by Loran Hoffmann and Shirley Humphrey
Dixon became a safe refuge for many victims of the devastating wild fires that ravaged Napa, Sonoma, Lake, Mendocino and parts of Solano County last week. The Dixon May Fair grounds that had been the site of the annual Lambtown Festival attended by close to 4,000 people over the weekend was quickly converted to an evacuation center for hundreds of disabled patients and their caregivers from a Sonoma County hospital that was in the fire zone. The straw bales, sheep dogs, and vendors were replaced with a convoy of National Guard trucks, medical equipment, and home size tent enclosures. The dog show and veterans “Stand Down” scheduled for last weekend at the fairgrounds were cancelled as the wild fires continued to destroy neighborhoods and disrupt life in the nearby cities and communities.
Dixon residents were directly impacted by the fire that destroyed many houses and forced more than 60,000 people to flee their homes. Local families opened their doors to provide food and shelter for displaced family members and friends, and the Rotary Dixon Club quickly responded to the immediate need of providing meals for those housed at the May Fairgrounds.
Dixon residents generously donated bags of clothes, kitchenware, water, Gatorade, blankets, sheets, shoes, towels and many other items. Dixon Ace Lumber and Ron Dupratt Ford served as drop off points and transported the items to Solano Community College in Fairfield, where they were sorted and sent to evacuation centers to be distributed. Citizens such as Tiffany Fabrini also transported items to Solano College.
This is the worst and most costly wild fire that California has ever experienced. What nature was able to destroy in a few hours will take decades to rebuild. Those that experienced the nightmare will forever be changed.
Jim and Shirley’s daughter, Karlene Humphrey-Rebich, and her family live in Windsor, and were twice instructed to leave their home and go to a shelter. Luckily their home was spared. Karlene’s son, Adam, grew up in Dixon. Adam’s wife, Corey, who has lived her entire life in Santa Rosa wrote a first-hand account about the tragedy while it was happening.
“Sleep is so hard to do with so much loss and devastation going on around us. When I am able, I find myself praying when I wake up things will be normal again.
“We are forever changed by these fires.
“My family lost none of our possessions. It is truly a miracle. We evacuated twice. One was the most terrifying moment of my life. Because of the amazing work of firefighters, we were able to return to our house completely untouched. At this very moment, there is an entire crew continuing to put out a fire one block from the house I grew up in (Santa Rosa). They are protecting it. Fighting for it. These same people are protecting the people I love, the school, where I work, and the town where I live. I long to see the faces of these people. To hug them. To thank them.
“But there is so much loss around us. My mom has lived in Santa Rosa for over 60 years. I have lived here my entire life. Because of this, we know 29 families who have lost their home, and we fear this number will grow. Twenty nine families who now have nothing except each other. These people are our people. Our friends. Our church family. Our community. I keep seeing their faces in my mind and try to imagine what they are feeling. I want to help, but don’t know how to yet. So I pray not knowing what to pray, but believing in a God who I trust is still in control and can still use this horrific experience for good.
“My kids. My babies. My sweet, innocent beautiful boys (3 and 6). They don’t understand any of this yet. They know there is a big fire and that their mom can’t stop crying, but they don’t get it They are young so might not ever understand that so much of this place I love is now gone.
“I think of the parks where we hiked in the beautiful oaks that are now ashes. The hill up the street from my parent’s house that is now black. The church building where we stood singing that is now covered with soot. The tremendous number of houses that are now gone. So much of Santa Rosa is changed in a matter of days. It is overwhelming and awful.
“Amid the midst of it all there still is good. The people of my little church, The Bridge, have lost too much to say. Our leaders’ houses are gone. Several families have lost everything. Our church building is in ruins. Yet they are rallying around each other and are already doing so much to help those in need. As I look at the helpers and how some are responding to their tragedy, I see a faith lived out. I see a witness that will change people. It is already changing now.
“They say that when communities go through something like this they rebuild and are stronger. I trust we too will do that. It will be long. It will be hard. It will take strength and faith. It will take patience and kindness. It will take people doing things they can’t do on their own. I pray I will know how to help. I pray I will know what to say to my children, my students, and the many families who now each have their own life that is forever changed.
“For now the fire is still burning and so much is still unknown. Continue to pray for protection of lives and that the destruction will end soon.”
Long after the flames are extinguished, these folks are going to continue to need our help. We must never forget this tragedy and it is vital that we provide them with comfort and aid in rebuilding their lives.