The first call for help came in to the station at 1:22 p.m. By 1:51 p.m., Cal Fire told us major evacuations were needed in the area. Listening to the calls come in from people who needed help, it was awful. There were people in a horse pasture surrounded by fire, teenagers in cars who couldn’t get out, and older, bedridden people who didn’t know how to leave their homes.
I began coordinating resources to make sure our staff had what they needed to help people evacuate. I was with our ground troops, picking up people who couldn’t get out themselves. There were so many people who worked hard to help others get out and make sure no one was going back in.
When the fire reached the middle of town, it sounded like a train, a jet engine, or a combination of both, making their way through our town. We rely on propane or wood-burning stoves for heat, and tanks were exploding. I’ll never forget the sound. I can still hear it.
Video courtesy of Lake County Sheriff’s Office
After the fire, my department worked 14- to 18-hour days for a solid two weeks and just kept going and going, helping people find places to stay and figure out a plan to move forward. My home was still standing, but many people weren’t as lucky. The devastation was unbelievable, but there was no time to let it sink in. I was military police for five years and one of the things that job taught me is that the mission takes priority. You do what you have to do to get your job done, and that’s what I focused on.
Now, things have sunk in a bit more. I have yet to meet a person in Lake County who didn’t lose their home or know someone who did. That has an effect on a community like ours’. When it’s your friends going through it, it hits you hard. In the end, that’s what’s driving all of us to do what we can to help each other rebuild. It’s a desire to help your neighbors—some of whom you know, some you may not know—pick up and move on.
Includes personal service from a Farmers agent.
as told to Meghan Rabbitt.
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