Round

We are coming up on the anniversary of this life changing event. Our home burned to ashes.

We have come a long way since the early days of deep shock and we no longer break into tears when someone says they’re sorry or utters a kind word. We are rebuilding.”

Part 3 In a Three Part Series

Part 2:  If Worse Comes to Worst

Part 1:  Swall

An excerpt from Book Five in “The Knowledge Path Series” dedicated to helping you find the place of your dreams in the Sierra Mountain resorts.

Round fire in Sierra Nevada destroyed 40 homes and structures and 250 residents from Small Meadows and Paradise were evacuated.

Worse did come to worst… 5 years later.

What Are We Going To Do?

For the vast majority of Swall Meadows residents in the winter of 2015.

Two lines in Wikipedia summed up the devastation succinctly.

On February 6, 2015, Swall Meadows and the neighboring community of Paradise were ravaged by the Round Fire, which burned 7,000 acres. 

Swall Meadows, California

The fire destroyed 40 homes: 39 homes in Swall Meadows and 1 home in Paradise.

Word got out.

Variations of the Associated Press account were picked up by the New York Daily News, US News & World Report, and the Los Angeles Times.

Ravaging Wildfire

Round fire in Sierra Nevada destroys 40 homes and structures, is 50% contained – Los Angeles Times

More than three dozen homes and buildings were destroyed Saturday by a wildfire in the Eastern Sierra that has forced the evacuations of two towns and burned more than 7,000 acres.

Cal Fire said the wildfire, dubbed the Round fire, was 50% contained as of late Saturday afternoon.

The blaze broke out just after 2 p.m. Friday, and was fueled by strong winds that had made containment difficult. 

But a strong storm system moving through the area Saturday brought rain that helped firefighters gain the upper hand, officials said.

An evacuation center has been established at the Crowley Lake Community Center in Mono County.

Devastating Aftermath

SWALL MEADOWS, Calif. — Associated Press

Ira Hanson milled around an evacuation center near tiny Swall Meadows on Sunday afternoon, not quite sure what to do after learning that the dream home he and his late wife had built 30 years earlier was damaged in a wildfire that consumed 40 homes and buildings.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Hanson, 79. 

“It’s like having a nightmare and you’re going to wake up any minute and it won’t be true.”

Fire crews increased containment of the wind-driven wildfire that ravaged communities along the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada, but they said Sunday that they still didn’t know when the roughly 250 residents evacuated from Swall Meadows and nearby Paradise would be able to return home.

It blew up when 50 to 75 mph winds whipped through wooded areas near the two communities for about three hours, turning the flames into a “freight train,” Brown said.

The relatively affluent community of Swall Meadows, which boasts sweeping views of the snow-covered Sierras and is home to retirees and outdoor enthusiasts, was hit hard by the blaze. 

Thirty-nine homes were destroyed there while one burned in the community of Paradise, Brown said.

A three-year drought across California has created extremely dry timber brush that fueled the flames and pushed them all the way up the Sierra slopes to the snow line around 8,000 feet, she said.

The cause of the fire was under investigation.

Meanwhile, officials running the evacuation center in Crowley Lake said they received an outpouring of support. 

Pizzas, fresh fruit and a birthday cake collected on a folding table, while a white board filled up with the names and phone numbers of people who had volunteered their homes for displaced humans and pets.

So many had opened their homes that nobody stayed in the shelter overnight.

“This is one of the most resilient communities you’re ever going to find,” said Mono County Administrator Jim Leddy. “They know how to take care of themselves and take care of their neighbors.”

Drought, Wind and Fire

SWALL MEADOWS, Calif. (AP) — US News & World Report

An incoming storm caused the winds to constantly shift direction, making it tough for firefighters to contain the blaze, she said.

“We had to take defensive positions to protect as many structures as we could while protecting ourselves,” Brown said. “We did what we could.”

She said Swall Meadows was hit hard by the blaze — 39 homes were destroyed there while one burned in the community of Paradise.

Firefighters gained the upper hand when rain moved in, and have contained 50 percent of the blaze.

Brown said even rain wasn’t enough to put out the fire because a three-year drought across California created extremely dry timber brush that fueled the flames.

Captivating Photos, Conflicting Emotions

“ROUND FIRE” RAVAGES EASTERN SIERRA HOMES – February 7, 2015

http://wildernessexposures.com/round-fire-ravages-eastern-sierra-homes/ 

A relief fund has been set up to help victims of the fire who lost everything, including their homes. 

If you would like to help please visit the gofundme page and make a donation: http://www.gofundme.com/roundfirerelief

Too Much Too Soon?

Thanks for your comment, Bill. 

