Tuesday, September 22, 2015

City mouse, country mouse

I am a city girl. I like the energy of the City and try to take advantage of the amenities it has to offer. I spend part of every day in Golden Gate Park or the Presidio. I hit museums all the time and have season tickets to the theater. I love hearing people speak so many different languages when I'm out and about and enjoy the diversity here. I follow the San Francisco Giants religiously - even in odd years when they don't win the World Series. Football is less my thing and the 49ers left town for Santa Clara, but I still pay attention.  As my life turned out, being close to excellent medical care was another huge perk. I have no doubt that Maggie lived as long and as well as she did because of the easy access to excellent care.

I don't live in a bubble, though. There are negative things about living in the City too. Crime, Parking tickets. Prices. Crowds  But we take the good with the bad and practice vigilance and tolerance and patience. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't,

One thing we generally don't have to worry about in San Francisco is wildfire. (Not so true in Oakland, however.) Sure there are fires and people get displaced all the time because of them, but they are not wildfires that burn down entire towns.*

Though we are almost all city based, last week my family had to sweat through the terrible Valley Fire which has burned nearly 600 homes in Lake County. My sister Mary, who was probably the most City of all of us, moved to Lake county many years ago. She became a country girl. Well, sort of.

ok, that's not really them

She and her husband Channing have a beautiful house with a sweeping view. I took this from their living room when I visited in March

That view was very different last Saturday. This picture was also from their living room, taken by my brother in law as he was evacuating. He said just 10 minutes earlier the sky was clear and there was no evidence of fire, but the wind was roaring and that fire just appeared from over the hill jut as a fire truck came up the driveway and told him to get out. 

This is from the bottom of their driveway.

That house was right in the path of the fire.  Mary was not at home, she was here in the City attending a Giants game when Channing called to tell her he was being evacuated. This was the third wildfire to threaten them this summer, but the first that actually required evacuation. Channing was without transportation as his truck was being repaired, so he met some neighbors and left for Lower Lake to the North. Then they were evacuated from there as well and he went to another friend's house to the Northeast.

The fire flattened much of Cobb and Anderson Springs and then moved through the town of Middletown just to the south of them. The picture of the "Welcome to Middletown" sign burning was hard to look at.


 News reports were sketchy and we had no way of knowing if their house survived. We kept telling each other Mary and Channing were safe, which was the most important thing. Of course they were also separated by the fire so each had to fret and worry without the support of the other.

This went on for days. We listened to reports and knew the wind patterns. Every afternoon was a new concern. We knew the fire was in their development, but it is a huge place and it seemed to still be south of them. Mary stayed with my sister Ellen for a couple of days and with another friend for a couple of more. She went to work - and three of her co workers were in a similar position of not knowing. It was stressful and frightening.

Of course we kept saying it's only "stuff" and it doesn't matter. That's only partly true. Of course it's only stuff.  But it does matter. Of course lives matter more, but losing everything you own along with your house really does matter.  

Thousands of fire fighters were on the job and the fire was 5%, then 10% then 30% contained, but roads were closed and we had no idea about her house. I'm sure we were driving Mary crazy with our phone calls and texts, but we all felt so powerless and wanted to help.

The fire stated Saturday evening and finally on Thursday - five long days later -  my sister Ellen provided the information we needed. The father of a friend of hers was able to get into the area and sent a video of Mary and Channing's house still standing and safe from the fire. Ellen texted it to all of us. I was on the campus of San Francisco State University when I received that text and just started to cry in front of all those fresh faced students. It was such a huge relief - and it wasn't even my house.

My sister and her husband were finally reunited and able to return to their house on Sunday - eight days after Channing evacuated with only his computer under his arm. They were without power until Monday but that didn't matter. Now they have only to throw away the bad food, get the smell out of the refrigerator and restock, which is no more than a minor annoyance.

They know how lucky they are. They can sit in their living room and go back to those sweeping views, but it might be difficult to look at for a while because the landscape has changed a lot. And they know that many of their friends and neighbors, including one of Mary's co-workers, were not as lucky.

Joni, another sister, is planning a golf tournament/fundraiser to help the victims of the fire and I will post information about that when it's ready. In the mean time please consider doing whatever you can to help the people who were so terribly affected by this fire.

We City mice have to do our part. So many people will need help.

* Ok, there was that incident where most of the City burned following the 1906 earthquake, but I like to think 111 years of progress might keep that from happening again.  Right? Right?


  1. God bless them both. So lucky, compared to others, yet so scary during the fire fight. Thank God, they and their home are safe. Prayers work.

  2. Oh, my god. That is so scary, so terrible, so close to home. I am grateful that your sister and her husband are all right, and that they were spared their home. Thank you for sharing the photos -- while we saw in the papers, it's good and sobering to see how real lives are affected. I am very much interested in any local fundraising that you're doing, so keep me posted.


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