Fires Have Turned the Entire North State into a Smoking Section

I decided to go smoke-hunting and look for key vantage points to take photos.  I had no plans, or even thoughts, of going to Weaverville, yet I ended up there.

At the time of the posting, the Helena Fire had grown to 7,440 acres and mandatory evacuations were issued for Helena and Junction City.  My smoke-hunting journey started on Hilltop Drive in Redding.  Smoke makes the photos look blurry, and not so colorful.  They’re kind of blah looking photos, yet interesting.

This is looking south toward Anderson over Highway 44.

This view is from the Hilltop Drive overpass looking south onto Interstate 5.  Not so pretty. Everyone spending time outside today was a smoker.

Here I’m standing on the Sundial Bridge looking upstream.

And this is looking downstream from the Sundial Bridge. Things are a little clearer looking east, but that’s just because the 4 p.m. sun was behind me. On a clear day you can see Lassen Peak.

I decided that the parking garage at Mercy Medical Center would be a good, strategic point to see north, east and south. We’re not even close to seeing Mt. Shasta today. On the right you can barely see the Sundial Bridge.

From Mercy Medical Center you can see Redding City Hall in the photos’s center. The new police station is to its left. And above that you can see Shasta Regional Medical Center across Cypress Avenue from City Hall.

In this photo you can see the Cypress Bridge in the center to left of photo. Isn’t our city lovely? We can’t complain, however, in lieu of what’s happening in Texas following Hurricane Harvey.

From atop the Mercy Medical Center parking garage I’m looking southeast. Still no sign of Lassen Peak.

I had no intentions of driving to Weaverville, but I decided to drive to Whiskeytown Lake. Before I knew it I was driving onward to Weaverville. And the smoke got heavier.

Weaverville’s smoke-filled streets.

As I left Weaverville, the smoke seemed to be getting thicker. So I pulled over in the Tops Super Foods Shopping Center by Burger King for another photo.

I saw a guy sitting on the lawn with a dog. I asked him if he had been evacuated. He said he had. Max Hopkins had just moved to Junction City from San Diego only one week ago and was staying with his friend who’s pacing in the parking talking lot on his cell phone. His friend suddenly saw a huge cloud of smoke and knew they had to get out of there right away. On the phone, Max’s friend is talking with someone about what he’d done with his animals. Max was shocked to find himself currently homeless with his friend and his friend’s dog Herbie.

On the way back to Redding it seemed to be even more smoky.

I decided to stop at Whiskeytown Lake, which was my initial destination, and take a couple photos. At that time, however, the sun was setting.

Deepest condolences to those who’ve lost their homes in the fire, and those who’ve been evacuated, and whose homes and lives have been threatened. Thank you, firefighters and volunteers.

Stay safe, everyone.

Steve DuBois
For many years Steve DuBois has enjoyed taking photos of his dogs in interesting and unusual places. He created a photo book of his dogs especially for the children at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, where he donated several copies. He loves that the kids enjoy seeing his dogs photographed in unusual ways. Steve says his dogs have been his photographic inspiration and motivation, but sometimes he tries his hand at nature shots, such as the photos he captured of the north state’s 2017 flooding, published here on A News Steve DuBois lives in Redding.
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40 Responses

  1. cheyenne says:

    Fires have turned the entire west into a smoking room. Your pictures could have been taken here in the Rockies as I can’t even see the 14ers because of the smoke. I fear this may be the new normal. We have had a wet year and storms are supposed to be coming later this week which should help clear the air but the smoke just blows in from faraway fires.

  2. Beverly Stafford says:

    I talked to my brother-in-law in Cody yesterday, and he agreed with what you’ve said. He said that the weather prediction for today was 70° and 40-MPH winds which are uncomfortable but which should help a bit with the smoke. Mt. Shasta and Lassen Peak are just memories here in Eastern County. But at least we aren’t in Texas.

