As many of you know (and many don’t), a few months back I packed up and moved to my hometown of Santa Rosa in the Northern California wine country. I grew up there, have tons of friends there, want to grow old there, and love waking up there.
Last week not far from my “new” house, (in fact too close for comfort) the biggest fire in California history started (a bunch of fires really). I was awakened by friends possibly in danger and prepared to host them if their house caught ablaze, We called other friends, (the kind that pick up at 3 am) to see if they were OK, and worried about them and others until we could figure out what was going on.
Finally, we got worried about ourselves as the fire got close enough to require evacuation. (The photo is from my roof!)
Evacuatiion is always stressful, but we were leaving early enough to not have to panic as part of the process. I’d say people were mostly kind. The panic in this storm (they call it a fire storm) was when you saw the flames spread as fast as a Hollywood rumor across the roads where you walk your dog. Firefighters lit a back burn and the fire ate itself in the longest 40 minutes I can remember. I haven’t tasted this type of primal fear in years.
Since then it’s been sleepless nights snatching rest when we can and watching the mountain for constant flare-ups. Neighbors and I made use of Facebook to post the latest information and photos. I was able to see the flare-ups from the roof and posted updates (alongside many others) at regular intervals for the people who stayed away or couldn’t come back. Sure, some folks who prey on bad situations, and yup, we had some looters, but there’s no room right now to spare emotion for them when so many have lost their homes and businesses, and loved ones.
Any sanity during this time comes from the people doing good. First and foremost are the pro and amateur responders who run into areas or knock on the doors with flames in fast pursuit. They are the stars of everything. Next are the pals who stayed and posted updates to report which houses were still standing and which blocks got hit. And when you’re a comic and have funny friends, the laughs I got this week were the sweetest part of my day otherwise filled with smoke and ash.
You find out how important friendship is, family is, kindness is, and how important laughter is especially when it’s in short supply. A few small “normal” things hit me, like comedian Frank Michael Estrada’s description of a “bad burrito at Rick’s.”. Funny moments like that were a deep cool oasis on a terrible, hot, scary, fire-burning-houses-down, can-I get-out-with-my-things-or-my-life type of day.
People helping people in need might be the highest peak of the humanity triangle, That and a good laugh, all salve to this soul.