Off Road Retales: Shelter from the Storm

Location: Santa Rosa, CA

I have been working for the past three days in retail. The bookstore has been operating on modified hours in cooperation with the local curfew and for us workers to get home safely. That is if we have homes to get to. The fires are still raging but the battle is starting to be won.

At the bookstore I am hearing stories from those who have lost everything. Some still in shock are unsure how to carry on. Others are maxing out their credit cards to replace what they lost and continue to smile. It is most difficult for them though when they realise they have lost valued family items such as photographs or heirlooms from their great grandparent.

One woman realised this as she entered our doors to buy a new e-reader for her husband. Attempting not to break down she smiled softly as I set her up with a new device. Once she saw her library she was overjoyed for her husband and herself. But attempted to hide the tears from me of “the old editions passed down from her grandmother” that were lost to the inferno.

The unbelievable destruction of the wildfires continued to spread for the past eight days. The entire city of Calistoga has been under mandatory evacuation. “You are not wanted.” Said the mayor, “This is for your own safety.”

In Santa Rosa entire neighborhoods have been turned to ash. “Part of my life is gone. That is what hurts the worst.” One person told me as she recounted escaping the flames that greeted her in the early hours of Monday morning last week. No time, she quickly was able to flee her house with her family and only the clothes on their backs.

The enduring winds continued to spread the flames a few days ago. The smoke and ash moving across the North Bay area and into the surrounding bay areas. Due to the air quality it makes it difficult to fight the fires. Thousands of Californians have fled the apocalypse, filming the walls of flames in their wake. There was a light dusting of ash outside the bookstore today. And it was difficult to imagine. This was from the fires being put out in all directions, carried on the light breeze that came through.

On this blistered Earth are so many stories of unimaginable loss. I overheard a phone call from one man, “I am figuring out where I am and what I am.”

Another spoke, “I didn’t know what gone meant until I saw it.” This was a fire responder when he saw that he had lost his own home to the devastation.

It is the embers that are the most concerning caught on the Diablo winds. As of this morning thirty five deaths have been confirmed, over 190,000 acres of land burned, over 900 firefighters are on the scene and over five thousand homes and businesses have been turned to ash. This has taken many lives and some are starting to suffer from the aftereffects due to the air quality.

When you go out into the thick air it is advised you wear an N-95 face mask to allow yourself to breath. If you do not have such, then a damp scarf will do. You can hear the coughing sounds of people that pass by attempting to have some sort of normalcy after this damage.

The world continues to turn and grow. In time this community will heal. It will be a long and difficult road, however there is light there and we all will continue to stand strong.

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