We are all suffering. Suffering as a community, suffering for our friends, suffering for ourselves and, other’s friends and families and for our homes.
So much is gone: material things such as homes, vehicles, photographs, collections and people. Not material things: Many of us feel we have lost memories and personas. But we can still remember building and sharing our lives and homes with family and friends.
In my humble opinion, we need to think about how to help each other, which at this point is hard to imagine.
Many of us are taking in friends either evacuated or who lost their homes, while others are being sheltered at Sonoma Valley High School and Ramekins Culinary School.
Vineyards look singed while their parent wineries are either hollowed out, burned to the ground, or stand alone amid blackened surrounding hills.
The fires have not distinguished between wealthy well-known people and unknown regular workers. All were fair game for the flames.
Many locals have wondered where the local disaster plan is, where the fire planes are, and what our local officials are doing. We know that first responders are doing their best. Maybe we just need more of them, more water, more help from government agencies, and even more deputized volunteers.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote to all City Council members and the city manager suggesting that they resurrect the Sonoma Disaster Council, which stopped meeting a few years ago. I received only one response, from Councilmember Madolyn Agrimonti.
In the meantime we need to do what we can for each other. Feeding people, housing them, helping them reconstruct their inward and outward lives, and giving warm meaningful hugs.
As I write this we have no idea what is ahead during the rest of the week, with winds about to crank up menacingly again. But I do know what some people have done with what they have to give.
Darius Anderson, who had to evacuate his own parents, told the Ramekins staff to open the culinary school and inn wide to those who had lost everything.
Ramekins’ Executive Director Victoria Campbell emailed, “We opened about 2 a.m., Monday after the fires broke out. Our rooms are full, our ballroom is full of hopeful neighbors… So many have lost their homes… We have been serving food and warm beverages throughout the night.
We even broke out some wine… All the tears and hugs have made my heart warm. We are so lucky we are safe, our staff is safe and we can be here.”
While Atwood Ranch suffered some losses, their horses and home are safe, many neighbors have lost everything. Up the road a bit, Beltane Ranch’s historic buildings survived, with this from Lauren Benward Krause: “There are no words for the gratitude we feel for our first responders, friends and neighbors who helped us get the boys and animals safely evacuated and then battled tirelessly through the night and surely for days to come. We have been incredibly fortunate with our most important structures untouched, despite how scary it looks. We are safe and feel deeply for those suffering loss. The Valley is burning in so many directions right now... thank you for fire departments from all over northern California and helicopters and planes. Let’s hope for an improvement in conditions to get ahead of this. Think good thoughts for our neighbors and community.”