Our Sonoma County fires have reached nearly total containment now I think (hope!) and most of the neighborhoods that burned have been opened up for the owners to begin the process of sifting through the rubble for salvageable belongings. The air is clear and we have begun to venture out into Santa Rosa to see the damage and try to get our minds and hearts around the loss of property and so much more. Last week we walked the Sonoma County Fairgrounds where the evacuation center and fire rescue headquarters have completely taken over the grounds.
We walked through Grace Pavilion where evacuees were resting on cots and talking to counselors and FEMA and insurance reps and other volunteer helpers. We sketched the soldiers and the tables with free towels and flip flops and mobile TV center and mobile laundry and mobile cafe. We looked through the fence to see the fire trucks and a vast tent city erected for first responders, an astonishing command center for fire rescue in Sonoma County.
And today we ventured out to familiar settings in Santa Rosa, now less familiar except as seen in news articles for the past two weeks as charred remains.
At Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, Restoration Services vans and crews were everywhere restoring landscape around the performing arts center. The building next door on the east side is now a burned out shell which had housed the Anova Center for Education. A hazmat team was cleaning and removing loose debris, and we spoke to two of the school staff in the parking lot. Anova Center for Education is a K-12 school and services for children with autism and learning differences. School is temporarily suspended while they await portable classrooms which will be erected in the parking lot until their building can be rebuilt.
There’s a cruel irony to the pure white fire hydrant right outside the burnt out shell of a building. If it had feelings it would surely be unhappy that it couldn’t fulfill its one mission in life. Or perhaps I’m just projecting my survivor’s guilt onto it.