Letters to the Editor -- November 1, 2020
Evacuation of Oakmont did not go wellDear Editor,
I enjoy Alec’s articles. He raises our interests in a myriad of problems, issues and concerns related to the valley we live in. And I don’t often disagree with Alec, I do, however, see things a bit different regarding the evacuation of folks from Oakmont on the night of the evacuation order.
In trying to evacuate around midnight, my journey west into greater Santa Rosa was chaotic, trying and tense. The ride that would have normally taken 15 minutes ended up taking approximately 1 hour and 35 minutes. The best words to describe it all would be to say it was a mass of humanity “creeping along” a dark and uncontrolled roadway in the middle of the night at a speed that averaged about three miles or less an hour with an uncontrolled wildfire a short distance away … a fire that had the potential to sweep the highway itself. It wasn’t a pleasant experience … the whole event was scary but by good fortune it ended up not being a massive human catastrophe but it came close … too close for comfort.
The comments of the Assistant Fire Marshal for Santa Rosa were absolutely incorrect. He apparently was not on Highway 12 when I was driving or rather “creeping along.” The marshal indicated in Alec’s article that every intersection had some form of police involvement. False! Completely untrue. In my ride there was not one officer, out of his or her police car, attempting to keep the traffic from congesting! Every intersection was controlled only by the automatic traffic signals. There were highway patrol cars at intersections but the officers were not out of their cars! The CHP officers I saw were sitting in their cars slumped over the steering wheels. The first officer-controlled intersection that I came across was in front of the Flamingo Hotel … a Santa Rosa PD officer directing traffic and moving it safely and successfully.
So the traffic in Oakmont was snarled and backed up on the night of the evacuation. There was no visible police effort to control any of the entry streets in Oakmont. Drivers were just locked into a grid with no escape. Conditions on Highway 12 were equally bad. So clearly there was no real “plan” for getting drivers out of Oakmont and safely into greater Santa Rosa. It looked like the highway patrol and SRPD were in attendance but were doing little or nothing in relation to the movement of traffic and intersection control.
We all lucked out thanks to the great firefighters. If the winds had changed on evacuation night, increased, and if fire had come down from the ridge while the cars on Highway 12 were “creeping along” it would have been one of the worst disasters in county history. So my hope is that the City Council and the Board of Supervisors will get to work immediately with an escape plan for Oakmont that will work and a control system on Highway 12 that will keep cars moving and out of fire danger. The good folks of Oakmont deserve more than “wishful thinking” on the part of some public officials. There needs to be, there must be a viable and tested escape plan for Oakmont. No excuses for not having a viable plan.
Thank you, KSRODear Editor,
Your article “Communication systems better, but have a way to go...” was well written and informative.
I would like to also mention KSRO (1350) the local radio station. When the fires (Tubbs, Kincade, Glass) became a threat, the station went on the air 24/7 and was informative and up-to-date. Pat Kerrigan and the staff were on top of what was going on. They told us what was happening and what to expect. Also they interviewed various persons involved in the fight (fire chiefs, local officials, security, etc.) to keep us up-to-date on all aspects of the event. Their reports were in “layman’s language.” They spoke in terms like Oakmont, Skyhawk, Fountain Grove, etc., not districts or numbers.
I would like to suggest that every home have a portable radio with extra batteries and keep it close by. Cell phones are good, but they need to be recharged, and if you have no power things could get dicey.
Remember natureDear Editor,
My plea is simple.
Like so many, I too am depressed and saddened at all the losses from recent fires. It is painful to drive Hwy 12 and see blackened hills, skeleton trees, ash. Many have lost much.
Another painful truth is that the devastation happening to our local environment goes far beyond this immediate event. Important voices around the world, such as David Attenborough’s recent personal witness documentary, clearly and profoundly tell us that our very human existence is dependent on a healthy natural world.
The world of nature is essential to us and simply put, birds are essential to nature.
Because of their sensitivity birds are indicators of overall habitat quality. They respond to environmental changes, even subtle ones, and act as early warning systems. Birds spread seeds and help revive ecosystems that have been destroyed from devastating effects such as our recent wildfires.
As autumn moves forward, birds are on the move, both locally, regionally, and globally. These fires have no doubt impacted our local birds through loss of food and shelter. You may start to see more and different birds where you live as they must now forage for new sources. Support them with seed and water. Provide cover. Let old snags stand. If you find an injured bird contact the Bird Rescue Center.
My plea is simple. We are part of nature, not passive observers. Let us take care of all of us.
Mary Ellen King