeting people
as they sorted through the rubble that once was their home. The vacant eyes, the
leveled neighborhoods, the stench of smoke — this truth is my impetus to
document the shattered lives, wasted resources, and ultimately global climate
The lucky were awaken in the small hours of the morning by sharp knocks on
the door. Most left in their pajamas with only a car key. On one of my photo
visits, I met Carol standing near a pile of ashes that had been the house where
she was raised. Her family, four generations, had been planning to spend the
holidays there, raise a Christmas tree, and celebrate. She asked whether I
would photograph them together. These are the sorts of stories my
Without reason or fairness, homes were ravaged, often with one house along
an entire block spared. Throughout the burned-out neighborhoods, I
discovered small archeological finds: a thimble, a broken figurine, a wedding
ring —the remains of a person’s life. I am interested in the way survivors
make sense of the calamity, how they put their lives back together.
Spring has come too early this year. Something is changing on a profound
level, and I am frightened. Animals have lost their habitats. Bird migration is
out of tune. So many have been displaced. It will take courage to rise.