CALISTOGA, Calif. - Allie Rasmus and Lisa Fernandez/KTVU -- Except for fire crews and reporters, Calistoga remained mostly a Ghost Town on Thursday, as the city of 5,000 was placed under mandatory evacuation orders because of the Tubbs Fire.
At a news conference of Napa County officials on Thursday, Chris Canning, the mayor of city better known for its hot springs, mud baths and wineries, made this blunt and unusual statement: “If you’re visiting, you are not welcome here.”
He quickly added that was hard for him to say, as Calistoga has been a “hospitable” tourist attraction since the 1800s.
He wasn’t trying to be mean. While the city was not on fire, its homes and residents were in the path of one of the biggest of the 22 wildfires being battled in Northern California. Residents were told to evacuate on Wednesday. By Thursday, the death toll had climbed to 24 from the combined fires, and the acreage burned had grown to 191,000.
"You are not welcome in Calistoga." Still under mandatory evacuation pic.twitter.com/4pno2FSyjL— KTVU (@KTVU) October 12, 2017
“Your choice to stay is a distraction to our first responders,” he said. “You are on your own.”
The town was indeed quiet. Stores were closed. Streets were quiet. Spas, hotels, the hot springs and famous mud baths were shuttered. Many had fled, heeding the sheriff’s commands.
But not everyone. Dan Bush refused to leave his historic home in downtown. He had luck before. When the Valley
Fire broke out two years ago, he stayed, and survived.
“If we leave,” he said, “there is no coming back. “I’m staying to keep my eye on the situation.”