12 months post-fire
Twenty-five years on the same property in Kenwood allows us some perspective on this past year.
Raising our children here, getting involved in the community, and, of course, running a newspaper covering this part of Sonoma Valley, means we have met and gotten to know many of you personally over the years, through the good, the bad, and the mundane (the wonderfully mundane!)
Add to that the fact that Jay Gamel has been in Kenwood since 1973, and Sarah Campbell Phelps’ family has been here since 1987, and you can imagine the many connections the Kenwood Press has around here.
Which means this past year has been especially emotional for us, as we have tried to chronicle all the aspects of life after Oct. 8, 2017. Trying to do a job when you’re part of the experience isn’t always easy.
We, too, had to flee that night, being chased by an angry, orange sky, not knowing which way turn, having a tree block your exit from the oncoming flames (ask Jay about that), and being too close for comfort to a couple of cars blowing up (ask me about that). Our copy editor, Loralee Wellington, lost her family home on London Ranch Road.
Our staff of four were all evacuated for almost two weeks, spread out over the Bay Area, making it impossible to print an issue on Oct. 15, 2017, the ultimate salt in the wound for the Kenwood Press, which had always made its deadlines. Posting news and information on Facebook just isn’t the same, but it was the best we could do given the circumstances. We barely got power back around here in time to do the Nov. 1, 2017, issue.
Since the smoke cleared, you have shared with us the long, arduous process involved with forced relocation, cleanup issues, insurance realities, construction costs, and, for many of you, deciding whether you can, or want to, rebuild.
Our office is strategically situated next to the post office, so we have a steady stream of folks outside our door on any given day. Not a day goes by when we aren’t talking with someone about “you know what.” That’s OK with us. That’s our job, but at the same time it can be a little overwhelming.
Beyond the ashes, this last year the community has shared amazing stories of first responders, of the community’s kindness and humanity, of strength, renewal, regrowth, and rejuvenation. There’s been normalcy around the edges of an unforgettable disaster in Kenwood and Glen Ellen, not to mention the rest of Sonoma County.
Of course, much of the current focus is on the fact that we’re in the middle of another disastrous fire season for California. Preparation and awareness are the watchwords of the day, and our last couple of issues, along with this one, have had plenty of valuable information in that regard. If you haven’t done so already, set aside a day to go over prevention, preparation, and evacuation plans.
This month, you’ll read and hear a lot about the “anniversary” of the fires, which doesn’t exactly feel like the right word. But as many of you who have suffered losses this year have told me, “It is what it is.” That about covers it.