Editor's note: For Lake County veterans who fought in Vietnam, the sights and sounds of the Valley Fire two weeks ago immediately stirred images of burning napalm and exploding grenades. As part of our Vital Signs series, reporter April Dembosky interviewed Vietnam veteran Jack Reece. He shares his story, starting with his view of the fire -- just before he fled his home in Hidden Valley. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
I was up there on that hillside watching that fire come off of Cobb [in Lake County] and then down and into the valley.
It was like a unit moving forward with tanks and everything, and those canisters, those propane canisters going off, they make a "whooooo... boom!"
I tried to stay there as long as I could, and then I had to drive out through a firestorm. All those houses were on fire and I had to drive through it, about 150 yards. It tripped me, the flashes.
It all flashed back.