NorCal fire check-in October 28, 2019 8:41 AM   Subscribe

I am not in California but all my colleagues and friends are. Please let's have a place for MeFites to share their experiences of the Kincade Fire and others. Stay safe and be smart! People before things, for sure. My boss may lose his beautiful home and stayed until the mandatory evacuation was called - be less stubborn!
posted by Lawn Beaver to MetaFilter-Related at 8:41 AM (18 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

Be safe. Sending good wishes to all those impacted. 💙
posted by Fizz at 8:52 AM on October 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

I am not in the evacuation area, but am in a PSPS (Public Safety Power Shutoff) area at the northern end of Marin County. I have a small lithium generator (Yeti400) that kept my devices powered up but no Internet--the absolute dark is very eerie--too much haze to appreciate the star gazing. I am an anxious person and this is not helping. However, I do appreciate that my home is not in the path of any of the current fires.

I came into work this morning in Oakland and I'm using the office to recharge my generator and phones (work/home). I had pretty much cleaned out the fridge so I'm OK there. It was cold this morning but not unbearable.

My heart goes out to evacuees.
posted by agatha_magatha at 10:06 AM on October 28, 2019 [6 favorites]

My siblings and I finally convinced my elderly parents to evacuate from Lake county. They had already had to evacuate once last week because of a smaller fire and their power was out for 4+ days during the last PSPS. They started out saying "we can't leave everytime PG&E gets scared". (Yes, Yes you can!) But the Kincaid fire is a couple of ridgelines over, and very visible from their house and the wind is insane up there, and they can't drive in the dark. I need to do an Ask Me about getting elderly parents to move.
posted by DarthDuckie at 10:28 AM on October 28, 2019 [5 favorites]

I have been in the East Bay for almost the last 2 weeks, was there for the first power outage, and it felt like such a flex on the part of PG&E - "you need us, we can do this to you anytime." It still seems appropriate to be angry with PG&E for not doing upgrades on their equipment for the last however many years. But that Kincade fire is just terrifying.

My sister and her partner in Santa Cruz Co. are without power but found a generator on Saturday. They live up a hill, when they drive 5 mins into town everyone is going about their business. Eerie.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 11:27 AM on October 28, 2019 [6 favorites]

Evacuated from Sebastapol at 4:45 am Sunday morning. The power had been off since 9 pm the night before. Someone slashed 3 tires on my car during the outage but before the evacuation, but I’m fortunate to be living with family who had an extra one. Took 3 hours to get to the 101 in evacuation traffic with a terrified cat and chihuahua in the back seat. I’m blessed to have a hotel room in Berkeley for at least 4 days. Lots of trouble but no harm to me.

I do hope that if anyone has spare prayers or good feelings that they will send them the way of the first responders and fire fighters. My older brother is one of them. He’s sent me some pictures/video of scenes from the front lines. I cannot overstate how absofuckinlutely Heroic the firefighters are being.

The wind comes back tomorrow. Humans are kinder when tragedy strikes. I’m very worn out still.
posted by Drumhellz at 11:38 AM on October 28, 2019 [26 favorites]

Drumhellz, somebody *slashed your tires*? Freaking OMG WTF. I'm glad you and the pets are out safely.

I'm in the East Bay in a neighborhood that wasn't subject to the pre-emptive power outs, though neighbors up the hill have all gone dark. Still, nobody is outside walking around today because the air quality is absolute crap - it's not just smoke from the Kincaid Fire today, it's the Grizzly Island fire too; yesterday, it was also the Vallejo-Crockett fires and the Lafayette fires and a fire in Martinez and there were multiple additional fires further east as well.

We need rain.
posted by Pandora Kouti at 12:01 PM on October 28, 2019 [5 favorites]

Yeah I went out to pack the car at midnight and had three flats. Thought it was just bad luck until I noticed all four nozzle caps were gone too. I hurried back inside at that point, needless to say.
posted by Drumhellz at 12:41 PM on October 28, 2019 [2 favorites]

My heart breaks for my poor state. My Nor Cal county just got power back a few hours ago, with another shutoff planned for tomorrow morning.
posted by porn in the woods at 2:10 PM on October 28, 2019

My family lost our home in the Tubbs Fire two years ago, and we still live in Santa Rosa, so of course this whole business has been pretty unsettling to us.

