October 20th 1991 — Sunday morning — blue sky and dry air suddenly turned to burning orange light, hot sun overhead broken by waves of furious, swirling hot winds loaded with flames. By late afternoon terrifying images of Fire burned into the memories of those who live in Northern California. This wildland–urban interface fire, the worst fire in California history and the most destructive in American history at the time, brought 3400 dwellings to the ground, killed 25 people, injured 150 others, charred 1600 acres and caused 1.5 billion dollars in damage. This story of an historic Yelland house and the heroic battle to save it from complete destruction stands alone among the stories of the firestorm of 1991.
Margaretta K. Mitchell, author and photographer,has created a visual documentary of the firestorm disaster, aftermath and recovery, as a 20th anniversary commemoration. Through stunning fire footage and compelling still images of the devastated house made ruin, she draws us into the disaster and then renewal through fascinating images of the restoration. Woven throughout is the music of composer John Adams. What was a sad, consuming and overwhelming process ultimately became creative and fulfilling.
For more information or to order the DVD, contact Margaretta Mitchell (510-652-8609).
Acknowledgments This project would not have been realized without the expertise and assistance of many individuals and organizations. They are listed in the booklet accompanying the DVD. Phoenix imagecourtesy of Tom Holland, 1991.