Feedback from the front

THIS IS DONNA’S NOTE, SENT TO THE NEIGHBORS AFTER HER RETURN FROM THE EVACUATION ZONE:

First of all, thank you to everyone who donated supplies. You each made this possible.

By Friday night, donations had doubled. I received so many donations that I had to take my Dolphin camper as everything would not fit in my little car.

It was sweet that some people left notes. Maria and her dog Halwa came to donate her unused toys.

Originally my intentions were to volunteer with animal search and rescue. Two years ago I went through DART training through the city of San Francisco and became certified to respond to animal welfare in times of disaster. Lake County Animal Care and Control was/is the agency responsible for animals in Lake County. I contacted them twice by phone leaving messages. I faxed them a copy of my DART certificate and asked them to contact me. I got no response.

I contacted several groups on Facebook to volunteer with search and rescue, no luck. I know that this was an unprecedented crisis for Lake County and they were probably overwhelmed. But it doesn’t make sense that an AP reporter can gain access to the burned areas to rescue a dog and someone who is trained and certified to rescue animals cannot. I am referring to the article in the SF Chronicle in which reporter Brian Skoloff was apparently allowed to go in multiple times. http://www.sfgate.com/news/us/article/Owner-dog-reunited-in-aftermath-of-California-6515379.php

There needs to be some review of how animal search and rescue is managed and how those who are qualified are activated and used.

Since it was clear that I wasn’t going to be able to legally enter the burned area, I decided to take the supplies to a shelter, hospital or evacuation center. It was recommended by a woman who volunteered for the Lake County Shelter (not Animal Control) that I go to the Moose Lodge in Clearlake Oaks first. And that was a good recommendation.

On my way to Clearlake Oaks, I passed a Cal Fire Station (Williams Fire Department). Our neighbor Lori, who in addition to dropping off lots of supplies, offered to make cookies for all the volunteers and staff. When I saw the fire station, I thought it would be a perfect place to drop off some of the cookies. There were 3 firefighters there. I explained that I was up from San Jose delivering pet supplies donated from my neighborhood. I let them know that the cookies were especially for the hard working folks associated with the fire. The firefighters actually seemed embarrassed and shy about the attention. It was cute.

Moose Lodge 2284 was not too far away from the station. As I approached I could see it from the highway. It was spread out along a hillside. There were lots of tents with evacuees. There were tents of supplies. There were volunteers everywhere. When I drove in they directed me where to go. When I pulled up a bunch of volunteers helped me unload the camper. It seemed pretty well organized.

As you can see, there were lots of donations. There happened to be a volunteer there from the Lake County Animal Shelter (again not associated with Animal Control). He had told me that the Moose Lodge had evolved into a distribution point for the northern area of the fire. The shelter was going to be my next stop but he said it would be better to leave all the supplies at the Moose Lodge as rescue organizations and individuals were coming to the Moose Lodge to pick up supplies. So that’s what I did.

Special thanks for Gillian and her friend for donating rabbit food. They told me that they were almost out of rabbit food.

After unloading the supplies, I wanted to walk around and talk to people. Lori’s cookies were a great way to approach people. I offered a particular gentleman a cookie and he immediately told me that his grandmother made the best Russian Tea Cookies and that all her family recipes were lost in the fire. It almost made me cry. You think about your jewelry and insurance papers, other papers you have to safeguard but you don’t often think about your family recipes. So upload them to the cloud now!

One thing I learned that surprised me was that the majority of the volunteers directing traffic and showing people where to go were volunteers from the California Militia. The only Militia I had ever heard of were the ones in Wyoming or Montana and who I had always kind of viewed of as rogue separatists. I guess kind of naive as all the gentlemen volunteering for the Militia were very helpful, friendly, and kind. They had left their jobs for the week to come and help out at the Moose Lodge. Which incidentally was not receiving any aid from the Red Cross unlike the evacuation center in Calistoga. Not sure why, maybe they didn’t want help from the Red Cross?

All the folks saying at the Moose Lodge seemed in good spirits. The ones that I talked to knew the status of their homes. The owner of the little white and brown dog said his house was still there. They were living out of their car. They didn’t know when they could go back. The owner of the dog in the tent knew that his house had been lost. He seemed to take it pretty well.

I let everyone I met know that my neighbors in San Jose were thinking about them and they really seemed to appreciate that. I hear that folks will be able to start going back to their homes in certain areas now. I hope that those missing pets can be reunited. The ways to help now if anyone wants to continue helping is to send monetary donations to the hospitals treating the burned animals, for example Middletown Veterinary Hospital.

Thank you so much to everyone. I really appreciate you stepping up and helping out. I feel fortunate to live in a community with such generous, kind and compassionate neighbors.

Donna

Donations Valley Fire 9-18-15 032-2-small.jpgDonations Valley Fire 9-18-15 024-small.jpgHalwa-small.jpgcamper-small.jpgIMG_1026-small.jpgMoose Lodge Valley Fire 9-19-15 015-small.jpgmilitia.jpgFullSizeRender (79)-small.jpgFullSizeRender (82)-small.jpgLulu-small.jpg

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