Staggering Numbers and Hair-Raising Stories 

*4 million acres burned in California so far in 2020
*1.8 million acres was the previous record in 2018
*August Complex named first “gigafire” at over 1 million acres, largest recorded in California history
*66,840 acres burned now with 50% containment of the Glass Fire as of 10/6
*70,000 people evacuated in the Glass Fire alone
*300 homes destroyed in Napa County (350 more in Sonoma County)

As of this writing, 42% of Napa County, totaling 232,000 acres, has burned this year alone, first from the Hennessey Fire and Lake Berryessa, and now from the Glass Fire.

How did you learn of the fire? Were you told to evacuate?

First Person Story: On the Edge in Calistoga

“In Calistoga, we became aware of the Glass fire at 6 am Sunday, September 27, and packed our vehicles with our “go” items. At 10:30 am we drove to Silverado Trail North and Clover Flat Road where we could see smoke pouring out of the trees on the ridge above Lommel Road. I compared my perspective of the smoke plumes and the glow from the Glass Fire and the Shady Fire with Nixle alerts and data from four websites: Calfire,,, and Except for a short nap Sunday afternoon, I watched the progression of the fire until 4:15 am Monday when flaming trees began exploding on the hill at the intersection of Silverado Trail North and Dunaweal Lane, one mile from our house. My 95-year-old mother and I drove away at 5 am without a mandatory evacuation order having been issued.”

— Charlotte Williams, City of Calistoga resident 

This is one person’s story. Many of us were confused about where the fire was and what areas were under evacuation orders. Nixle alerts, when they came, came fast and furious, with confusing descriptions of road boundaries of the evacuation areas, without maps. 

Did you lose cell phone service? Did you hear sirens?

Here are some suggested strategies we’ve heard from those impacted:

*Learn to use Facebook Messenger as a back up on your mobile phone. It can be faster and more reliable for transmitting information.

*Learn to text and stay in touch with family, friends and neighbors 

*Follow Sarah Stierch, citizen journalist, on Twitter & Facebook – she condenses and presents accurate, well-curated fire data twice daily if not more often.

*Sign up for Nixle if you have not already. Follow Napa, Sonoma, Solano and Lake counties for more comprehensive coverage of what’s happening. 

*Napa County’s (unlike Sonoma’s) Nixle messages don’t include a jpeg (picture) of the fire areas, a map link to include the boundaries of the mandatory and warning evacuation areas, a heat sensor map link and the fire line. They should. 

*Keep devices charged, and purchase a small mobile battery/charging device. 

At a time when experts now predict every acre of California will burn* if this keeps up, we all need to be prepared. Clear, direct, well-timed notification is critical to saving lives.
(*California State Fire Chief Thom Porter)

First Person Story: “System Confusion”
“Several of my friends in and near the City of Napa with landline phones received a jolting recorded call that warned of the impending “Red Flag Alert”, yet it was vague as to what action taken was to be taken. It was followed by two additional confusing alerts both backing away from the announcement and reiterating it. I subscribe to Nixle texts on my mobile phone and received similar warnings, but no phone call to my landline. I called the Napa County OES for clarification and to learn how to “opt-in” also for these landline calls, adding an extra level of information should my mobile misfunction. The office did not know how I could do this, or who issued the alerts. After being on hold for close to 10 minutes, I was then told to sign up for Nixle, which I had explained that I have. This is unacceptable. Staff should know exactly how to direct residents to opt-in or out of notifications, what alert options are available to both mobile and landline users, and be ready to help callers be well equipped. In addition, where is the planning and communication protocol for issuing well written, timely, and clear alerts?” 
– Deborah Walton, Coombsville area Napa resident

What is your story?
Please share your experiences with us, the good and the bad. Send to

And, send them to your county supervisor. It is critical to share what worked and what did not in order to improve the communication systems and to not fall prey to the problems that were experienced in 2017.