Dennis DeVilbiss had made up his mind.
"I'm not leaving," the former cop and firefighter said Wednesday afternoon as he stood on his front porch in Calistoga, a wine country town under threat from an approaching wildfire. Authorities had ordered its 5,000 residents to evacuate.
He glanced at smoke drifting over nearby trees, and smiled. "I'm not stupid," said DeVilbiss, 60. "If it's time to run, I'll run like hell."
As the death toll from 16 wildfires raging in Northern California climbed Wednesday, thousands more residents in Calistoga and elsewhere were ordered to flee their homes and firefighters raced against the setting sun to douse smoldering hot spots before devilish winds returned to breathe new life into the blazes.