From Ashes We're Still Rising
This piece was written by our Social Media/Marketing Manager Kajsa Johnsrud.
October 8th, 2017. The Tubbs Fire started in Calistoga and came raging over the hill into my city. Over the hills, past the zoo, towards the houses of many people I know and love, including mine. I was on a class trip to Rome, Italy while studying abroad in Sweden. I had no service until we went to lunch and I asked for the Wifi so that I could see if I had any texts because I had a feeling. An eerie feeling that something was wrong. I was right. I had a text from my mom, “There’s a fire. We are evacuated, but safe”. There was a knot in my stomach and my heart dropped. How could this be happening to my city?
I tried to call my mom but because of the fire, all the phone lines were down. I called my boyfriend who lived in Los Angeles at the time. He didn’t know yet. I told him what was going on and he hung up to call his family. They were also evacuated. The fire had jumped over the freeway and was in their neighborhood. It was almost impossible to get information. I had to go meet the rest of my class, which meant I didn’t have Wifi anymore. Luckily, my friends shared their hotspots with me, so I could keep updated. All I remember from the rest of that day was walking back from the Catacombs outside of Rome and seeing a video of the fire. I couldn’t stand. I took a step away from the circle my class was standing in and started to sob. I felt so far away from California but also from Rome.
These feelings and memories all came rushing back when I heard of the fires in Malibu and Paradise in November. I don’t even really know what to say other than I’m devastated. I was one of the lucky ones in the Tubbs fire that didn’t lose everything. So many others in Tubbs, Wolsey and the Campfire aren’t as lucky my family was. They have lost everything and still, people are giving right back to the community.
Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth lost their home and before even talking about rebuilding their house, they started a campaign through their charity to raise money for others who have lost their homes. While some are being so generous and helpful, the President is making comments about how the fires need to be “managed better” and that he is going to pull federal funding. Moments later he is acting like he cares so much. Now, two months later, he talks of defunding fire relief funds because California is not managing the fires well enough.
The fires are absolutely devastating, and the death tolls continue to rise. The whole town of Paradise was wiped out except for one single house. There are missing animals and belongings lost that families can never get back. My heart aches for the people who are losing their homes and that have been evacuated; because it all seems so familiar. It’s not about managing the fires better. There are many procedures set up to prevent and try to stop fires as quickly as possible, but just like any other natural disaster, it is unpredictable and moves too quickly. Sometimes all that can be done is to try and save what isn’t yet affected and try to contain the fire.
California is a very dry state with little to no rain for months at a time. Sometimes there just isn’t anything to do, but that doesn’t mean that we can just give up and move away. We must come together and rebuild. I saw my community come together following the fire. People were opening up their homes to let people come and stay with them. Strangers were stopping on the street and talking, just to check in. It was inspiring. I’ve heard the same thing is happening in Malibu and Paradise.
I am proud to live in California. Proud to be from a city that came together after complete devastation. I won’t just get up and move because I am afraid that it might happen again. I love where I live, and I won’t give up, but I will give back.
There are many ways for you to help with fire relief too. It’s not the same as some natural disasters where you may be able to go and help with clean up and rebuilding, but donations go a long way. It doesn’t have to be a money donation, you can send in clothes and supplies for the firefighters too.
These fires aren’t avoidable. It’s not something that the whole state can just up and move away from. So, when it does happen, we have to come together. And that’s exactly what I see Californians doing.
Ways to help: