ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- It's like clockwork: fall is the dry season for California.

And every year brings the threat of wildfires that quickly spark and within days consume thousands of acres.

Right now, California wine country is in the thick of what's being called one of the deadliest seasons yet, with at least 17 people dead and hundreds losing their homes.

It's so tragic to read these reports and see the devastating images. As someone who grew up in Southern California, I remember driving through those canyons and seeing flames on the hillside. On one occasion, the main road to my neighborhood was cut off, and I had to spend the night at a friend’s house, unable to make the drive home.

The 2003 and 2005 wildfire seasons were the two that stand out, and I remember the eerie color of the sky as the smoke spread out for miles.

PHOTOS: Deadly wildfires devastate California wine country

The change in the wind pattern -- most commonly known as the Santa Ana winds -- this time of year drives many of these fires hundreds of miles from where they began.

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The most vivid memory I have is sitting in the front yard of my house, seeing flames on the hillside less than a mile away. Not smoke, flames.

Right there.

And one of those helicopters that make the water drops dipping below the hillside to refill at a nearby lake, then heading back out toward the flames.

We were lucky, though, and we had a home to come back to after the fires were out.

For so many people right now, unfortunately, there might not be much -- if anything -- to see once they're allowed to return home.

10News digital producer Andrew Krietz contributed to this report.

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