September 28, 2015 – LAKEPORT, Calif. – Several yards from where California Army National Guard members are directing traffic, Royce Tibbetts is pondering his own direction.
A week earlier, the County Lake Public Works employee from northern California was clearing a roadway in Middletown, a city recently leveled by the Valley Fire. In a matter of days — maybe even hours — that same roadway became a graveyard for metal and ash, resulting from the Valley Fire’s unusual reign of terror.
“What was once the most beautiful place on earth is now all gone,” he said, pointing around Cobb Mountain in Lake County, California. “It’s like a tornado went through, then a massive fire. It was like the perfect storm.”
While helping the California Guard’s 870th Military Police Company get residents back to what’s left of their homes, Tibbetts, a Kelseyville, California, resident, thanked the California Guard for its assistance.
By Staff Sgt. Edward Siguenza
“All I can say is, I’m glad the National Guard finally got here,” Tibbetts explained. “They’re Soldiers who’ve seen the worst of war, so they’re human. They can relate to what just happened here.”
The devastation was the result of the Valley Fire’s strange and abrupt force. The fire consumed more than 75,000 acres quickly, and nearly 1,000 homes destroyed in a matter of days. In just over a week, the Valley Fire became one of California’s top 10 most damaging wildfires of all-time, per the California Department of Forestry and fire Prevention (CAL FIRE).
“For two days there were spot fires around the area, but then the fire grew that fast and decimated the entire place,” said Tibbetts, 52. “You just don’t see fires coming down the mountain, but this one did. It was like hell coming to life. This was something nobody wants to see again.”