A letter from Kent Porter to his colleagues at the Press Democrat on the collaborative efforts of covering the worst fire he’s ever reported on, the Valley fire in Lake County.

Thanks to all those that did an amazing job the last two days with the coverage of the Valley fire, right down to the people in the press room. The copy desk patiently waited for my photos on Saturday night, including Patty Hayes, who suffered through my harried captions and made it all work, making it shine the next day. Brett Wilkison calmly guided me through the coverage, and Guy Kovner took my frenetic reports and made it all work in a cohesive story telling way.  Mary Callahan shot me texts whenever she could, even though the cell service was all goofed up and I couldn’t text back. She continuously checked up on me, as well as on Paul Payne (who did an amazing job) in the very wee hours of the morning. I even texted Mary I had made it back to Middletown at some ridiculous hour, and she wrote back, encouraging me to get sleep. If I’ve forgotten someone, I apologize. I had a tough time even writing captions and remembering what pictures I sent yesterday.

Thank you for understanding what a tremendous event this has become and the care it takes to get the right images and copy in to print and online. I know there were more people involved, my fire helmet is off to you for doing it right. People are relying on our coverage up there, including social media.  We are the voice. My twitter feed exploded overnight Saturday, so many wanting to know if their homes were still standing. I’ve answered them all, as best I could. It’s gut and heart wrenching.

I am floored by the amount of devastation I’ve seen.  Whole communities were wiped off the map in a matter of minutes.  We all have friends up there, families and people we’ve met in passing. What struck me the most is the utter completeness of this disaster.

Virtually nothing is left above the proper of Cobb. The houses are down to foundations, even some chimneys are gone. Driving through the area is like looking at a ghost community.  So much gone, so many ways of life disrupted, so much hardship remains for the people affected. In Middletown, you can draw a line where firefighters stopped the fire.  They saved downtown. Anderson Springs is nearly 80% wiped out, same goes for the homes along Highway 175 in the canyon to Cobb.  Hidden Valley suffered losses too, as did Hobergs and Adams Springs. I didn’t make it to Siegler Canyon, it was way too dangerous (but I did try).

We’re all journalists, we’ve all seen catastrophes and witnessed amazing, great things. If there is anything you can donate, especially for the children and seniors, now would be a good time.  Overwhelmed is pretty good word to use when you think of what an uphill climb it will be for them.


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