  3. Richard Christoph says:

    Thanks for the photos, Steve. Back in February we booked a pet-friendly rental home on the ocean in Gold Beach, Oregon, and leave in the morning for an 8-day vacation with our 2 dachshunds. There is no good alternative route to Gold Beach so if 299 remains open periodically, we’ll be driving by Helena tomorrow. The destruction and loss the residents of that beautiful area have sustained is truly horrible.

    • Ann says:

      You could drive up to grants pass and take 199 over to the coast. That is the route we take when 299 has issues like the landslide and now the fires. For a unique restaurant experience, try Anna’s by the sea in Gold Beach. We love the area so we visit frequently.

      • Richard Christoph says:

        Ann, thanks for the recommendation for Anna’s which I see gets great reviews on both Yelp and TripAdvisor. You are right about 199 which is also a nice drive, but much less direct. Since we have an Xterra Off Road, we’d also considered the Rogue route from Grant’s Pass/Galice to Gold Beach but suspect that there may be fires at the west end. So we’ll try 299 if still open and 199 if not.

        • Sue Malone says:

          IF you do that, and take 199, you still will need to drive north on 101 from the state line to Gold Beach. ODOT suggests that you continue north on I-5 to Roseburg and go west from there and then south on 101. They don’t want travelers on the stretch of 101 between Brookings and Gold Beach

    • Steve Steve says:

      You’re welcome, Richard. I hope you get through Junction City and Helena without any problems. Enjoy your trip. Sounds like fun!

  4. AJ says:

    My thoughts are always with those whose lives are floating around in the air. So many hopes and dreams and very existences simply changed from a solid to a gas in an instant. It’s difficult to comprehend that two of the necessities of life (fire and water) can turn on us in the proverbial blink of an eye.

    Judging from ancient writings such as the Bible, Greek mythology and fables and legends…it has ever been thus.

  5. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    I spent the last couple of days in Sacramento—I had to return last night for work reasons. I started wishing I could have stayed put when we hit Red Bluff.

    Going outside for some exercise right now is pure masochism. I was supposed to play tennis today, but maybe I’ll just watch the U.S. Open on TV instead. The lawn needs mowing, but maybe it can wait. I’ll probably even avoid walking the 0.25-mile round trip to fetch the newspaper—just pick it up when I have to run an errand.

    I heard a couple days ago 100 structures had been lost thus far. The picture I saw of one of the burnt structures was a greenhouse. I wonder how many of the 100 structures are trailers, sheds, and greenhouses?

      • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

        Right, but since trailers are homes and greenhouses are outbuildings, those data don’t exactly put my questions to bed.

        I satisfied my curiosity by looking up the fire polygon on CalFire’s incident map and then taking a look at the burn area on Google Earth. Just as I suspected—the area is pock-marked with grows. It was an educated guess, because I spend a fair amount of time trip-planning to send biologists and archaeologists into parts of Trinity County. I’m always blown away by the density of grow sites.

        I’m not passing judgment on those who have lost their property and their growing season’s worth of hard work—I’m sorry for their losses. That said, I do suspect some idiot among them is responsible for starting the fire.

    • Steve Steve says:

      And there’s been more loses since you last heard. 72 homes and 61 outbuildings. 4 other homes and 4 other outbuildings are damaged. The fire is only 14% contained. So there could be more. I feel so bad for everyone and anyone suffering loss. I hope the fire and destruction is over soon.

  6. Cathy says:

    My husband and I drove back to Redding a few days ago from Seattle and much of Oregon looks the same due to fires. When we look at the terrible fires in southern California, it seems as if the whole west coast is going up in smoke. Thank you for taking time to photograph the extent of the smoke and putting a face to some of the displaced people caught up in this.

  7. Gary Tull says:

    Unfortunately, at the same time, it’s been “crazy hot” here, as my childhood friend Steve in Auburn says. Twelve degrees hotter than Chico today, KRCR reported. I was kind of amazed this morning to hear our air conditioning system kick on at 6:30 AM this morning. A first. It was 92. No outdoor grilling or bike riding for us this Labor Day weekend. We have seen only a handful of days under 100 since early June. Yikes! It’s time to seriously re-evaluate the quality of this living location, I’m sorry to say.

