he was in the car. We got to the shelter and had no idea what
Michael Ent PASTOR, THE LIVING WORD
we would do. We felt so vulnerable, like I had my hands tied,
seeing the stress level of my kids and nothing I could do about
it. My husband and I tried to hide our emotions but when we
were evacuated my daughter drew a picture of our happy
family and told me, “I want to see you happy, Mommy.”
We were so fortunate that our home and our family
members’ homes did not burn. I was telling my co-workers
today how hard it is to be homeless when you have small
children. When the evacuation was lifted and we were
finally able to drive home, we arrived in Calistoga and my
daughter started clapping. We were all so happy.
CHAPEL, FIRE EVACUATION CENTER, NOVATO
Monday was my day off, so that morning I was getting
ready to take my son to high school in Rincon Valley when I
received a text from my in-laws. That was when we checked
the news and realized Rincon Valley might not even be
there. Within short order we wrapped our head around
what was going on, particularly when we saw the travel time
from Santa Rosa to Novato, which told us the enormity of
what was going on as far as evacuations. That was my big
clue: they were coming and would need a place to stay. We’ve
got space at Living Word, so I thought, well, we’ll turn it into
a hotel. I got in the car and went to the parking lot at Vintage
Oaks, by Costco and Target, and confirmed my suspicion
that that was where people were congregating. So, I handed
out every card we had, and I began inviting people to come
stay with us. My son and his friend were back in the church
and began clearing classrooms, and we had our sanctuary,
which was ready to go, and then we put a sign out on the
sidewalk. It just said Fire Relief with a red arrow.
When I got back from Vintage Oaks, what was following me into the parking lot was almost a caravan of people
who were already coming with donations of supplies for the
evacuees. We had several tables filled with supplies within
an hour-and-a-half, overflowing, so we were very prepared.
Wow, it was just very humbling to reflect on that.
That first night we had 34 folks, and the next night it was
40, and then it peaked on Wednesday with 70. Volunteers
would come and say, “How can I help?” and if I didn’t have
anything for them to do at the moment I’d say, “Stick around
five minutes and you’ll be busy.” Or I’d say, “Do you have
kids? Well, bring ’em and let them play.” We had kids running around laughing, because kids do that, and it was good
medicine for everybody.
I never used the term victim with the evacuees. I saw
on their faces, they were men and women who have a great
work ethic and wanted to jump in too. They were cleaning and folding, emptying the garbage. Then it turned into
mowing the grass and landscaping. There was one tree that
really needed pruning. They helped run the shelter.
The hardest thing was knowing my neighbors were strug-
gling with so much loss. But at the same time, we had created a
peace-filled place where they felt safe and had a sense of refuge.
Jennifer Alvarez WINDSOR
It was about 2: 30 a.m. on Monday, October 9, when my
16-year-old daughter texted me from her bedroom down
the hall. She said that our dog was growling. Our dog doesn’t
growl, and I felt a shot of adrenaline. Then I smelled the
smoke. On my way to her room, I passed the back patio
door and saw that the entire eastern horizon was glowing,
bright red with bursts of orange flames every time the wind
gusted. And the winds were ferocious! The wall of fire on
the ridge traveled as far south toward Santa Rosa as I could
see. I can only describe my reaction as one of helpless terror.
There was no stopping those flames if they came our way.
Later I would learn that this was the Tubbs Fire.
I spent the rest of the night with my family staring at the
fire, ready in case it roared down the hill toward us. There
was nothing between us and Tubbs except dry vineyards
and trees. In hindsight, we should have packed up the cars
that night, but my mind was in overdrive. All I could think
was that our stuff didn’t matter if we were dead. My husband began spraying our roof, our barn and the surrounding
grass with water. We have two horses, two dogs, and three
outdoor cats, and I knew we’d have to leave the cats behind
to fend for themselves. My biggest concern regarding evacuating was the horses. I had no idea where I’d take them.
Most shelters don’t take livestock either. Besides that, I
only had half a tank of gas in my rig, and I wasn’t sure how
far we’d have to travel if we left. It was all very distressing.
We decided that staying home to fight the fire was the best
decision for the horses. Thankfully, the winds did not blow
the Tubbs Fire down the hill.
We have many friends and several members of our Santa
Rosa Pony Club group who lost their homes, horse gear and
horse trailers. It’s difficult to see others suffering. It was
also difficult to live with the terror for the next several days
after Tubbs started. Every time I received a Nixle text, I felt
a whisper of panic. Being surrounded by fires that remained
at zero percent containment for half the week was awful.
We’re grateful to be safe and able to help others. We also
took in some adorable goats from Geyserville that were
threatened by the Pocket Fire. In this time when our country feels so divided, it’s been heartening to see that when
trouble comes, help comes. We’re not divided when it comes
to our humanity. People are good. m
WE’VE GOT SPACE AT LIVING
WORD, SO I THOUGHT, WELL, WE’LL
TURN IT INTO A HOTEL.