Though our home was in neither an evac warning zone nor a mandatory evac zone, we left, anyway, not quite three days ago, to stay with friends in Penngrove. We're still with them; still have power and internet. These are the same friends who put us up two years ago - in fact, that's how we met them, when they agreed to host us (and our three animals) without knowing any more than our names. They're now our most beloved local friends.

Anyway, we're fine, and we have confirmation that our home and our neighborhood are fine, too. (Though we've surely lost much of the food in the fridges and freezers, and I think I may have forgotten to take out the trash ...) We remain edgy and a little stir-crazy, but we're OK.

While I don't think we're out of the woods yet, by any means (and the air quality here in Penngrove has taken a turn for the worse today), I have a sense that things will improve ... soonish? Hoping to get home tomorrow or the next day. Some areas in western Sonoma County have just been downgraded from mandatory evac to evac warning, and that's good news.

Agreed: the first responders have been true-life superheroes. The stand in Windsor was particularly superhuman. They saved a whole neighborhood (that contains the home of some dear friends), and possibly the whole city of Windsor - and possibly Santa Rosa, as well. If anyone has any ideas about how to start a fundraiser/thank you campaign for these folks, I would like to hear them.

One thing I've learned is that the acreage of the fires is not the most significant statistic. Size matters, of course, but it's all about WHERE the fires are located and which way the wind is blowing, and how strongly. Fires burning in isolated, rural areas is obviously worse than no fires burning at all, but it's not that far removed from the natural fire/renewal cycle that is actually beneficial to this overstressed California landscape.

If, after this literally blows over, any local MeFites want to get some "holy shit I need a drink" beer, please let me know. Definitely need some normalcy.
posted by Dr. Wu at 3:34 PM on October 28, 2019 [12 favorites]

I've been lucky: I'm in the flats in the inner East Bay, and I still have power. But my sister lives up the hill, lost her power, and she's got bronchitis. So she spent the day at my house, with my working air filter (the air has been so bad today!), drinking tea and petting my dog.

I'm glad I had the option to come to work, though: the air smelled so bad on the way into downtown, but at least the HVAC in my office building is semi-functional.

It's really unsettling driving around in neighborhoods without streetlights, and the fire smell actually woke me up around 2 am last night, I was sure there was something on fire inside the house. Nope, just the wind from the North Bay.
posted by suelac at 4:54 PM on October 28, 2019 [6 favorites]

If anyone is feeling frustrated and helpless and wants to pitch in, the UndocuFund for folks who are undocumented and therefore ineligible for standard assistance has re-opened for the Kincade fires.
posted by WidgetAlley at 4:54 PM on October 28, 2019 [4 favorites]

I’m at the northern end of Marin too. I charged devices yesterday at one of the city’s two communal charging centers (the other one is branded the “PG&E Resource Center”). 2 devices and 2 hours max, per person. The first guy sitting across frim me had low vision & a Guide Dog (golden lab) who laid there with his head between the guy’s ankles, hugging the ankles to his head with his paws on the ankles’ outsides.

When they left, a Trumpist took that spot, who went on a lot about how she’s involved in a Recall Newsom initiative because of his program to track schoolchildren & record invasive data about them, & because of his Agenda, which includes taking all our cars away & handing our sovereignty to the UN globalists, & also Trump’s the only one who can protect our borders (she said that last one to the white people in our cluster, not me).

When she left, I had a decent conversation with a woman who nevertheless when I cautiously remarked that warming temps mean these fires will keep happening so it’s important for as many of us as possible to push our elected officials to take urgent action, she said “Nah, did that when I was younger, didn’t make a difference, not doing that again.” But a high school girl was listening and she gave me a big smile when I left, so maybe she agreed.

Also I had a great convo with another woman, a soul/jazz trumpet player, who’d written her dissertation on gender & getting solos (spoiler: women are held to a lower standard, & passed over for solos). Her guy teaches high school & he said he used to think all he had to do to be fair was treat boys & girls the same, but reading that dissertation made him realize that he has to encourage girls explicitly, so he basically tells girls, “lf you don’t even try out for that solo, here’s what happens” & he lays out the dissertation in 3 sentences so they realize the implicit patterns & the stakes, too.

