Another Wake-up Call for Californians

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Sunday, October 8th was a warm, pleasant day in the quaint lakeside town of Lakeport, California. We were there for a bit of sightseeing and to attend a quilt show where my wife, Peggy, had four quilts on display. We had lunch at a small café, enjoying a panoramic view of Clearlake.

On the way up we saw the scars of the fires that had devastated thousands of acres in Lake County in 2015 and 2016, and we noted how warm it was and how the wind was gusting. With bone dry vegetation everywhere, I remember commenting how reminiscent it was to that Sunday in October, 1991 when the sirens began wailing as a firestorm began that would engulf the Oakland hills.

We started the trip home at dusk, heading home via Calistoga and through the Napa Valley, traveling on the Silverado Trail. Traffic was light but the drive was more difficult than usual, as swirling clouds of dust, leaves and dry grass blew across the road. I kept thinking about how dangerous the conditions were—how one idiotic, careless flick of a cigarette butt could cause a catastrophe.

Turning on the news that night, we learned that we had just traveled though was to become the catastrophe I had feared, as veteran KTVU 2 sportscaster Mark Ibanez, who lives in the Napa Valley, delivered a live, eye-witness telephone  report of the developing firestorm to on-the-air news anchors Heather Holmes and Frank Somerville. It was the beginning of what was to become the worst rash of firestorms in California.

By Monday morning, as we all learned, numerous fires had started throughout Northern California, burning uncontrollably. Glen Ellen and Kenwood were burning as was much of Santa Rosa. We immediately thought of my aunt and cousin who both live in the Oakmont community of Santa Rosa, and my cousin’s son and his family who live in the Skyhawk subdivision, near Oakmont.

As it turned out, after having evacuated and living one of the most anxiety-filled weeks of their lives, thankfully all of our family members were safe and their homes were spared—thanks to the selfless courage and tireless effort of firefighters and other first responders. But we all know, not everyone was so fortunate.                           

This past weekend we visited my cousin and aunt in Oakmont, seeing the aftermath of the fire as we traveled there. The devastation is almost indescribable, and just knowing that so many people are having to deal with so much loss is heartbreaking. 

Like previous fires, these are another wake-up call to all Californians. We live in a region prone to fire, especially during this time of year, so we need to be prepared at all times. Undoubtedly there will be fires in the future, so we need to be vigilant and pro-active at being “fire safe,”—and thankful for the firefighters and other first responders who stand guard, day and night, to keep us safe.   




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