Some friends were discussing the aftermath of the fires. Several spoke of losing their guns, in a big, “fireproof” safe. Another said he found the jewelry box, well where it had been, in the ash pile. “Oddly, the diamond ring was not burned completely but the diamond was just gone. We sifted the ash two times, no diamond.” One said he kept hard cash in his safe, the inside of his safe was mostly ash, the currency was not even identifiable.
Sifting through the internet I found on YouTube a couple of videos on guns that had been through a fire. The fast and simple is this; if the stock and fore-piece (long guns) have been burned away, then it is likely that the temper of the metal is damaged, thus the gun cannot be saved. If the grip and fore-piece are partly melted or slightly burned in the case of wood, the gun metal did not get hot enough to change the temper and may be salvaged. The video went on to say that the rules are just guidelines, a gunsmith should be able to determine whether or not the gun can be saved.
Burned currency may be eligible for replacement, the guidelines are fairly clear on the government website: https://moneyfactory.gov/services/currencyredemption.html This also includes damaged coin and other engraved certificates issued by the government. Another good source is the Wiki How site: https://www.wikihow.com/Get-Damaged-Currency-Replaced.
One source claimed a diamond just turns to carbon in a puff of air. The ring part melts and can be reused. Some dealers in melted gold and other precious metals can be less than honest. Consider sending your melted jewelry to a credible refinery. A Google search (precious metal refineries) came up with a zillion refineries who claim up to 99 percent recovery.
Ask a trusted professional jeweler for the name of an honest refinery.
There were some lessons learned besides being under-insured. Like most things in life you must be proactive. Video your belongings and store that video in a cloud based format and keep a copy off-site, at grandma’s house or in a safety deposit box. Consider the “fire proof” claims of a safe and compare those with the recent fires, most burned the contents in what became a high temperature oven. Know in advance what your 'Go' bag should have in it and have an evacuation plan that your family knows. A good idea in that plan is a rally point, where to meet if you are separated. This 'rally' plan is excellent when you go places, like Disneyland or a county fair or any huge venue. The Tubbs Fire moved at an unprecedented pace far more quickly than could be tracked or for emergency personnel to react in time to help. It is a wonder the death toll was not much higher.
In the end, so many have only ash where their tactile life was once a vibrant, living part of their reality.
Bill Hanson is a Sonoma County native and a lifelong sportsman. He is the former president of the Sonoma County Mycological Association. Look for his column in The Community Voice each week.