As many of you have heard we had two huge wildfires in Lake County this summer. Like so many other places, we’ve been hit by California’s drought in that much of the land in the area hasn’t seen a decent rain in quite a while, which means it’s perfectly conditioned for fire. Well, we got ‘em - two huge wildfires that found their way into remote, hard-to-reach sections of the county. The size and scope of these fires actually made national news with the Rocky Fire and then Jerusalem fire consuming thousands of acres.
When these fires first started becoming larger we got plenty of calls from people canceling their reservations. Well who could blame them? But then we got a call from CalFire asking how many rooms we could spare.
Fortunately we had the privilege of hosting some of the people working behind the scenes on this fire and it gave us a huge appreciation for what it takes to manage something of this size.
CalFire literally brings in a city when they have a fire of this magnitude. While we all think about and sincerely appreciate the firefighters working on the front lines of this effort, it’s incredible what kind of resources they have working behind the scenes to make this all happen as well.
When you think that thousands of people are working for hours and hours a day on these blazes consider what those people need. Food. Shelter. Laundry. Support teams. And there are so many other things an army of this size requires.
One of the things we found out is that CalFire has access to this semi trailer full of functioning washers and dryers. The fire team can literally drop off their clothes and have them washed for them in this truck.
There is a kitchen truck too because, as Napoleon was credited with saying, an army travels on its stomach. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are cooked up and ready for the hungry team returning from the fire line. Oh, and Guy Fieri owns a home up here that was spared from the fires and he even stepped in to help with some of the cooking work.
One of the guests who stayed with us had a very late night shift as he comes in after the crews work on the fire itself and captures GPS and other data and creates maps of the incident so that the crews start in the morning with all the location and other information they need.
Because of needing maps and other printed documents CalFire literally brings in a huge office complex with computers and printers and other office-related equipment. They were so busy creating documents and information that one of the ladies whom we dealt with had to make a run to Santa Rosa for office supplies because they cleaned out Lake County and Ukiah office supply stores.
We also have a local fuel company who was running their supply vehicles as quickly as they could to make sure all the firefighting equipment and generators were supplied with fuel.
Notice that we said a local fuel company. CalFire is very, very good about seeking out smaller, local businesses to support however they could. Of course they spent almost three weeks here at the Featherbed Railroad but they really look to support other small businesses in the community as well. So while the ravaging effects of fire are something none of us want, at least the state does the best job it can in keeping the community afloat economically while it also prevents it from burning to the ground.
The speed at which CalFire can build this city and respond to these fires is just incredible. The entire team we dealt with were professional, positive and just great. Of course it would have been great not having these fires here in Lake County but we feel fortunate having had these people here with us as our guests and doing one heck of a job to keep our rural paradise from becoming just a memory.
Another aspect of this that is mind boggling is the absolute armada of aircraft that come in, including a DC-10 jet airliner. The way these planes are coordinated and the precision of this entire operation is incredible.
The bottom line on all of this is that the things people would like to see and do while visiting Lake County are back to where they were before this all started. Restaurants, golf courses, wineries and all the other great reasons to visit Lake County are fully back in business and ready for you. And while the fire teams did all they could to support these business and did a huge job of saving all of us, there are still quite a few businesses that were severely impacted by people staying away as fire crews don’t have much use for antiques or any business that sells beer or wine.
So we hope you share our admiration for CalFire and the many, many people who do such a great job to make it a success. But we also have clean air and open roads again in Lake County and hope you come back and visit all the mom and pop shops that are such great places to see. In other words, Lake County, and the Featherbed Railroad, are here and ready for you.
Our absolute heartfelt thanks to all the wonderful individuals who make the CalFire team an incredible and inspiring operation.
Written by Anthony B. Barthel
A blog about happenings in Lake County.