My Turn: Experiences from the Washoe Fire
The Washoe Fire from last Saturday instantly brought destruction and fear to our Sunnyside neighborhood, yet it also brought out compassion and heroic neighbors. Fast-thinking and the need to help is why many houses were saved. These unsung heroes took charge and saved three homes 40-feet below the three blazing homes above. Originally, six people scrambled for hoses and shovels and began spraying our roofs and yards. Then came firefighters, continuously arriving and battling 150-foot flames engulfing two houses, while fighting to save our homes below. Within 15 minutes, after the third home was raging and exploding out windows, electrical wiring and natural gas lines, the firefighters had to divert focus uphill to Tahoe National Forest. Aggressive, unpredictable 30-mph-plus winds had flames jumping huge treetops torching one to the next. And the sky the sky was daunting. But the firefighters were brilliant. They were synchronized and directed. The CDF were even chanting. Throughout organized pandemonium surfaced additional heroes who literally jumped in and said, Let’s roll! Heroes. People who just cared. Mere acquaintances who wanted to help others from losing everything, as our neighbors just had. So many burning objects were crashing down that countless manpower was needed. So there we were, non-stop spraying with four yard hoses from two houses only feet from destruction. People jumped my six-foot fence to pull hoses closer to the fire, dug fire lines, suffocated small fires and removed chainsawed trees. We worked right alongside the firefighters. It was so hot on your face and skin. Later on, it got hard to breath and people had to back off. Yes, there was an evacuation, but Chief John Pang told me; do what it takes to save your house. Hose down your ground fires.The work was tremendous and continuous, as was the need for help. The unity and humanity and adrenaline was overflowing. Absolute grace under pressure. A core team worked for six-plus hours. Many other kind souls jumped in. Every kind act had impact and was deeply appreciated. As a community, we were there for each other. We were all connected, and we all needed each other.My heart just aches for the five families that have lost their homes. Thank goodness these people are of strong character and will, and have support of good friends and family. Prayers for their peace and eventual rebuilding are offered by many. As a tight and eclectic group of communities, we will help. In fact, this coming Monday, Aug. 27, there will be a fundraiser for these families at Pete-n-Peters from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., with food donated from Stohlgren Bros. All proceeds will go to the fire victims. If you wish to contribute otherwise, please contact the North Lake Tahoe Fire Department.Our thanks are profoundly offered to our superior firefighters. Words and hugs seem so inadequate. We salute each and everyone of you from North Lake Tahoe, Squaw Valley, Truckee, Meeks Bay, Sparks, Diamond Springs, and the CDF and to the extraordinary precision of the pilots dropping retardant. Thank you all for saving us! God bless you and your brave families! And as for our Pine Avenue Heroes Ya’ll Rock! Your relentless hard work alongside our firefighters absolutely made the difference. You know who you are. Its because of your character that the Cader’s, Fathsman and I all have our homes. There is no maybe. No what if? But its without any question whatsoever, you saved our homes. Were indebted to your grit and kindness. I must Thank our linesmen: Drew Bryner, Officer Lasagna, Jesse Jenison, Jake, Kacie, John, Ryan my neighbors who stayed on top of changing dangers. To 90-year-old Bob Juch, for protecting my dogs while I was too busy to. And Brandon, a 14-year-old young man who just didn’t leave my side, was proactive, manned two re-igniting trees and smothering fires on my fence. Thank you Sharon and son, Cameron for digging fire lines, to the lady wanting to pack my living room and two men (8 p.m.) that extinguished collapsing floors crashing to my yard. There are many people that I don’t even know the names of. If you were there, please e-mail me: email@example.com We are blessed that there were no injuries and that it was 15 acres of loss, not Angora’s 3,100 acres. We’re grateful to the front-liners, but when this happens to you, to your friends its heart wrenching and traumatizing.For some who barely escaped full-out destruction, there’s a lot of guilt festering especially when you’re standing with your friend who’s lost everything. It’s very painful to look out my backyard. However, we’re blessed that animals were saved. Emily and Paul still have not found their kitty, Angel, and that’s tragic. They do have their dog Xavier and cat Gracie; John and Christine have their two St. Bernards and their baby is due next month; Eric’s dear older dog Jackson was safe at Mom’s and Eric is a master builder. And to end on an even happier note, yesterday, while Paul and Emily were back again, digging through rubble, Paul’s dad found something. The only thing recovered. He handed a bent box to Emily. That recovery was her wedding band that Paul will place on her finger on their wedding day. That is a triumphant yell. Tears of joy, for that precious moment, put out any thoughts of the fire.Kelly Doran is a Tahoe Park resident.