Saturday, October 27

Safe, Sound and Oh So Weary After the 2007 Wildfires

This past week has been the craziest time since the fall of 2004 when Dave and I (weary and post-partum) moved cross-country with a 6-week old, a 19-month old, and a dog.

The difference is that the craziness then was happy crazy. We were coming home. This time it was scary crazy with fires raging and consuming my hometown, and a new job that requires 10 - 12 hour shifts during emergencies. It was all so overwhelming and exhausting that by Thursday morning I simply cracked.

And, truth be told, my family and I had it pretty well given the state of our community. We evacuated early to my sister's house (beautiful, comfortable, safe and great fun for my kids and dog). Dave's work simply closed up for the week, so he was able to stay home and care for the girls while I worked some CRAZY hours. Rachel and Alex treated it like a little vacation 'sleep over' at Aunt Janie's. They had a ball in a house w/ my sister's 6 cats, her dog, Chewy and our Ollie. And we were never truly worried about our own house - though we were very worried for some of our closest friends.

In the end, though, it was a tremendous strain to be away from my kids and Dave during this crisis. Working in the EOC at such a critical time with just 4 weeks on the job was almost overwhelming. Things were moving so quickly and, in the beginning, I wasn't too clear on my role. Unfortunately, I inherited a media relations program that is virtually non-existent. Consequently, I was less effective in my role as external communications manager than is really acceptable in a situation of this magnitude. The aftermath of that has been more frustrating than you can imagine. After being apart from my life and working crazy hours w/out breaks or lunch (which was catered in so no one 'needed' to leave) I wondered "Is this worth it?"

Apart from my family and my sister's generosity, one of the real blessings in all of this has been the team I work with. If it hadn't been for the camaraderie, strength and professional excellence of my boss and co-worker (& all the people in the EOC) I think I may have quit sometime Thursday morning.

And now it's over and we're all just mopping up. At home we're spraying down the house and sweeping up the ash that has gotten into every nook and cranny of everything. The entire county now smells like an old campfire that's been doused with water. At work, we're sending out our final communications and trying to identify what went right (most of it) and identify the holes (unfortunately - a few big ones) and get back to 'normal.'

In all, more than a dozen fires have raced across more than 503,000 acres - the equivalent of 786 square miles. At least three people - and possibly as many as seven - have been killed by flames. About 1,700 homes have been destroyed, damage estimates have surpassed $1 billion, and the fires are still burning.


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