Published: June 13, 2013
The guts of the home crumble and hiss.
The ground is soft, dusty and dirty, ash billowing with each step. Some areas are still warm, others miraculously green, unaffected and enticingly tropical.
Everything is masked in low-hanging, gently-drifting white smoke.
In this Black Forest neighborhood, a single home along on this street has burned, 17 remain.
The home cried tears of alternating avocado and tomato paste-colored paint. The foundation and colonnade pillars lie exposed amid the collapsed brick roof, at least one serving as a stand-in chimney - complete with funneled smoke - its real counterpart among the rubble.
An adolescent tree slumps in its protective rock circle. A beige stone fireplace, tainted with black, remains intact.
The damage is incredible. The forest is black.
A paved road winds through areas of devastation: charred cars, shattered concrete, exposed rebar, crusty mailboxes. Several buildings are flattened.
Several lots over, two small, abandoned tractors sleep in the driveway leading to another smoky area.
A woodpile remains half-covered with a ragged, gray tarp; wooden planks intended for firewood shelving lie around. Still, the home remains.
Two backyard grills, charcoal and propane, stare down the coming onslaught - the biggest threat being embers.
Fire crackles and tears at low-hanging limbs and high-browed weeds. An orange wheelbarrow on its side holds the last white flag of surrender.
Out of somewhere, a splash of water rains down on the fiery area, sheets of water slamming at the metal roof of a large, detached shed, trickling off in a hot, steamy mess.
"Visualize world peace," a bumper sticker reads on an old, pale yellow Ford F-150 parked not 100 feet from the flames.
The distant hum of planes overhead blends with the whir of helicopter blades, their shadows casting devilish glows. The aircraft unload more water and continue on their way.
Flames push at surrounding tall grass, damp enough now to darken a leather shoe. A nearby metal feeding trough remains upside down. Birds chirp hesitantly around the edges of the scene, leaving all of several bird feeders at the home unoccupied.
A melted tractor tire lies near blackened grass. To the west, a yellow home with wood panels provides a bright contrast to the dark burn area nearby. A thermometer pinned to a tree calls it 78 degrees outside.
A gray collector's edition Corvette, bright purple lilacs and a crisp, clean American flag flying from the home's front offer up a backdrop of optimism as a helicopter makes its sixth drop on the fire patch. Two gray garden gnomes climb a nearby tree.
Another lot over, the crackle of fire mixes with singing birds. Another helicopter flies over. A British flag flies outside an abandoned white home that seems undisturbed, save for two detached horse sheds, both empty, their doors open and hay strewn about.
Two more helicopters, a pair of legs hanging from one of the side doors.
A blue tractor sits motionless in a fenced horse area attached to the home. A spool of barbed wire hangs on a post. Three white garments hang from a clothes line, a sleeping bag having fallen to the ground.
Another helicopter. Then a Chinook, this time from the southwest.
Men can be heard across the street, law enforcement standing guard.
Three hills top the landscape to the north: a blind crackle to the left, gusting flames and white smoke in the middle, silence on the right.
One more helicopter, dropping again on the same place. The patch still sees flames, but is closer to being extinguished.