The Dixie Fire has wreaked more Destruction, Disruption, and Displacement than any of us could ever imagine. I’m not sure which of the 3-D’s has been more hurtful; all I know is that almost every resident impacted by the Dixie Fire, has suffered greatly. Most important, is always those immediate needs – food, shelter, and safety for those harmed or about to be.
Destruction of your possessions can be severe. Some have lost everything they have worked for in a matter of minutes. How does one process loss that happens in a moment for the things you have treasured for years?
The Disruption in the lives of the 28,000 people that have been evacuated by this Monster Fire, is far too much to write about. To be forced to leave your home, job, and neighborhood, is gut-wrenching. Just ask someone who has been evacuated 5 times. Or ask the Plumas County evacuees that were asked to leave the Lassen College Evacuation Center without warning, after days of inconvenience. How many days and weeks do our residents have to sleep outside in a parking lot, in the company of strangers and without the company and security of a home? I understand why people are reluctant to leave. It’s not that they may be belligerent; perhaps they are more fearful of leaving for a world unknown, than anything else. Leaving in the dark can be really scary. It’s the uncertainty of it all.
The Displacement has been a hard one for some to process. How do you leave your family, friends, home, and employees without some type of guilty conscience? I think the most profound story I heard came from Carol Franchetti of Carol’s Cafe in Prattville, as she lamented to me from her evacuation location: “I just want to help somebody”. The denial of goodness – to help someone else, is probably one of the most difficult emotions to endure. To not be there for your family, friends, and employees from afar has many feeling worse than if they had suffered their own personal loss.
There will be a lot of finger-pointing before and after this Monster Fire is dead and gone. Mistakes have been made. For now, let’s focus on each other and how we can get our lives back to some degree of normality. There will be many lessons to be learned. Winston Churchill once famously said “Don’t let a disaster go to waste”. We must learn from our losses, we must become better and stronger.
One of the things that inspired me from all of this was watching the documentary of the Camp Fire in Paradise. It’s on YouTube and it’s called “A High and Awful Price: Lessons Learned from the Paradise Fire”. Despite great suffering, the people of Paradise have more resolve than ever. In the documentary, many lessons were outlined. Some of them that struck cords with me were:
- Plan for disasters 10 times bigger than you can imagine.
- Plan, Prepare, and Practice.
- There are more people than there are First Responders –
- Prepare to help yourself; take responsibility.
- Think regionally in your disaster planning.
- Have flexible plans; plan for your plans to be shattered.
- Stay Calm.
- Plan for those most vulnerable.
- Prepare for the Aftermath – it may take years.
- Very importantly, we need to work together. Public and private relationships have to be created; local and regional resources have to work together. All of us need to get behind each other and pull our share of the rope.
When Paradise burned, they changed their brand to “Paradise – Ridge Rise” to signify a new birth, a new rebuilding, a new future.
Plumas County can take the lessons of Paradise and set a course to prosperity. It is up to us to learn from others and become better, stronger, and more resilient. That’s my “Plumas Promise”.