From Fire to Snow

Since landing in our new home near Northfield MN (see “Driving Miss Bella” for our journey out) at the end of September we’ve been busy unpacking, arranging furniture, hanging artwork and getting to know our new area of the country. It’s starting to really feel like “home” here, but back in our former home of Butte County, in Northern California, the news is grim. The “Camp Fire” has ravaged the area, consumed the beautiful town of Paradise, and put many people and animals out of their homes. It’s heartbreaking to see it on the news, read about it, and follow it on social media. As of this writing the huge fire is 35% contained, Oroville is still safe, but everyone has a “go bag” packed and must be sleeping with one eye open. I remember that feeling from our experience with the “Wall Fire” last year. The shear number of displaced people is astounding, and how housing will be found for them all — in a state sadly lacking in affordable housing — is a daunting problem. Meanwhile fires also rage in Southern California, and firefighters from many other areas of the country have gone in to help. My poor home state is really taking a beating, and whereas I’m glad to be out of the smoke, I feel a certain helplessness that comes from not being able to help more directly.

We have donated to this fund:  https://www.nvcf.org/fund/camp-fire-evacuation-relief-fund  if you can, please send a little to help.  Butte County is not a wealthy area, and many of the people who lost everything do not have the means to rent at higher prices, buy new clothing, and staple items. For those who owned homes, it is a long slow process to rebuild, or find another spot to settle in. My heart goes out to them all.

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On a lighter note, we have been exploring! Several weeks ago we drove to nearby Nerstrand Big Woods State Park at the recommendation of a friend who once lived near here. What a beautiful place! I’d love to get back there in the spring to do some plein air painting. Below are a few photos from our day.

We also made our way over to Red Wing Minnesota, and had fun exploring the Red Wing Pottery Museum, and the Memorial Park which had great vistas of the city of Red Wing and Mississippi River which borders the town on the north east side. (photos below)

And then of course we experienced our first light snow at the new house. It’s still magical to me — although as the winter drags on I’m sure that may change! Miss Bella was quite perplexed by the falling flakes!

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Too Scared To Stay…

Tonight as I sit at our dining room table, looking out at our lovely view of Lake Oroville, all is well in my immediate corner of the world — yet just a few miles away fire fighting efforts continue, the final efforts to contain the “Wall Fire” here in Butte County.

I first noticed the smoke plume from this fire around 4pm on Friday, July 7th, and from our perch here on Kelly Ridge, we saw it explode within a few short hours into a monster that ultimately claimed some 5,600 acres and an estimated 41 homes, 97 structures (at this writing).

Kelly Ridge was under an evacuation “warning” on Saturday 7/8, as this massive fire grew and grew, and although many of our neighbors stayed, we decided to leave at 2am on Sunday 7/9, just a half hour before the Sheriff came knocking on doors, urging people to leave soon. We had spent the day watching, waiting, and thinking about what to bring if we had to leave. Finally, unable to sleep, we called to find a pet friendly hotel in Chico, grabbed our two cats, carriers, a few changes of clothing, some financial papers, tablets and phones, and took off. It was a relief to finally act after a tense day of waiting and wondering. And a relief to settle in for the night somewhere safe and out of the dense smoke.

We stayed one more night, and came back on Monday — our area still under an evacuation “warning” (not mandatory) but now the fire was more contained, and appeared to be moving away us. We were all exhausted (the cats too!), but feel so grateful to find our home still here, our immediate neighborhood untouched. Not so for many in the burn area, who are still staying away, some not even knowing if their homes are still there.

How to help:

From Chicoer.com:

Butte County is asking that donations be dropped off to the General Services north parking lot, 2081 Second St. in Oroville between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Items needed include adult and baby diapers, baby wipes, Gatorade, water, ice in ice chests that don’t have to be returned.

The American Red Cross opened the evacuation center at Church of the Nazarene, 2238 Monte Vista Avenue, Oroville. Red Cross volunteers will connect displaced residents with emergency resources, regardless of whether they stay overnight at the shelter, according to Red Cross spokesperson Robin Friedman. Cash contributions can be made at www.redcross.org

The Salvation Army has responded with meals for first responders and victims. The organization is only asking for financial donations at this time. To donate, call 1-800-725-2769 and designate “Wall Fire” or go online at www.salvationarmyusa.org

Cash is also being asked from the North Valley Animal Disaster Group, according to spokesperson Sandra Doolittle. Donations can be made at www.nvadg.org/ or by calling 895-0000.