In the middle of the night, the wind howled. Smoke filled the air.
By dawn, the gales had slowed; the air had cooled. For a moment, the clouds of smoke could be mistaken for fog. Until you breathed.
There's no escape from the eerie scent of smoke.
You shower but still reek of it.
You look to the sky, a surreal, hazy burnt-orange glow.
You look at the ground, dusted with ash.
The signs of the fire are everywhere.
Everyone has the same look of shock and disbelief. It happened that fast.
Entire neighborhoods have vanished, replaced by charred rubble, blackened tree trunks and lone-standing chimneys—a surreal scene out of a post-apocalyptic horror film.
At every gas station, lines of cars wait their turns at the pumps. Bottled water, transistor radios and pollution masks are at a premium. Grocery stores look as if they've been looted, shelves empty.
Despite the devastation and confusion, however, communities are rallying. Their fighting spirit is back.
But the reality of the 2017 Harvest Inferno is slowly sinking in.
Most of this year's grape crop had already been harvested by the time the fire began Sunday night, but not all of it. There's still some prized Cabernet Sauvignon hanging in Napa and beyond.
That matters less today as people scramble to reconstruct their lives. It will matter more in the coming weeks and months, as wine is the lifeline in these parts, the economic engine that drives Napa, Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino Counties.
Smoke taint may be the final blow struck by the inferno. For yet-to-be-harvested Cabernet vineyards, hope isn't lost yet. But the threat is lurking, and the longer the grapes hang on the vine, and the longer the smoke hangs in the air, the greater the threat.
For now, the fire is on center stage, filling the skies with smoke that chokes the lungs and burns the eyes. But the blaze won't escape California's bravest, who are saving lives and battling it on every front.