Fire, the historic nemesis of Sacramento residents

Lenny La Rue, IPA

Sacramento, United States

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Artist's Description

Sacramento is known for flooding. It was once known as the city most likely to flood in the United States. Floods make a terrible mess of things. But fire can remove even the stuff a flood leaves behind.

“River City” has experienced two catastrophic fires, one in 1852 and the other in 1854. Both leveled the city (with a couple exceptions being brick buildings). Today, the burning down of the entire city seems extremely unlikely. But it’s the spot fires that cause the people in Sacramento to gasp. They aren’t very frequent but they are devastating to victims and neighbours. I don’t smoke or burn candles very much but I know neighbours do. While I don’t need to be the one that started the fire, my things will burn in collateral damage just as well as anyone’s. The image here shows one of those devastating fires and its collateral damage.

The original fire started in the badly burned building to the left. Three of the apartments in the house were occupied and those residents experienced the worst: loss of their homes and most of their belongings. What didn’t burn was either saturated with smoke, water, or both. Odds are none of them had renter’s insurance and these people may be now part of the Unseen Residents who push shopping carts filled with empty cans for recycling into their only income. I hope they are not.

The fire spread to the building on the right and caused major damage that wouldn’t have made the local news coverage 7 days later if not for a notable tenant: the band Tesla had a studio under the roof that burned and collapsed. Tesla is one of Sacramento’s musical success stories. They went from “bar band” to touring band to significant fame with professional recordings that sold millions of copies worldwide. Witnesses said firemen went into the burning building and brought out as much musical equipment as they could. Tesla’s studio has now relocated and the band is in the process of recording a new album. Their futures look bright. I wish them well.

One fire in two buildings may equal two completely different prospects for the future. Sacramento’s scourge claims another old wooden building. And nervous neighbours worry the same worry they have for over 155 years.


This piece is not for sale as it probably indicates homelessness. By self-imposed rule, my photography of the homeless and gravesites are never offered for me to profit from them.

Artwork Comments

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