This was my home for seventeen years. In this home I had a studio where I operated a creative services business for twelve of those years. This is where I retired. This is where I intended to live out my days pursuing various hobbies ranging from hiking and camping to music composition and even attempts to achieve maturity in mathematics through slow, steady honing of those still maddeningly perplexing skills. Thousands of acres in every direction stood mixed conifer and hardwood forestland. Now, thanks to incompetence of a district forest ranger turned negligent arsonist it's surrounded by thousand of acres of completely dead, blackened tree trunks, and what I was sure was an adequately defensible zone distancing the steel-framed and steel-sided home/studio from combustible materials wasn't enough to keep it from burning completely from the inside out. No one is sure how the fire in the house started but I think the big pine at the east corner torched up hot enough and long enough to cause an upstairs window to crack or shatter from the intense heat of the burning tree to allow sparks to fly inside the house where they quickly ignited curtains, furniture cushions, wooden furniture and internal wooden framework and finishing.
The fire contained within the steel building must have burned fast at superheated temperatures, destroying absolutely everything I was forced to leave behind when the urgent evacuation order was issued on April 22, 2022. I did not hesitate to leave as ordered, actually thinking firefighters would be able to stop the wildfire still several miles distant when the evacuation order was issued. Watching INCIWEB and USFS updates on the wildfire fighting effort, it seemed impossible that they would not fail to contain it long before it got too close to the house. A small village about five miles north of the homestead was ordered to evacuate too but a lot of people stayed anyway. That town did not burn. But even though property protection crews worked hard trying to further prepare my homestead to survive the rapidly spreading wildfire, their efforts were in vain. I don't blame them for that. I blame myself more for never felling the big pine at the east corner. It was more than fifteen feet from the house and the fire protection crews had pruned its closest branches back even further from the house thinking that would be enough too. But the day the wildfire swept across the canyon the winds were gusting above seventy-five miles per hour with high sustained wind speeds persisting throughout the entire day as the canyon burned from rim to rim and from end to end. The power shed and everything surrounding it came through the wildfire unscathed and still fully operational, still able to provide its meager 1KW of power.
Because I had insurance FEMA would not provide any assistance beyond a pittance payment of $179.82 received more than four months after the fire destroyed the house and everything in it even though I was underinsured by more than $100K. And FEMA was certainly not about to dole out any money for loss of twenty-five acres of pristine forestland I intended to utilize in retirement for many purposes in a responsibly-managed manner, nor was FEMA going to compensate for general loss of property value. The Hermit's Peak Fire Assistance Act S.4186 languished in congress for more than five months before suddenly being wrapped into an emergency bill to keep the U.S. Government operating a few more months. Then Ian hammered the west coast of Florida creating an even larger workload for FEMA employees.
Now waiting for S.4186 to be funded and for FEMA to open up registration for Hermit's Peak/Calf Canyon Fire victims to apply for assistance, I'll most likely be provided compensation enough to fully recover, but not without more passage of time and more red tape to incessantly peel away. So I'll rebuild, eventually, if not at this location then somewhere else in similar manner to live off grid as greenly as I possibly can in this day and age to minimize my contribution to planet-scorching climate change. And I'm certain the new homestead will be much better than the first one was as a natural outcome of utilizing more modern construction materials and methods now available. And the dream I had shortly after finding out the homestead had burned in which my recently deceased father called me up on the phone to assure me that everything would work out okay–that he would see to that–will very likely come true. I'm not superstitious so I know Dad did not call from the great beyond to tell me this. It was just a cool dream providing me a chance to speak with him again regarding this inescapable and bothersome matter of Homestead Version II.