In October 2017 a firestorm struck Sonoma County, CA proving to be the most expensive disaster in California history. I happened to be briefly visiting Sonoma County at the time. On the morning of the fires, I left Ft. Bragg, having found ash spread upon my car which was in the motel parking lot. With photography on my mind, I hadn’t checked the news and didn’t know how significant the ash was.
From Ft. Bragg I traveled to Salt Point. The light was an eerie red, which made the Point seem even more otherworldly than usual. Actually, in the nearly 20 years I’ve spent visiting Salt Point, this was the strangest day I’d ever seen there. As I walked along, the wind would seem normal one moment, and then I would suddenly be pounded by a hot torrent of air that felt as if it were coming from a generator’s exhaust.
I took advantage of the strange light, slipping in and out of coves, photographing my favorite spots, which now looked entirely foreign from I’d come to expect. While standing near "The Pedestal," I captured Salt Point State Park, CA, 2017.
The fires that started that day were so devastating that, more than six months later, Sonoma County hasn’t finished cleaning up, let alone significantly rebuilt. Officially, 40 people died, but there are more victims, those not counted, such as my friend Steve Jacobson. Steve was experiencing health issues when the fires struck, and his evacuation from his home at this delicate time sent him into a spiral from which he couldn’t recover.
I first met Steve and Ellie, his wife, back in 2006, and they lived the greatest, most inspirational, love story I know. Having attended school together in New York, they went their respective ways after graduation, Ellie to teach and Steve to become a doctor in the Air Force, where he specialized in hematology and oncology. They met again at a high school reunion and soon were inseparable. Steve had married and divorced twice, while Ellie hadn’t settled in with anyone. After all that time they found each other and were indivisible while I knew them. Not only did I get to see pictures from their travels, but I also listened to stories of their families and of their friend, Babe, whom Steve had known since childhood. They would give me tours of their backyard garden, where Steve was always planning on adding a new fruit tree or flower plant. Ellie, a tremendous cook, would serve dinner, and introduced me to heirloom tomatoes.
He was one of the gentlest people I’ve ever met.
Today, as I pen this, would have been Stevie’s 82 birthday, and it’s a damn shame that he’s not here to celebrate it.