As Fires Slowly Subside, Recovery Begins

As Fires Slowly Subside, Recovery Begins

By Lori Korleski Richardson, Interim Communications Director

No warning came after a very pleasant fall Sunday, the second Sunday of October. The winds picked up after many had gone to bed. High winds, scary high winds. Then the swoosh of fire that claimed neighborhoods, hotels, a hospital, kennels and other businesses, meeting up with other fires, traveling over a hundred-thousand acres to scorch farmland and vineyards, sparing little in its path. More than 40 people lost their lives, and thousands more their homes.

More than a week later, the fires still burn, but recovery has begun.

If you were affected by the fire and need help, please let your clergy person know. Episcopal Relief & Development has given the Diocese of Northern California a substantial grant (to donate, click here), and generous gifts to Bishop Barry’s discretionary fund and to Incarnation, Santa Rosa, for fire relief are being disbursed. Gift cards and gas cards give those who lost their homes the dignity of being able to purchase what they need as they slowly rebuild their lives. Prayers also are much needed.

Although officials are asking those who are not fighting the fires or returning to their homes or businesses to stay off the roads, there will soon be a need for volunteers, so don’t lose heart if you offered to work and no one has called yet. (Good sites to check for volunteer opportunities include The Volunteer Center of Sonoma County, The Redwood Empire Food Bank, this Sonoma clearing house, and The Center for Volunteer and Nonprofit Leadership.)

The Rev. Peggy Thompson, a retired deacon from the Diocese of El Camino Real, offered her thoughts on dealing with the aftermath of fire destruction. She fled the Valley Fire “with flames by the road” just two years ago.

“Be patient with yourself. It took me over a year to feel relaxed all the time again. I had what we all called ‘fire brain.’ We were more forgetful and found that we might become upset by things more quickly. I learned to not only be patient with myself but with others.

“Sometimes I wanted to talk about my experience and sometimes I wanted to just be alone. Trust yourself and do what feels right for you.

“The good news is that ... the fire showed me how kind and giving people are, and it gave me a shared bond with my community that will never be broken. It gave me a strong empathy for people all around the world who are experiencing devastating events. It ... made me more open to wanting to help.

“Do I ever want to experience a wild fire again? NO. Am I grateful for what it gave me? YES.

“I found it helpful to read the Beatitudes, for here our Lord tells us that we can be blessed no matter what is going on in the world around us. They teach us to trust God no matter what disaster confronts us. They show us we can do good for others with open hearts, and they tell us we can grow and change, given new life situations.”

Adds Susan Napoliello, deacon at St. Luke’s, Calistoga, “Please take good care of yourselves. Nourish your body with rest, water and healthy food. Nourish your hearts and souls with prayer and companionship.”

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