The Thomas Fire began about five miles from our home near Thomas Aquinas College near Santa Paula on the night of December 4, 2017, a date Upper Ojai will never forget.
In a bad twist of fate documented in my story in the Santa Barbara Independent a couple of weeks later, an electric transformer at the top of my street blew up about half an hour after the fire began near Santa Paula, setting off a shower of sparks that fell to the ground and immediately started a fire. The Koenigstein Road branch of the fire rapidly burned down my street and overwhelmed Upper Ojai, going on to destroy over 100 structures, including my office and a barn/studio. You can’t see the trees swaying and the winds rushing in that picture, nor feel the heat of that strangely dark night, lit solely by the light of a wildfire.
But this is what it more or less looked like that fateful night, a photo hastily snapped at the fire about a quarter mile or so behind the house, as I took one last look around before evacuating. Can you feel the menace?