  8. Carrie Dokter says:

    Some really good pictures. Thank you!

  9. Cheryl McMillan says:

    Thank you, Steve, for sadly amazing pictures! The West Coast is suffering right now but we will recover.

  10. R.V. Scheide Jr. says:

    Thanks for making the trip so the rest of us didn’t have to. Amazing photos.

  11. Frank Treadway says:

    Steve, incredible photos of what is continuing to happen with our climate change, something not hard to believe in, except for some folks apparently. BTW, I’ve been on the phone with Trinity County Supervisor Judy Morris-Weaverville, and she tells me that one of the most needed items for those burned out is gas cards. If you’re so inclined, consider sending a gas card to: Supervisor Judy Morris, PO Box 1613 WeavervilleCA 96093. She’ll get them to the right persons.

  12. Steve Steve says:

    Thanks, Frank. Gas cards is a great idea. Never thought about it. I’ll do what I can to help. I hope lots of other people see your comment and act.

  13. kay ekwall says:

    thanks Steve, have been taking pictures in our area also in southern oregon, can’t even see the mountains around us, ash falling, evac level 1 for us and higher closer to the coast on the Chetco fire. I had taken pictures and posted in past few years on one of my websites but this is the worst….prayers and rain needed and help for all the overstretched personel, as they must be exhausted, and in such dangerous conditions. When I was a child in mt shasta, all able bodied men had to go out and fight the fires….I remember my dad who was a banker, in his dirty overalls, smokey and so tired, coming home to get some food and rest to fight a fire there, and then go out again. That was standard practice then, everyone who was able was expected to help. Our sun has been so vibrant red but the camera won’t catch that for me, the moon has been orange. Prayers for all those in the fires and floods!…Here on my website are some shots from the Buckskin fire which was right behind us in 2015, too close for comfort but not as bad as it is now for so many.

    • Steve Steve says:

      I guess it’s the Chetco fire that’s been sending a lot of this smoke our way. It’s not just from the Helena fire. And there’s apparently several other fires north of us. It’s a bad time right now. I like the story of your dad and community fighting fires when you were young. I, too, have trouble taking a photo of the sun when it’s so red. I missed some good ones. You mentioned your website, but I didn’t see the url.

  14. Virginia says:

    Thanks for the photos, Steve. Another great group of photos to show us as you did with the water over the banks of the Sac!

    Why someone wants to make this whole mess to climate change is beyond me. Life is what it is! Live with it as the cavemen did in their time………..

  15. Joyfulgozo says:

    Thk for the pix. 2 in particular caught my attn, 1-27 spiral staircase
    — nice capture of it. 1-34 of the setting sun reflected in the h2o– reflections interest me. Yes, truly smokey!!

    • Steve Steve says:

      Thanks, Joyfulgozo. I love that staircase. Whenever I’m in Weaverville, I always seem to take a picture of it. I’m glad you liked those photos. Someday soon, hopefully, the smoke will be gone. There’s just too many fires north of us.

  16. Mlartist says:

    Thank you for the visual update! We now live in SoCal, but lived FarNorCal for 25 years and experienced many scary smokey days.
    Our daughter lives in Eureka and said they have ash on everything, not to mention the fog-like smoke.
    We have traveled 299 for many years and are heart broken for those who live on 299, especially Junction City and all evacuated areas.

    • Steve Steve says:

      I’m glad to show you something from up here. It’s a very sad situation in Junction City and Helena. 72 homes lost. I can’t imagine.

  17. Steve Ballard says:

    Dear Mr. DuBois: Thank you very much for your excellent and comprehensive photo journalism….and your compassionate heart.

  18. Steve Steve says:

    Thank you, Steve. My curiosity takes me on various adventures. I’m glad I could share with you what the smoke situation is like in our neck of the woods. I hear 72 homes have been lost in Helena and Junction City. I feel so bad for those who lost so much, not only here, but everywhere including Texas and now Hurricane Irma is approaching. I can’t imagine how FEMA is able to help everyone in a state of emergency out. And I doubt we’ll be done with Irma.

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