Staying here

It's been a while since I've blogged on this site. The reason is that my husband and I have spent the last few months deciding whether to move from Sonoma County to Indianapolis. Many factors were involved: my husband's brother and family live in Indianapolis, a manageably-sized and thriving city; our modest house in Windsor would sell quickly and would help us buy a great home in an area where the cost of living is more reasonable than in the North Bay; and, of course, wildfires threaten our area every year.

It's those wildfires that nearly pushed us to leave. Everyone who lives here knows that by end of every summer we’ll see red flag warnings, those alerts about high winds and low humidity, conditions that often presage wildfires. We all know that we should have a plan to evacuate our family and pets and to have go-bags at the ready. We’ve learned to expect bad air, hazy skies, and, if we’re unlucky, evacuation orders. If we’re really unlucky, we may lose our homes to fire.

Since all of who live in “fire country” have come to expect this yearly calamity, it begs the question: why hasn’t more been done to address the problem? Although CAL FIRE and other organizations can be depended upon to fight the fires that do erupt and to risk their lives to protect people and property, it seems that government, fire scientists, environmentalists and local volunteers cannot agree on what to do.

Fire scientists and native tribes tout the age-old methods of preventive fire and vegetation thinning. Environmentalists point to climate change; rather than fuel management, they say that home hardening is the way to go.

Then there are the politicians. A risk-averse group, many find a way to get their pictures taken next to brave firefighters while passing the buck when it comes to taking bold action. Want an example? Check out the timeline followed by the Sonoma County supervisors when they received a $149M from PG & E as a settlement for the 2017 fires. It took them nearly two years, guided by an out-of-county consulting group, to spend not quite 15% of the $25M they’d allocated for vegetation management. Governor Newsom has also talked a good game, but, according to Capradio: “Newsom has claimed that 35 "priority projects" carried out as a result of his executive order resulted in fire prevention work on 90,000 acres. But the state’s own data show the actual number is 11,399.”

What’s a Sonoma County resident to do? Some are leaving. That’s what my husband and I thought we’d do, too. But we love it here. As nice as Indianapolis is, you can’t hike among the redwoods or walk along cliffs overlooking the Pacific there. For now, at least, we’ll stay. After all, you can’t really escape climate change, no matter where you go. And now that we’re clear about our future plans, it’s time for me to turn my attention back to this blog and website. It’s the least I can to do help protect Sonoma County.

Photo: Small Creek at Armstrong Woods by Frank Shulenberg

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