Kenwood Press

Serving the communities of Kenwood, Glen Ellen and Oakmont

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Letters to the Editor: 11/15/2017

Letters to the Editor

Thanks from Kenwood fire chief

The night of Oct. 8, 2017 was not only a historic event for Kenwood, but for all the communities in the Sonoma Valley, and the entire county. The total destruction, loss of property and lives was devastating.

I would like to express my most sincere condolences to each and every one of you who may have lost a loved one and/or a home. To lose one single home to a wildfire goes against the grain for any firefighter. To lose over 100 homes in one day in the town you serve to protect and live in is something I will never forget and will be forever reliving.

The community did an outstanding job of evacuating under such a short notice and under such extreme conditions. Members of the community who decided not to evacuate and try to protect their own homes and their neighbors did an incredible job. I thank you from the bottom of my heart, everyone that came down to the Kenwood Fire Station and offered food, volunteering time and supplies to the crews working the lines. We have an amazing community.

Our firefighters worked nonstop, day after day, sleepless nights, most not knowing if their own home or families had survived for days. The community of Kenwood has such a dedicated team. I am so proud of the men and women of our fire district. Thank you for all your hard work and training.

We will rebuild and stand stronger than ever. Thank you again for all the support, donations and compassionate letters.

Daren Bellach
Chief, Kenwood Fire District

More thanks

We’d like to thank everyone who helped us during those tragic and scary 10 days: Steve Marshall, who banged on our front door until we woke up early Monday morning; Geoff Sacco, who stayed with us and kept us calm and safe through that first night; Jane Brier and Dave Ruckdaschel, who showed up with functioning cell phones and news of the outside world; Gail Yee and Ken Uboldi, for dog food, fresh vegetables and their good company; Arleen and Robert Brooks, for bringing us hot food and groceries, just when we needed it; and, lastly, the Kenwood Fire Department, for use of their landline to call worried family members, but mostly for providing a place where we could feel safe, enjoy Andre Benguerel’s endless hot food and coffee, and bond with others who, for whatever reason, found themselves in Kenwood.

You made all the difference, and we couldn’t have done it without you,

Ralph and Rochelle Campana

Fire is a part of our story

Recently, after harvesting vegetables at Oak Hill Farm, the owner, Anne Teller, told me, “People come and go. The land is what remains.” Her words were the exact opposite of what I wanted to hear her say. I hoped that she would honor the farm workers who planted, harvested and cultivated at Oak Hill. Yet, when I thought about her words, I knew they were true. The Indians are gone. The first settlers are gone; Anne Teller’s husband, Otto, who helped found the Sonoma Land Trust, is gone, and so are dozens of farm workers. Anne Teller herself would be gone one day.

I remembered her words when I attended the standing-room-only gathering of the Sonoma Land Trust in Santa Rosa. Neal Fishman, the board chair, talked about the recent firestorm – the biggest and most destructive ever in California. He acknowledged the strength of the Sonoma County community and he painted a picture of “fires that licked at buildings at Live Oak Ranch.”

Then, Wendy Eliot, the conservation director, asked members of the audience, “How many of you have cried recently because of the fires?” Not surprisingly, hundreds of hands went into the air. Then Eliot said, “Many of us have thought of this place as benevolent and benign and now sense that it has turned on us.” Then, she went on to say what took courage to say: “Fire happens in the same places over and over again. Fires have shaped this place that we love so much.” She asked the audience to remember that “fire is a part of our story,” and that, because that story is so easily lost it’s essential to pass it on to the next generation. The truth is often hard to hear.

Wendy Eliot, Neal Fishman and everyone who works or volunteers at The Sonoma Land Trust knows that while fires are part of our story, we can reduce the likelihood of “catastrophic fires” in the future by listening to the land and by practicing conservation and preservation. The voices of the Sonoma Land Trust might not be heard in the chorus of “Sonoma Strong.” They might not reach the ears of those who have lost homes, belongings, pet and more. It has been right to honor the first responders and the many individuals who acted heroically. But it’s also essential to remember that people come and go, that the land is what remains, and that fire is a part of our story.

Jonah Raskin

Takes issue with article on Oakmont evacuation

A recent article alluded to a successful handling of the recent fire evacuation from Oakmont, being due to COPE and OEPC. As a volunteer with both groups I am afraid that was far from the truth. There was a total lack of information from any source regarding the location of the fires and where to go for safety. Many people gathered in the parking lot of the Berger Center in the hopes of getting some direction, but none was forthcoming. It was not until the police came through the village about 8 a.m. and announced the mandatory evacuation, that we learned where to go. At that point we were told we had minutes to get out.

[OVA] Board President Gloria Young advised at the Oct. 31 meeting that a workshop will be organized to discuss how to better handle emergency preparedness.

Sylvia Edwards

[Editor’s note: The second paragraph of the article in question states: “The aftermath revealed lessons to be learned as the fires overwhelmed Oakmont’s volunteer emergency systems. Large numbers of residents had not signed up for emergency notification, and many of those who did had no phone service because of a wind-driven power outage that preceded the fire. People often learned of the emergency from neighbors.” Nowhere do the authors attribute a successful evacuation to OEPC or COPE, but rather pointed out areas that need improvement.]

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