As of August 17th, I have been working diligently with the community of Bonny Doon in response to the CZU Lightning Fire Complex.
This lightning fire grew quickly to over 80,000 acres and I was ordered to evacuate my loving home in the redwood forest that my husband and I purchased just a couple of years ago. My heart was broken when I saw the flames engulf my neighborhood with over 200 feet high flames and smoke so thick I could hardly see.
After evacuating, I decided I wanted to help others whose homes and land were also being threatened. I started a GoFundMe, where I have been raising money to go towards helping everyone get housing and supplies to live like clothes, hygiene materials, food, water, gas, and all other things necessary in a crisis.
Update from Thursday, August 28, 2020:
Yesterday the air was noticeably clearer. My husband, a neighbor and I started the day by going to Santa Cruz CORE (one of the Bonny Doon hubs for pick ups and drop offs), and the room was full.Questions arose regarding everything from is my water tank still standing, please get my fish out of the pond, feed the chickens, please bring chew to this address… the list continued. We packed our late 90’s Toyota Tundra to the gills and we piled in and drove up the mountain. We were escorted in to the evacuation area and once again we started our journey.
The barricade got moved as officials are starting to decrease the size of the evacuation zone. Things are improving.
First to check out is the fire status at our properties on Empire. Our neighbor who we are lucky enough that he has a tractor continued to cut lines as the ground was still scorching hot from the fire just a few nights before. Pulling brush further away from our houses, and then watering what was left of the plants and putting water out for the wildlife. We started our generator to run the well pump so we could continue to fill up our second tank. There was less smoke than usual on lower Empire and the weather actually looked downright pleasant other than the incredible stench of smoke in the air.
Second drop “the airport house” on Empire Grade. This house is the upper mountain hub. We dropped fresh food from Dirty Girl Farms and Upper Crust Pizza, who donated 50 pizzas. It’s the little things we take for granted that people so appreciate. We delivered over 200 gallons of fuel yesterday in 1-5 gallon containers. We are continuing to ask for donations as we are up to a spend of roughly $10,000. The donations are so appreciated and every penny goes to help the residents holding down the fort and saving our community.
Thursday we got to bring donated Upper Crust Pizza, coconut water, Gatorade, tarps, chainsaws, extension cords, food, water, bar oil, chainsaw mix….pizza and chainsaws were the favorite. Requests came for beer -light beer. For our next run we can do that.
The appreciation is overwhelming and mutual.
The slogan for Covid was “We’re all in this together” but nothing like a fire to demonstrate that even more!
As we stand around and chat about what’s happened since we last saw each other, we see two helicopters drop water on the airport field to do a “hot fueling” (I think that’s what it’s called). Usually there’s a strike engine at the landing to ensure the helicopter doesn’t blow up, and due to the extremely short staff and the decision to enforce the Bonny Doon team to stand down, the copter just drops water to ensure no sparks fly. Quite a vision, hundreds of gallons of water dropping from the sky.
The sound is loud, so we start to yell to hear each other talk about what fires we put out, and how there’s still so much burning. Cal fire sleeps at night so that’s when we go out. It also makes it easier to see spot fires. We went to some specific neighborhoods to check on things. House at Pine Flat ending in 41 has water tanks and is all good. My sisters dad’s house on Pine Flat is still standing. Atherly lane looked good. Today the adrenaline started to subside and it started to sink in what was taking place. We stopped by a gentleman’s house who had recently lost his spouse and we just listened as he cried. This is stressful, this is an incredible effort and as Ryan Coonerty said, this is just the beginning.
We drove down Bonny Doon road and Thayer to drop off gas. We checked out Country Estates, which looked good. The field on Bonny Doon Road that’s attached to a house on Thayer is completely scorched. Drove up Smith grade to 2800 to deliver gas to someone too afraid to leave for fear he will be arrested, but he’s alright on food and has now enough fuel for generator. Stacy at 1514 is awesome and they still have power by some miracle, so she’s helping to deliver fuel and help with animals today. Hero story: Stacy was higher up on the mountain when the fire came raging down and she literally escaped on foot with a horse down Empire Grade while the fire burned on either side. I just imagine this scene from out of a movie.
Today we had an impromptu insurance and FAQ update at Santa Cruz Core. Ryan Coonerty and Greenspan insurance adjusters joined us. For many people, there’s light at the end of the tunnel— they get to go home to an untouched house that doesn’t stink, and they have a warm bed to go to, and for that we are grateful. For those of us closer to ground zero, we need to get ready for a long road ahead. For those with a total loss of home it is more cut and dry than than those who have smoke damage. Unfortunate news that lack of power and potable water doesn’t count as not liveable. I’m not sure if that is for everyone, or just certain insurances. Yes FEMA has loans, but that doesn’t cut it to have to repay for damages done that was not anyone’s fault.
Most people don’t know this until they’ve gone through it, but after a fire there are then potential issues with the water table, and of course no infrastructure for some time. Let’s hope and pray that each person has a better experience with their insurance than what I’ve heard today. Initial suggestions were, hire a third party industrial hygienist if your house is still standing— but tests may cost anywhere from $8-10k according to the estimates I received today. Sure, insurance will pay for that but insurance will hire their expert they have used before. Be careful what you say to your insurance. Do information gathering and ask for help. I am navigating this as well. So far what I have done is told the adjuster yes, there is damage, I know there is damage— this was enough to get them to pass me from one adjuster to the ALE adjuster. This is going to be the difference between you getting help vs. none at all. Please ask questions before you tell them anything. If you need help with this, please ask me. Yes you can hire a public adjuster, and that might be nice to not have to deal with the insurance directly, but no one cares as much as you or me. I am going through the EXACT same thing, and though I am learning this just as quickly as you, I have experience advocating for people for the last 20 years and it is all about what you say and what you don’t say to get what you need from your insurance company. Let us help each other. Let me help you.
We are still in the battle, Phase I— getting fires under control on the mountain and protecting our homes. Soon we will be approaching Phase 2 which is determining what resources we have available to our community. As we get into Phase 2 we want to be prepared. We will be coming out with informational emails and posts so please send your email, phone number, name and address so we can better coordinate our communication efforts.