A First Hand Account of the Northern California Fires

by on October 16, 2017 · 1 comment

in California

FEMA Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Editor: We have all read about the horrible fires and devastation north of us. This account was sent to OB Rag staff member Judi Curry by a friend living in the Bay Area, who has given permission to post.

I am going up today to look around. I am still shut out of my neighborhood. The boys are staying at the beach.

Reflecting on the current reality, and thought I’d share, since some folks who haven’t been here yet are driving in this weekend …

We walk around in masks, and know what N95 means. We regularly ask if you “saw flames or just smoke.” We gather in parking lots to watch our hillside, discuss “back fire,” and argue over white vs. black smoke. We end conversations with strangers with “Be Safe.”

We have stayed off the roads when possible, and feel anxious the further away and the longer away from home we get. We get ash on ourselves just being outside a minute. We hear helicopters and sirens REGULARLY. We see emergency and military vehicles constantly, and coming from all over the Bay Area.

We haven’t hiked, walked at the lake, run, or picnicked in DAYS – daily activities and stress reliefs for many of us. We have had our stuff packed and been on alert for days in a row. We spend the night at different places. We have limited clothes at times. We live minute to minute, and thus can’t plan easily.

We are sleep deprived, exercise deprived, OUTSIDE deprived. We are stressed, shell shocked, relieved, grateful, guilty (why is my home spared?), worried, unknowing if home is gone. We have been stripped of our routine, belongings, and control. We listen to the radio. We argue a LOT with loved ones about evacuating or not. We don’t know quite what to do. We are in coping / helping mode and haven’t quite wrapped our mind around this. We’re even more SENTIMENTAL and NOSTALGIC than usual.

In Sonoma County, you’ll see thick smoke, burned hills and neighborhoods, intersections without lights (stop at these), barricades ready to be put up, middle lanes blocked for emergency vehicles, closed stores, distracted and overwhelmed customer services people – BE NICE – emptier streets, closed stores, and emergency vehicles from ALL OVER NORCAL. You’ll see “THANK YOU” SIGNS EVERYWHERE for our first responders and emergency personnel. You’ll see our typical SoCo generosity.

Wear a mask if you can. Drive cautiously and stop at intersections even if lights are out. Don’t drive in the left lane – or at least always check the rearview mirror for emergency vehicles coming behind you. If you see a horse trailer, give it some room. They aren’t going on a trail ride – they are evacuating livestock. Check where there are road closures – and know that info is impossible to be completely up to the minute accurate. Be patient.

Sonoma County is pretty beat up right now, but she’s still her awesome self.

  • 23 hrs.

Ari, Chuck, and I are leaving the motel life in Cloverdale and plan on spending the next couple of days with family in San Jose. Our house is still standing, but we are not allowed back as of yet. Tim is staying I n the area to work. The winds last night were not as bad as anticipated, so the fires did not expand too much, as far as I know. Many, many friends have lost everything. This officially sucks.

P.S. Just saw not to count on any neighborhoods being opened until Monday.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Betsy Smith October 18, 2017 at 9:44 am

Grieving for all in northern CA. Friends of ours just moved to San Diego a year ago and have so many friends in Santa Rosa who have lost everything. We can not even fathom the grief and devastation to so many. Thank you for posting this story. Our prayers go out to all.


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