If you’re not from California and you’ve been, understandably, paying closer attention to your own local news, you may not be aware that my state’s been trying its best to burn down all summer. In particular, Lake County (where I grew up) has been hit hard this last month, and over the weekend this newest fire swept through my hometown at just unprecedented, devastating speeds.
Currently, it looks like 61,000 acres have burned and hundreds of homes have been destroyed. The fire is only 5% contained. Whole towns and communities were evacuated and remain evacuated. Some people had to leave so fast they didn’t even have time to grab clothes, money, or — heartbreakingly — find their pets. One elderly, disabled woman has been confirmed dead.
Saturday night here was . . . surreal. I didn’t find out about the Valley Fire until I got home from Oakland in the late evening, and then I was up all night on my computer, trying to find out any information I could through my inconsistently functioning internet. At one point, it really looked like the town I grew up in for thirteen years — the high school and the middle school and the elementary school and the grocery/hardware store and the gas station that serves jo-jos (potato wedges to you normal, non-Lake County folk) — had been destroyed. I’m not going to pretend that I loved living in Lake County because I have about as many bad memories there as I have good ones, but the thought of it all just being gone like that, all in one night, was horrifying.
Luckily, the damage to the main drag of Middletown wasn’t nearly as extensive as I’d feared. And I’m extremely grateful that my mom very recently moved down from Hidden Valley to where I live, about an hour away — she was actually up there on Saturday, getting one of the last loads, when the fire broke out on Cobb. I haven’t confirmed this, but it doesn’t look like our house was damaged, which is obviously great news for us.
But lots of people weren’t so fortunate — I have a friend whose parents lost everything, another friend whose father’s home was likely, though hopefully not, destroyed. I have co-workers who are waiting to go home, co-workers who don’t have homes anymore, and co-workers who are still working on finding out. The turmoil here has just been unreal.
Other than just writing out all my BS emotional nonsense, I wanted to post some links for anyone who was looking to help and had the financial means to do it. The RCU (a local credit union) has set up a fund to support the first responders here. The American Red Cross apparently has a shelter in Calistoga and is accepting monetary donations at their website. There’s also a huge list of local donation centers here with links to what kind of aid/relief they need.
Tomorrow we’ll be back with our regularly scheduled snark and silly movies, but for today — well, all I’ve got for you is worry, prayer, and hope.