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Read all of the PD's fire coverage here

Not all lawyers scan our charred landscape and see green.

Amid the lawsuit frenzy, a good many lawyers are stepping up to counsel fire victims for free. Clay Gantz is one who’s helped Legal Aid of Sonoma County maintain a presence at FEMA’s Local Assistance Center in the downtown Press Democrat building.

“It’s not often that you have the opportunity to help out in a situation like this,” said Gantz.

He’s had undocumented residents ask if applying for assistance could bring them immigration trouble. He’s been surprised by how many fire victims discovered that someone has fraudulently applied for aid, using their names.

Visitors to the FEMA center have come to Gantz and dozens of other Legal Aid volunteers with questions about insurance coverage, renters’ rights, issues related to losing jobs or livelihoods to the fires, price gouging, all manner of obstacles and problems and uncertainties.

Gantz has found that people who’ve lost their homes and are feeling their way through their new reality may be less eager for answers than to be heard.

“Sometimes, just being able to talk with someone is helpful,” the attorney said.

In addition to the FEMA center, fire victims should know they’re welcome to contact the Legal Aid offices in Santa Rosa at 707-542-1290.

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PAT GRATTAN is an attorney specially motivated to give time to and raise money for victims of the firestorms. He lost his home to the flames.

Grattan and fellow attorney Bill Carle, who also was burned out, were honored weeks ago at the Sonoma County bar association’s Careers of Distinction dinner. Grattan took it upon himself to ask local law firms to donate $10,000, or as close to that as possible, to the North Bay Fire Relief Fund.

Abbey-Weitzenberg responded, and Andrian & Gallenson, Beyers-Costin, Carle-Mackie, Clement-Fitzpatrick, Friedemann Goldberg, Geary-Shea, Maier-Pfeffer, Perry-Johnson and Spaulding-McCullough.

Individual attorneys wrote checks, too. So far the legal community has boosted the relief fund to the tune of $115,000.

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MIKE SENNEFF wasn’t supposed to speak at the awards luncheon held days ago by the local bar association.

The bar recognized a passel of attorneys and others for their pro bono work and community service. To keep the banquet from lasting all day, no honorees were to take the mic.

But who’d stop Senneff? Ask 100 people who’s the dean of Sonoma County attorneys and probably 97 will say it’s he.

At 76, Senneff received the bar association’s second Michael F. O’Donnell Civility Award, inspired by the graciousness and courtesy that typified attorney O’Donnell to the day he died at 60 in 2000. The first O’Donnell Civility Award went posthumously a year ago to Jack DeMeo, who died in October of 2016 at 82.

O’Donnell. DeMeo. Senneff. In 1989, Sonoma Business magazine put them on the cover, pronouncing them “Sonoma County’s top three attorneys.”

Senneff told the bar luncheon it’s potent stuff for him to receive the second O’Donnell award, after DeMeo. He said both of his late friends and colleagues believed “you must always remember, what goes around comes around.”

So it’s best to treat one’s adversaries, and everyone else for that matter, with respect.

Read all of the PD's fire coverage here

Chris Smith is at 707-521-5211 and chris.smith@pressdemocrat.com.

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