By Jess O’Connor
California was ravaged by yet another wildfire this summer that burned through 76,067 acres of Lake, Napa and Sonoma Counties, as reported by the California Department of Forestry on Oct. 3.
“Even though it was a sunny day originally, the fire had kind of obliterated the sun,” said Pat Brock, a resident of Cobb, Calif. whose house was completely destroyed by the fire.
The fire began on Sept. 12 in southern Lake County, and as of Oct. 6 the fire was 100% contained. Over 19,000 residents of Lake County fled the fire, which destroyed nearly 2,000 structures, 1,280 of which were homes, and killed four people, reported the Press Democrat on Oct. 4. On Sept. 16 the Press Democrat reported that about 900 people were staying at the Napa County Fairgrounds in Calistoga. Brock was one of those people.
“I looked out my window and there was this red glow, and I went down the road and there were two different fires going at the same time,” she said. “I just grabbed my overnight bag because I didn’t think I was going to be gone forever.”
Luckily, Brock said, many were willing to help.
“It’s been great here, everyone’s been terrific. They feed you very well, they provide showers, you can even drop off your clothes and they wash them for you.”
She said that the volunteers at the fairgrounds did not want the victims to wait on themselves at all, and that even the motorhome she was staying in was lent to her by a stranger.
Stefanie Hahn from Berkeley was a volunteer at the fairgrounds. According to her, there were many other people like Brock who were staying in donated motorhomes. Hahn herself was there of her own volition.
“I heard about the fire and showed up here just looking for ways to help. I’ve been cleaning up trash and looking to help in any way that I can for the past couple of days,” said Hahn.
David, who declined to give his last name, and whose ranch in Lake County burned down in the fire, said that the response evacuees have received has been incredible.
“It’s what America should be like,” he said.
The Sonoma Academy community is pitching in to help as well. On Sunday night, Athletics Director Chris Ziemer received an email from Rylee Bowen ‘18, saying she wanted to help.
“Riley sort of started the movement and the conversation,” said Ziemer.
They raised almost $10,000 on the first day. The most recent total was over $27,000. Ziemer says as soon as SA got the word out, incoming donors spread to the North Coast, with contributions coming from as far as Dublin and Eureka.
They’ve already cut the high school a check. “We coordinated with their school principal,” he said. “They get a check that is going to be used to replace displaced students’ athletic gear, school gear; whatever they need.”