What Happens After the Fire?

Change Is What Form Does...That Doesn't Make It Easy!

Two weeks ago today I was rushing madly around our house, throwing things into bags and suitcases and helping my partner, Amanda, load our cars to evacuate from the fire zone rapidly spreading in Santa Rosa, CA. Our neighborhood was being emptied in a mandatory evacuation and the cul-de-sac opposite our house was full of police officers, cars and motorcycles as they patiently worked to evacuate the neighborhood safely.

I stood in our housemate's walk-in closet trying to decide what to bring for her. She had intended to come back up from Marin County to pack herself, but now there was no time. I grabbed 3 pairs of shoes, her pajamas, robe and slippers, a household gown she often wears, and the tops Amanda had already grabbed for her, and threw them into a bag. Later I wondered if we had brought her any underwear. We brought her no make-up, and not even a toothbrush.

As most people know, the fires that sped through Sonoma and Napa Counties kept us evacuated for a full week. We returned home last Tuesday with an air purifier and 6 high grade masks. The air quality was still pretty bad, but not nearly what it had been a few days earlier.

What is "Normal" Now?

Though life has returned to “normal” for some residents as they come home and return to work and school, for many in our community life won't be “normal” for a long time. In a County where available housing was already scarce, it's now a crisis. So many lost their homes. Some lost both homes and businesses; others found their homes survived but their workplaces had not, and they were suddenly unemployed.

It will take a long, long time to clear the debris and ash from the vast tracts that were residential neighborhoods and now are a wasteland that looks like they were bombed. Some people's loved ones are still missing. People and their pets are still being reunited, and plenty of pets are in shelters without chips or collars, making it more difficult to get them back with their families.

Because of the powerful effect of the fires, most of us who live here are still being affected, even if our homes and businesses survived. We all know people who lost everything. Homes, businesses and neighborhoods we have known for many years have been wiped out, including historical landmarks.