Every Tuesday at noon in Graton, a siren sounds as part of a weekly test to ensure that the emergency alert system is still functioning. I heard that every week for years when I worked in Graton as well as in my hometown when I was growing up.
However there was no warning on Sunday. I awoke at 1 a.m. to the smell of smoke and a glowing red light outside my home on Mark West Springs Road. My baby, 18-month-old Violetta, was with me.
I grabbed her, and when I opened the door to the hurricane force winds, I saw the gravity of the situation.
Not only was my front door blocked by a fallen tree, I saw the wind throwing sparks and flames and tossing leaves and branches about as if they were toothpicks. I managed to get out of the door but didn’t know what to do.
Everything was engulfed in flames now, and the wind was blowing me and baby over. I managed to be brave and run to my car. On the way, we got blown over by the treacherous winds maybe three times. I scraped my knees badly, got numerous cuts and contusions and cracked ribs.
I made it to the car as the collecting oak leaves began to catch fire beneath. We jumped in the car and took off down the hill toward Old Redwood Highway. Ahead was a fire truck escort of some kind, which proceeded to lead baby and me to safety. Whoever you are, thank you, thank you, thank you.
I know many can relate to the frustration with how slowly information was made available. There are things that should be addressed to save lives.
Siren alerts should be available, especially in rural areas. I have a 510 number for my cellphone. Is this why baby and I almost perished? With our technology, there should be no excuse for why we weren’t warned.
I don’t mean to sound disrespectful for our heroes — they are great, and I know we all got caught off guard — but I know they agree as they wouldn’t be put in harm’s way as much if we had better fire/disaster sensing and alert technology.
And where are the drones in all this?
Also, I found that when my phone did work to access information and websites, I was confused about where to go for updates. I thought The Press Democrat would be best, but often the site was down. I wish there were ways to better keep sites online, such as non-local hosting option, if that was the problem. When dealing with life and death situations every second counts.
In the future, people will be perplexed at how our causalities occurred when we have the technology here and now. How many satellites were monitoring our airspace only for it to be an afterthought to use it?
We almost died, we became another statistic. We’re now homeless and traumatized with one pair of jeans. Yes, we’re grateful to be alive, but the pain ...
We’re still unable to go back, but I assume I have lost all.
Jason Berg is a resident of Santa Rosa.