Golis: Notes from a disaster: Thank God for the firefighters
Anyone who has driven over Pine Flat Road and Geysers Road knows the steep and rugged terrain, the brush-dry landscapes, the crumbling and washed-out roads (sometimes reduced to a single lane).
Given the punishing topography and the difficulties of moving equipment, this is no place to fight a fire — except fires often occur in places like this.
The Kincade fire started in these mountains, and before the week was over, more than 5,200 firefighters were on the fire lines in Sonoma County.
If you don’t believe firefighters’ work requires bravery, skill and toughness, you haven’t explored the rugged landscape on the east side of the Alexander Valley — or imagined what it’s like to be battling fire and smoke there, while worrying about what will happen when the wind kicks up again.
This past week, first responders — firefighters, police officers and sheriff’s deputies, utility workers and more — were asked again to carry the burden for the inaction of others. We owe these first responders a lot, beginning with our gratitude, our support and our willingness to make changes that reduce the risk from catastrophic wild fires.
After spending days worrying about what happened to the homes of friends, we learned that all five homes survived the Kincade fire.
There were tears that came with the news. Three of the five families lost their homes in the 2017 Tubbs fire. It hurts the heart to imagine the pain associated with having it happen a second time.
Such are the conflicting emotions associated with this kind of disaster. We’re simultaneously despondent that people lost their homes and thankful that others did not.
All these fires and power outages — they can’t be the new normal. We have to do better, and we have to insist that government pick up the pace.
It’s true. The official Cal Fire log notes that this fire started near “John Kincade Road and Burned Mountain Road.”
In Monte Rio, it’s reported that a single store owner lost $15,000 worth of perishable food when the power was turned off.
How many other small businesses have their own stories to tell? How many employees lost several days’ pay (or a week’s supply of food)? How do we even put a cost on schools that were closed, or the disruptions associated with moving patients from hospitals or elderly people from assisted living? With these widespread blackouts, there are more impacts than we can count or quantify.
The worry, of course, is that we may be facing years of these kinds of disruptions. (A spokesperson for PG&E said the other day it might be 10 years before new safety measures are in place.)
As state government begins to figure out what will happen to California’s public utilities, it should be guaranteeing there’s sound science backing up decisions that leave people in the dark.
We had electricity this past week, but people who live nearby did not. No doubt PG&E can explain why. Whether the people without electricity will be satisfied by that explanation is another story.
Like many, we received notes from family and friends who live outside California.