Now I’m at home, checking twitter for fire updates and eating potato chips by candlelight. People have tweeted about turning PG&E into a public utility. Is that a feasible thing to push our reps on?
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 9:42 PM on October 28, 2019 [16 favorites]

I don't see how PG&E makes it through the next couple of years without being nationalized or whatever the equivalent verb is. I think the only real questions about it are around the exact form that takes and how much it'll cost.

One interesting aspect of this is that so far, as best I can tell, LADWP, who is usually everyone's favorite public utility to hate, seems to have come out of this looking great. They started a conversion to buried conductors years ago, in the face of heavy criticism, and to my knowledge have done zero shutoffs. (Contrasting to my place in Oakhurst which had a 36+ hour PG&E outage ending overnight last night with a new one potentially starting Wednesday.) I haven't seen any coverage of this and am not very aware of the facts so I actually sent an email to a friend of a friend at the LA Times and maybe they'll cover this part of the story a little.
posted by feloniousmonk at 8:43 AM on October 29, 2019 [2 favorites]

These fire seasons all have their own rhythm and emotions. A few weeks ago there were just some spot fires here and there, so our fine firefighting crews were able to contain them with relative ease. (Is there ever an "easy" fire?) We were driving down out of the Sierra foothills at dusk, into the stripes, ridges, and clouds of a sunset. This was the kind of sunset that if you saw it on someone's desktop wallpaper, you'd say, "A bit overdone with the Photoshopping". Glorious.

Now it seems like most everyone is just glad no one has died from the fires. Like most people in the unfashionable, treeless, and flat sections, we have power and the one fire a few miles away was snuffed in a day. I wonder and hope that the propensity of better-off folks to live in the leafy hills has prevented any confirmed deaths from the power shutoffs. Even in this arid region, which gets less than 12in / 30cm of rain in a year, the dry bluster is immediately noticeable everywhere.

The weather pattern this year has kept the smoke mostly in the North Bay, so instead of choking air over the whole Bay Area, things are pretty much status quo. Youth soccer and outdoor fairs are operating normally. Except where they aren't. Hard to believe that some parts of Sonoma are getting hit again. As cruel as it is, like the flood maps in a world of rising seas, I wonder if there aren't big swaths where it's just not practical to prevent loss of property and life. There's a reason one of my favorite wine regions is called the "Petaluma Gap". All the wind from a whole valley gets funneled into a little slot in the hills. It's great for grapes, but defending it from fire? I read reports that some fires have been sending embers forward of the main fire for miles. How could you possibly contain a fire flinging itself overhead like artillery?
posted by wnissen at 9:21 AM on October 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

Thinking of you all from the east coast. I am surprised how little coverage this is getting (comparatively) on the national news.
posted by sallybrown at 1:44 PM on October 29, 2019

My folks live up in Santa Rosa. My mom's out of town so it's just my dad in the house with the dogs. They live over by the fairground and have't gotten evacuation orders yet, but he says a lot of folks have left of their own accord and the place is like a smokey ghost town. I kind of wish he'd take a hint and stay with some friends for a few days but there's only so much I can lecture my dad, y'know?

I keep thinking it'd have to burn through like half of Santa Rosa to get to where they live, which seems unlikely. Before the Tubbs fire I wouldn't have even entertained the thought, but lately all bets seem to be off. There's plenty of folks they could stay with if they do get the orders, including me, but hopefully it won't come to that.

You go about your life though, right? My text message history to my dad is hella strange. These jumpy parallel conversations about Schitt's Creek and power outages and seeing Spamalot this weekend and evacuations.

But everybody's OK, glad for that. Grateful for the first responders. They're doing tremendous work.
posted by Phobos the Space Potato at 2:04 PM on October 29, 2019 [2 favorites]

Sending good vibes to all who are waiting, watching and preparing for the possible, eventual never ending fire season to be broken by just enough rain; but not too much.

Hugs from thus east coaster who's all too familiar with the prep and wait and endure and repair scenario.

Be safe.
posted by mightshould at 6:06 PM on October 29, 2019

Luckily, I'm in deep suburbia so I'm unscathed. I use a CPAP, have two cats who need refrigerated meds, and one tamed feral who is impossible to catch and put in a carrier, so...I'm super lucky. I have friends who lost power, and several local businesses had to close for several days.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 8:42 AM on October 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

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