But when the Loma Fire erupted on
For two days, fire crews from around the state held the western front, carving a line of defense along the ridge between
Far below, residents in
Meanwhile, atop the ridge that separates
By early Thursday morning, the massive coordinated effort, assisted by a favorable onshore wind, had almost beat back the fire completely from the ridge. As a result, a vast majority of the Cal Fire resources that had battled the blaze earlier in the week were redeployed to the still-active eastern front.
By midmorning, the western front of the fire was eerily quiet. The air was thick with smoke and a ragged line of scorched earth ran along the east side of the ridge, in places mere feet from intact structures. A herd of jittery deer hid in a stand of unburned brush, a stone's throw from the spot where 30-foot flames had burned the day before.
The only remaining trouble spot on the ridge was located below the 30000 block of
"Our mission today is to create a 300-foot buffer down the slope from the road," Wells said. "The wind has been in our favor, but we're expecting it to shift this evening."
A marijuana cultivator who asked to not be identified -- despite possessing a state seller's license and insurance documentation for his employees -- said he had three separate grows in the
"I stayed up here throughout the fire," the cultivator said Thursday. "Last night was the most intense. The fire was whistling and screaming like a jet engine. It sounded incredibly close. I'm fine with losing some of my crops if people's houses are saved."
A neighbor further up the ridge had hurriedly harvested his crop Monday night, deciding not to take any chances. All that remained of his grow Thursday was dozens of large black buckets filled with soil and severed stalks.
"We live up here for all sorts of reasons," the neighbor said as he waved to a
A mile down
An resident on the 30000 block of
"They dragged a dozer around the vineyard and saved it, our barn and our house. The three downhill acres and a cottage were crispy critters though," the man said, who identified himself as a 20-year veteran of the
Although the resident said
"This fire was something else -- cars exploded, windows shattered, metal melted; this flat sheet of glass in my cottage got so hot it rolled up like a newspaper," he said. "I didn't think that was even possible."
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