What a difference a year makes, about this time last summer I was practically putting the bulk of the Willits News out on my own until we hired a reporter but she came in around July and lasted about 4 and a half months on the job.
Now, I have transferred and moved to Lake County to take over the editorial duties at the Record Bee, a daily paper serving Lake County CA. After only a week on the job there has been a grass fire, a meeting with a U.S. Senator and today the Pawnee Fire in Clearlake Oaks has (as of 1 AM Sunday) burned 1,000 acres and 12 structures according to scanner and CAL fire reports. As I drove towards the Moose Lodge in Clearlake Oaks to hopefully speak to some folks and get a handle on the devastation on the area, it dawned on me that I had not even stopped to eat dinner (it was around 7:45 pm) and I would probably not have something to eat until I got back from the assignment about an hour or two later because I needed to get there before it got too dark, only aided by the fact that Thursday was the Solstice, meaning the days only get extra long from here on.
I was eerily reminded of the Mendocino Complex Fire and how it took Willits by surprise with city officials admitting that they were ill prepared because the city's emergency plan had not been updated since 2008. We did not have internet for several days until temporary service was established. I won't soon forget the sight of hundreds of residents flocking to the local library because even though it was not open after hours, due to their network being the only one operational during the emergency, most of the town gathered outside where they could get a signal and send out messages to loved ones, family members and friends.
I also thought about the conversation I had yesterday with Senator McGuire who represents the 2nd District. Among other topics we spoke about the fact fire recovery in California will be an on going, expensive long process and even though there is money from the General Fund to cover some of the damage from last year's fires, I hope that this fire season does not take to great a toll on the remaining reserves from the rainy day fund government has been working on to deal with emergencies like the ones we had today. I guess we will soon find out.