Please know that it is not my intent to romanticize the event or as you say, congratulate the fire. 

Its true that I viewed the fire with the conflicted perspectives of an artist, journalist, former wild land fire-fighter, and personal friend to several of the families whose homes were both lost, and directly threatened. 

I am deeply saddened by the tremendous loss the fire has caused the members of this tight-night community of climbers, skiers, and fellow mountain lovers. 

It is not my intent to focus on the misfortune they have experienced, or exploit the “human wreckage” as you so sensitively wrote. 

I do apologize if any of my words have offended those who were actually affected by this tragedy.

Evacuation of Horses Through Wall of Flames

Carol says

February 13, 2015 at 8:51 am

I live in Swall Meadows. 

I had to walk my horse out of that fire down through Paridise (sic) to get out. 

This photographs are exactly what I walked past. 

We made it out around 2:00 am. 

We started at 2:00 pm. 

We are all ok. 

I saw many emergency trucks pass us along the way. 

The firefighters always rolled down a window to see if we needed anything. 

In hindsight, a bottle of water would have been nice. 

I wouldn’t wish my experience on anyone. 

And hope we can set a protocol, like they have in so many other parts of California to have an evacuation for horses and large animals in place when this happens again. 

Walk 10 miles in my shoes before you judge me.

Life Changing Anniversary, Hope and Resilience

Jennifer says

January 18, 2016 at 8:22 pm

We are coming up on the anniversary of this life changing event. 

Our home burned to ashes. 

We have come a long way since the early days of deep shock and we no longer break into tears when someone says they’re sorry or utters a kind word. 

We are rebuilding. 

Our community and especially the people at my church have encouraged us a great deal. 

We are affected every day by our loss, continually having to “let it go.” 

I think that we will feel much better when we again have a home of our own…looking forward with hope.

Each winter for five years as we chugged our way up Sherwin Grade, after the LA Times published the fiscal checkup article but, before the Round Fire, I’d squint to see if I could catch a glimpse of Swall Meadows.

In much the same way as we drove through Owens Valley past the signs to Cartego near the Crystal Geyser bottling plant, I’d keep my eyes peeled for any sign of Scott Palamar’s award-winning home and sustainable desert community.

U.S. Highway 395 in California’s Eastern Sierras

About a year before the Round Fire in the Malibu Mountains, he too lost everything and chose not to rebuild.

“All I managed to do was get the cat and clothes, and grab computers and important papers and that’s it,” Palamar said. 

One neighbor did stay for another hour, and watched as the vegetation around Palamar’s home caught fire. Palamar’s home, which he’s lived in for nine years, burnt to the ground, with nothing left standing practically, except a mailbox.

Each attempt to pick out Swall Meadows failed.

It’s especially difficult – nearly impossible climbing up US 395, because the downhill lanes block your view.

Sadly, it wasn’t until a week after the 2015 fire, on our way to our yearly ski and snow boarding trip to Mammoth.

We could see the blackened devastation covering the entire Mule Deer migration trail from mouth of the Round Valley canyon up into the narrowing canyon slopes.

Each resident faced gut wrenching choices.

Start over.

Fight or flight.

But, to where?

We introduced this section with a story about building a life on your own terms with Whitefish, Montana residents figuring it was time to move on because of their property tax burden.

We put together a “Birds-of-a-Feather” lifestyle list of possible communities across western states.

And we narrowed the choices to the Rocky Mountain states, specifically Colorado, before visiting and sizing up towns in the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

For our Swall Meadows family we honestly don’t know how the next chapter of their story unfolds.

But their lifestyle profile opens up their relocation options to the same communities we profiled.

We can speculate.

Meanwhile, officials running the evacuation center in Crowley Lake said they received an outpouring of support. 

Zip Code 93514

Swall Meadows falls within the broad Bishop zip code, unlike Tom’s Place, Rock Creek Lodge, McGee Creek and Crawley Lake which claim Mammoth Lake’s zip code.

If they planned to rebuild (hopefully their financial planner made certain their fire insurance coverage was current) and needed to find a temporary home in the area, they probably chose either Bishop or Mammoth Lakes.

In both places they will find neighbors who fit their lifestyle and share their values.

Mammoth School District employed the husband as a math teacher.

Choosing Mammoth would certainly cut their commuting expenses, while like their other neighbors, they rebuild.

But, first the “from” before the “to”.

Choosing Bishop.

Steps:

(33) When you move, will your established neighbors share your same values? Does your new home have potential over the long-term to develop into a high appreciation real estate investment while being affordable for mid-life or empty nesters? Do the weather patterns in winter or summer make you want to live there year round, or only on a seasonal basis. Does  your new community offer a variety of outdoor recreational opportunities?