Current Events: The Yellow Jeep Burns in the Nunn Fire

Because rides with Warren Kubler in his yellow WWII-era jeep (above) have been featured in a few articles here (like this one) I thought I would update you on their status after the fires.

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The Nunn Fire arrived unannounced from Sonoma County at one in the afternoon on October 10, and the Kubler’s old redwood barn and, inside, the yellow jeep, burned that evening. The Kubler house and adjoining cottage (where my wife and I live) both survived thanks to a small team of firefighters who showed up early and then were trapped as the fire moved past the house, down the slopes and Redwood Creek canyon, blocking the road out. Most houses in the canyon burned, probably seven of them. The undergrowth is completely gone and the redwoods heavily scorched to a deep, shiny black. Most of the houses on the slopes above the canyon survived. (The former Streich vineyard and winery at Castle Rock, now owned by the Yates family, and the former schoolhouse of stone, now a house, both of which I have written about here, survived as well.) There were also several losses of other cottages and outbuildings.

The yellow jeep amid the ruins of the old redwood barn after the Nunn Fire passed through the Napa Redwoods

Warren visited the ranch with his daughters about twelve days after the fire, when we were finally let back on the property. He was soon able to get a ride in another jeep, one owned by the Archer Taylor Preserve, with caretaker Jaye Cook to survey the fire damage on Maggie’s Peak, a part of the preserve.

Warren Kubler views fire damage to Maggie’s Peak from the old Taylor family jeep, now owned by the Land Trust of Napa County.
Warren Kubler points out landmarks to Jaye Cook, one of the caretakers of the Archer Taylor Preserve, while inspecting fire damage to Maggie’s Peak in the preserve. These three photos by Alice Kubler.

The jeep had been recently feted at the Kubler’s party celebrating 60 years of the family’s life on the ranch. (They moved in as renters from the Taylor family in 1957 and purchased a portion of the Taylor property with the house in 1959.) The jeep was parked behind a nearby shed where my wife Lynne had painted a silhouette of Warren. Party-goers sat in the jeep and had their photo taken with the silhouette. In retrospect, it looks like Warren is tipping his hat in farewell to the jeep rather than hello to any people who might be in the jeep. The jeep was long the symbol of Warren and the ranch and his time in these hills. At the party, everyone who deserved one got a pin-on button that read “I Survived a Jeep Ride with Warren.” The rides could be pretty hairy at times, but that came with the territory, literally.

All of the preserve has burned, from top to bottom, including most of the picnic grove. It now looks like a bit like a graveyard, with small rectangular piles of the ash and hardware of burned picnic tables distributed like plots among the blackened trees.

Two burned picnic tables with a partial survivor behind them (photo by Alice Kubler) and plants sprouting from the ash two weeks later (photo by Brent Shortridge).

But, with the rain, the young green grass is already back in the meadow and south facing hillsides. In some places you cannot tell ground has burned for all the green. Small bulbs are popping up on the ridge tops. From our house, the creek is once again audible from far below, a sure sign that recovery and renewal—environmental and seasonal—is on the way.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Judy Swafford says:

    I don’t know why, but did not know you were doing this. I love to find out about local history and you have done a bangup job of it. Thanks.


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