In their own words
As we approach a difficult anniversary for all of us, The Kenwood Press reached out to a number of people in the community and asked them to comment on how they are doing, and what things they are doing differently as a result of last year's fires. Some lost their homes, and some did not. Here are their responses, in their own words.
“The only thing I would do different now is not hold all my ancestors' things for my children. I would give them to them now and not when I died. A quote from Anne Lindbergh - 'It isn't for the moment you are struck that you need courage, but for the long uphill climb back to sanity and faith and security.'”
- Dee Sand, Kenwood
“One thing that is a bit different this year is the increased awareness we all feel when it comes to Red Flag warnings, heavy wind events, etc. They are taken more seriously now, and yes, it could happen to us!
“So far this year, we have signed up for SoCo alerts, PG&E and other early warning alerts. We've done a ton of tree trimming and brush cutting around the place. Bought some luminescent house numbers from Kenwood Fire Deptartment, increased the homeowner's insurance and made up a few Go Bags.”
- Dave Chappell, Kenwood
“I no longer see the point in saving things for later. Since the fire, I have been eating off my grandmother's china with her silver spoons and forks. Why keep them in the cabinet; what good are they there?
“I have not only scanned my most beloved pictures, I've tacked them to corkboards and hung them around my home, because that way I can look at them.”
- Tracy Salcedo, Glen Ellen
“The loss of 80 years worth of tangible memories was easier to accept because three years ago last May, my wife died and left me a little dead inside. That was the real loss. The wildfire was just an inconvenience that changed where I live and caused pause when I can no longer lay my hands on a lost object as I reach for it in my mind… Going forward, defensible space around the house will be a major consideration. I find as I drive places I'm thinking how well the houses will burn with the flammable foliage present around them. Fire is a constant reminder in my life.
“I'm slowly replacing some of the things I've lost. Acquiring brings some comfort. But my outlook about life and the value placed on objects is that nothing is permanent...and 'it is what it is.'”
- Eric Norrbom, Kenwood
“We both believe that this year has taught us a new awareness of gratitude for our community and our friends and family. Of course we wish there were back-ups of baby pictures, and other precious pictures, but there wasn't, so no need to wish too hard. When the grandchildren come around, those pictures may or may not be uploaded. The fire confirmed to us the importance of living in the moment, expecting the best but knowing the worst can happen.”
- Dr. Rebecca Bailey and Charles Holmes, Glen Ellen
“Everything is saved in the cloud. I was the smart guy that took a two-terabyte external hard drive and put all pictures, all important records, etc., on that drive. It was backup in case my PC crashed and I could not recover data on the hard drive. I put it in my nightstand in our bedroom, and watched it go up in flames.
“I learned that we really don't need to accumulate all of the 'stuff' we accumulated through the 30 years we lived in Kenwood. Since we no longer have a barn to pile stuff in, I hope we will buy only what we need and give away what we don't. We intentionally do not have a lot of storage space in our new home. Did I really need to keep and store my mother's sofa (60 years old), dining table (60 years old), and on and on and on?”
- Gary Rosenberg, Kenwood
“In the fire, I lost all my wood fences, a shed and lots of trees and shrubs. The cost of the smoke remediation in my house was equivalent to building a completely new house in many places. The fire made me change my approach to fixing the damage, and made me consider additional ways to make the new construction fire safe. For example, one of my new sheds, completed last month, has fire-resistant fiber cement siding and a metal roof. The other new shed has a metal roof and will be painted with fire-resistant intumescent paint. I am also painting the underside of the eaves of my house with intumescent paint; when intumescent paint is used over wood, the paint bubbles up rather than burning.”
- Brian Torone, Kenwood
“We have taken some trees out, and are paying more attention to ladder fuels. But we are not deluding ourselves; we live in the woods, so if a fire like last year's comes our way again, it could easily get us. Had the wind not shifted last time, in another ten minutes, max, our place would have been gone.”
- Ed Davis, Glen Ellen
“In 1997, we lost a house on Henno Road in Glen Ellen. As a result of that experience I videoed all of our contents and the inside of our home in Kenwood. Unfortunately, that video burned last year with the house. Next time, with the help of a tech-savvy child, I would somehow load that video on to the cloud.”
- Raymond Wilmers, Kenwood
“I have learned that people can experience the same event and have different experiences and outcomes. I have seen great generosity. From strangers. From friends. From organizations. From people next door and people across the world. We have come together. We need to continue to do so. We need each other and in those days of the raging fires we learned that we got each other.”
- Renea Mangini, Sonoma. Dunbar Elementary School third grade teacher.
“I wish I had known we would be evacuated for two weeks. I think we were expecting a couple of days! I also wish I knew that the small propane tanks we had would only run the generator for 72 hours. The propane ran out on Tuesday morning about eight hours before the fire reached us. We lost the ability to pump water (though when the pump stopped, we had 5,000 gallons on site that the fire team was still drawing from on Thursday) and we could no longer remotely monitor the site.
“We now have two-plus weeks of generator fuel. We just completed a 500-foot firebreak on the southeast side of the house. Next up is swapping out the plastic water tank with a metal one. This is all in addition to our normal annual defensible space maintenance.”
- Marc Schwager, Glen Ellen
“I think the most important lesson for us is the realization of how fortunate we are and an empathy for those who lost not just their homes but their very identities. I have wondered many times since if we would have rebuilt if we lost our home. Long term, the fires have raised more fundamental questions about the future of California. How do you trade off the need for more housing demand against the reality that we are building in areas that simply should never be developed?”
- Andy Robart, Oakmont
“We had all the defensible space around the house and all the water we needed to defend the house, but we were out of town.
“We are in the process of rebuilding now. I am going all solar so there will be no dependence on PG&E. I'm concerned that there can be another fire this year, and their response to clearing around power lines is delinquent.”
- Jimmy Galvin, Glen Ellen
“We're now scanning and keeping all documents digitally. Every piece of important paper perished in the 'fireproof' safe.
“We cannot prepare adequately for every unknown. But if I can possibly manage this, I will never ever leave any pet alone on a Red Flag night, even if I think she or he is in the safest place.
“This haunts me. And I know many, many others share the same pain. I was planning to take all the pets to the same location, where I thought they'd be safe, and it'd be quiet and secure in a cozy indoor environment. I could not even get out the ranch driveway… It's almost impossible when you live surrounded by woodlands, but we have cut back or removed even more trees (the fire destroyed several hundred on our ranch), and are making greater efforts to remove leaf litter constantly.
“I'm keeping whistles in vehicles. And we have purchased communication radios for use on all our ranches.”
- Julie and Tom Atwood, Glen Ellen
“[At Sugarloaf Ridge State Park] we've revised our emergency plans to better recognize that in the first hours of a fire, we may be on our own. And may have to take the lead in the evacuation. Additional training for staff and volunteers on the emergency plan and how to use fire hoses, more aggressive and complete defensible space around buildings, more weed clearing along roads, better clearance and understanding of alternate park exits, and better communications with park neighbors and Adobe Canyon Road residents.”
- John Roney, Park Manager, Sugarloaf Ridge State Park