With so many suffering, outdoor activities are far back on our lists. The only bright spot is that the burned areas will protect us to some degree for a few years once the conflagration is arrested. To think of those who were damaged in the Tubbs fire complex two Octobers ago and are again threatened by wildfire is difficult to imagine. Our hearts and prayers are with you all even though you to may be a victim of today’s terrible tragedy.
One story is of a ninety-three-year-old who lives in a remote home in the Oak woodlands near Occidental with his border collie and four sheep. In honor of his request he will remain nameless. When the order to evacuate was issued he said, “This is B.S.! Those bureaucrats are just trying to scare us out of our houses, so they won’t get sued like PG&E! The fire is nowhere near here and I’m not leaving my place!” His loving family had other thoughts and persuaded him to pack the dog and a few days of clothes and stay in their spare room in Petaluma. The four sheep are not happy with one feeding a day. By sneaking in behind the evacuation lines for a few minutes to feed the critters and refuel the back-up generator, we can protect the frozen foods and energize the well pump to keep the sheep water tanks filled.
Folks in the Middletown area remember all too well the Valley Fire complex a few years ago; fire roared through so hot and so fast people just had time to get out of the way. That summer they suffered through four wildfires in the same area. Many thought the Valley Fire so hot and so fast that we would not see a repeat in our lifetime. Enter the Tubbs Fire of Oct. 2017. This beast moved like a locomotive through the countryside pushed by fierce winds and seasonably dry conditions. Unfortunately, the Tubbs Fire exploded around midnight, it hammered through the countryside rousting people from their beds, turning everything to ash in its path.
Those past fires pushed local and regional governments to work long and hard to prepare for the next emergency, developing coordinated responses between agencies and improving communications. Many neighborhoods have developed plans for escape routes with cross-checking plans to ensure all in the group are alerted, choosing predetermined meeting sites for post evacuation and other emergency preparations. Today’s event reactions are a testament to those improved plans and forward-thinking.
It is hard to imagine anything worse than wildfires but a brief look back into local history reveals devastating fires and interrupted services of every type after a significant earthquake. When that terrible day comes, we will be as ready as we can be.
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.