Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A group of ravens fled south against the bright summer sky, escaping the noisy chopper that rose above the ridgeline, starting its daily shift plucking charred, downed trees from steep canyons within the Walbridge fire footprint.
The disturbed birds weren’t the only ones troubled by the din and commotion that have penetrated the once serene Mill Creek watershed — a lushly forested haven before lightning-sparked wildfire ravaged the region last summer.
The flames burned hottest in the remote creek canyons here, west of Healdsburg, and around Guerneville’s Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, which remains closed, the risk of burned, standing timber still deemed too high for visitors even 11 months after the fire.
Residents and landowners traumatized by the loss of their homes and community last August are grieving a changed environment, as well, and what feels to many like an invasion, as an occupying force of heavy equipment operators and crews from multiple agencies remains at work in the area.
But what was simply a prolonged intrusion to be endured became acutely personal and painful over the past few weeks, as Pacific Gas & Electric contractors began tagging stately coast redwood trees for removal from burned-out home sites.