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Surviving the Sonoma/Napa wildfires

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Surviving the Sonoma/Napa wildfires

Postby Gravity Jim » Mon Oct 16, 2017 2:21 pm

Well, it's over for us, but many others are still mopping up.

We were order to evacuate our home in the Fountaingrove neighborhood (you might have heard of us on the news) Sunday night/Monday morning, so we gathered up some clothes and food (the power went out just before we left)... Lisa grabbed the dogs, I hustled my four favorite guitars and my Mac and archive drives, and we drove both cars down to San Rafael to stay in our son's mansion, figuring they'd have us back in a day or two. Oh, har de ha. That's rich, I'll say.

Many houses in Fountaingrove burned all the way down, with the wildfire coming within one street of ours on three sides of us... but thanks to the literally heroic efforts of our local firefighters and CalFire, it was stopped and our beautiful and beloved 1960's Cali bungalow was spared.

They didn't lift the evac order for Lomita Heights (our little pocket neighborhood in lower Fountaingrove) until Saturday, and while we knew the building had electricity again, we also knew there was no gas and the street was under a "boil water" advisory. But we wanted to be back in the building, so we headed back home.

We stocked up on food we can eat as it is, or can be cooked using only a toaster and electric rotisserie and moved back in. We already had an oil-filled electric radiator that we're using to heat the bedroom at night. We just bundle up in sweaters in the living room, and are slowly beginning to deal with the rush of emotions (mostly based in stark terror) caused by the disaster. We're also donating material to the shelters, money to a fund set up by our own credit union (a very trustworthy institution who is taking absolutely no admin costs from the fund), and I chipped in 100 bucks to help the sales manager I work with at Bananas At Large's Santa Rosa location rebuild his destroyed house (including his studio and all his instruments).

Air quality was pretty bad in Marin from the smoke, and not too much better here. Lisa and I both have a dry cough from smoke inhalation, but it's clearing up, and we may even see a calming rain Thursday.

One feeling I finally understand is the sort of weird pride you feel having made it through a story that led the CBS Evening News for a couple days. We are Santa Rosa Strong... we are The Californians, people who so love the land we live on that we don't let a little thing like a missing house change our hearts. And I've heard this phrase on the news a hundred times, but I've never been in the middle of it... "the incredible outpouring of love and assistance" that my fellow Santa Rosans are displaying is humbling in the extreme.

I want to thank the responders: SRFD, CalFire, the SRPD, the CHP, California National Guard, the amazing healthcare workers who evacuated the hospitals (which were also spared) and staffed the shelters: thank you for saving our home and our lives. I've never been more mentally worn out, more grateful for what I've been given, or more proud to live in the North Bay.
Jim Bordner
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Re: Surviving the Sonoma/Napa wildfires

Postby HCMarkus » Mon Oct 16, 2017 4:31 pm

Having survived the 2003 Cedar Fire in San Diego (and losing our just-completed studio to that fire), my wife and I have been watching the N. Cal news with horror as the death, destruction and damage grew to proportions we had hoped we would never see.

We are very happy to hear your home made it through Jim but, understanding that the fire's aftermath will be with you for years, must warn you that there is a long road of recovery ahead. Your reaching out to others in your community will mean so much to them. The response of our friends and neighbors after fire reminded us of the power of friendship. They pulled us through emotionally. Best and worst of times, all in one.

Be especially careful of your health in these early days; my wife and one of our sons came down with pneumonia caused by exposure to the many particulates in the air after our fire.

Thanks for reporting in here Jim. Our thoughts continue to be with you and your neighbors.
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Re: Surviving the Sonoma/Napa wildfires

Postby Gravity Jim » Mon Oct 16, 2017 4:52 pm

Thanks, man. I am wearing an N95 mask when working outside (in fact, I just came in from hacking up about 1/3 of a redwood tree that fell on the privet hedges out back), and we're being overly cautious about water quality. I don't know that we have any real smoke damage, but the exterior does need a coat of paint... maybe we can claim that, too!
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Re: Surviving the Sonoma/Napa wildfires

Postby Shooshie » Mon Oct 16, 2017 6:19 pm

I am so glad you're ok, Jim. And Mike Halloran, I don't know exactly where you live, but I know it's "north," so it relieves me to see you still posting, too. My son lives in Larkspur and rides the ferry to SF to work each day. He just likes that, and doesn't like traffic, so it suits him. He had to go to San Jose and stay with his GF because of the smoke. Meanwhile, my best friend from college and former professional duo collaborator lives in Fairfax, just a few blocks from what used to be called Coffee Roasters. He is a member of the Bohemian Club, so they've been watching those woods up on the Russian River very closely, where the Grove is. As we've watched the fire maps each day, we've been very nervous about something setting off flames near my kids and friends.

