I know that some of my readers live in Northern California, but I know many of you live elsewhere around the world.
This past Sunday evening, as I was just trying to get to bed, a friend texted to ask if I had plans to go anywhere on Monday. I texted back that I had lunch plans in Petaluma. She said there was a fire in Napa. I didn’t know why this would affect my having lunch in Petaluma. I then, of all things, tried out a meditation app on my phone. I thought that the quiet roaring was part of the meditation.
Even with the meditation, I, as usual, couldn’t get to sleep. I don’t remember quite when it was or how I find out, but shortly thereafter I realized what was happening. I couldn’t smell anything at all from my bedroom. But I could hear the wind, and from Facebook or the radio, I figured out something big was going on. I went out to the living room where I could smell the smoke. I eventually packed a bad in case I had to evacuate. I didn’t.
High winds made a small fire in the hills roar at breakneck speed before anyone was ready for it. Of course, there were no extra forces; this was not expected. We are now on Day 5 of this massive fire. I should say fires. There are fires everywhere in Sonoma County, Napa County, Solano County, Mendocino County, Yuba County, Nevada County…
I live in Sonoma County, where Santa Rosa is the largest city. It is wine country. It is beautiful. Santa Rosa is about 8 or so miles north of Petaluma, where I live. Santa Rosa is home to Safari West, a tourist attraction with wild animals. Thank goodness, all the animals were rescued. Santa Rosa is also the home of cartoonist Charles Schulz’s ice rink, Snoopy’s Home Ice. It lost power and for the first time in its history since it was built in 1969, the ice melted. They called out for a generator, and because the people in Sonoma County are beyond kind, generous, and helpful, a big generator was delivered. Unfortunately, his house (he passed away, but his widow lived there) was burned to the ground with all the memorabilia. Fortunately, most of the memorabilia is in the museum, located near the rink, and so far, they are still OK. Thank goodness, his widow, a local philanthropist, escaped unharmed. We have lost many of our wineries and restaurants. Santa Rosa has lost nearly 5% of its houses! 3924 houses at last count, and 410,000 square feet of business space.
And fires are still raging. Help has been enlisted from as far away as the Carolinas and Australia. This included a Boeing 747 dropping flame retardant. Winds started the spreading. Winds were predicted for the last two nights. They didn’t materialize. Winds are again predicted for tonight and the weekend. We pray they don’t materialize. I am still on watch for evacuation. My car is packed and has been for days.
So far . . . I am one of the lucky ones. I am connected to two large communities, of which most of the people live in Santa Rosa: my writing club and the ice rink (my daughter is a professional skater, and I spent many, many, many hours at that rink). So many of my writer friends and skating friends and acquaintances have lost homes, or have friends or relatives who have. It is terrible. My heart breaks for them.
The community has come together as I have never seen. People have stepped up to volunteer and donate. Restaurants are giving free food. Gyms are open for free showers. Hair salons are giving shampoos and blow dries. Comcast is giving free cable. Our local bookstore is a place for evacuated people to come to charge their phones, and hang out with their dogs. A local bar has laptops for use. I could go on and on.
My writing club puts out an anthology every year with short pieces. There is always a theme. This year it was Sonoma County. The anthology just came out, and it is so poignant that these stories honor this county, now in such a sad place. In fact, I wrote a piece about the ice rink. E-mail me if you would like a copy of my piece. The anthology is available on Amazon if you want to read about our beautiful county.
The Santa Rosa fire is now 25% contained, which is actually good news for us. The air is smoky, and we are advised to wear masks, which are tough to find, of course! School has been out all week – some schools have burned. But we are Sonoma County Proud. Pray for us.