Another best friend lives in Los Angeles, where I have many friends and acquaintances, and even family members. Plus, my daughter moved out there just at the beginning of all these new fire outbreaks, including the one on the outskirts of Anaheim. You bet I've been worried!

Meanwhile, several of my other friends and family have endured flooding in Houston and the area, others in Florida and on Tybee Island. They all sustained damage of one sort or another. The past few months has been non-stop worry about the people I know and love. Not to mention our acquaintances here in the forum, where we've known people in floods, earthquakes, hurricanes and fires.

Our ranch burned a few years ago, from a grassfire started by a welder on an oil rig in our west pasture. It took a few barns and all the fences in its path. It cut a 3+ mile swath through our place alone, so that's a lot of fence. Then the fire then went on to burn down many homes, businesses, farms, and other structures on a 60 mile rampage. It looked like it was going to take my mother's house. A brave power line worker — a woman — drove up to her house in the face of the flames and rescued her. Then a firetruck arrived, and with help from our firebreak, they were able to save her house. It took a barn and the old windmill tank, and as I said, miles of fences. Fire is as capricious as it is deadly serious.

The worst part of it is waiting to hear from people. There was a two hour period in which it appeared from a distance that the fire had burned my mother's home. Roads were impassable, so nobody could get to the house. There was no communication, and we didn't know where she was. With Alzheimers, I'm not sure she knew where she was, either. So, there's that very real "Schroedinger's Cat" dilemma, during which you can't know the answer, and you are afraid to find out. We were very lucky that day.

Every story I read about Napa, Sonoma, and the surrounding area just sends chills through my bones. I'm so glad to know that you all made it. How will we even know if any of our other friends were less fortunate? All we can do is wait for news.
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Re: Surviving the Sonoma/Napa wildfires

Postby mikehalloran » Mon Oct 16, 2017 6:34 pm

Mike Halloran, I don't know exactly where you live, but I know it's "north," so it relieves me to see you still posting, too.
I'm a couple of hours away. My folks were on the missing list having been evacuated Monday. I've went up there to find them (which I did at one of the evac shelters) and listed them. They were moved to a nursing home in Hayward on Friday—my dad hates it and wants them to move in with me till he can go home (still standing but the Santa Rosa FD is not letting anyone in).

Long story short, the Red Cross is doing a hell of a job and I've now seen it up close. Keeping track of 10s of thousands of evacuees is not as high a priority as is trying to take care of anyone who shows up—and that, they are doing.

I expect I'll be going up a few more times. We'll see.
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Re: Surviving the Sonoma/Napa wildfires

Postby terrybritton » Mon Oct 16, 2017 6:37 pm

Just stunningly awful. So glad you made it through these terrible times OK - all of you. You are a source of strength by your example to all of us here. Thank you for sharing your acquired wisdom and insights in the face of such beyond-anyone's-control natural turmoil.

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Re: Surviving the Sonoma/Napa wildfires

Postby Michael Canavan » Mon Oct 16, 2017 11:10 pm

My aunt lives in Santa Rosa, similar story to yours Jim, she just got back to her house a couple days ago. My uncle in Sonoma wasn't so lucky, his house burned to the ground, he literally got out minutes before it was engulfed in flames, heard his propane tanks explode when he was checking to make sure his neighbor was out.

Just an insanely intense year in general for fires, Vancouver fires kept Seattle in smoke all Summer, drove down 101 through southern Oregon which has been burning up, into SF just to be engulfed in smoke again.
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Re: Surviving the Sonoma/Napa wildfires

Postby Gravity Jim » Thu Oct 19, 2017 12:38 pm

So sorry about your uncle, Michael. A lot of people are still Missing/Presumed Dead. This fire has been one for the history books: literally a perfect storm.

We don't have to boil our water anymore, but we're still waiting for PG&E to turn the gas back on. From neighborhood activity, I think they'll be here today for sure.

In the meantime, we got a really slick single-burner infrared hotplate that works a treat. We may not get more than a couple of uses out of it this time, but we are loaded for bear if we lose the gas again.
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