By Russ and Tiña De Maris
When we went to bed last night (Wednesday), there were three major wildfires burning in California. When we got up this morning, two more fires of “national news” level had broken out. Thousands of acres have burned, hundreds of homes destroyed, and countless lives have been interrupted – and that’s only in this “fire season.”
People from all walks of life have been affected. Rich folk with ocean-front properties have watched their multi-million dollar homes go up in flames. On the other end of the spectrum, homeless folks, too, have been affected – some having no way to quickly escape oncoming flames end up taking their chances on smoke-filled sidewalks.
Just how have RVers been affected? Many have homes and properties to worry about. Still, having an RV has proved to be a godsend. At least sleeping in your RV (even if in a Walmart encampment) has got to beat sleeping on a hard cot in a National Guard armory. Here are a few snippets from recent news stories on the subject.
We all have our reasons to take up RVing. For many of us it’s to have the freedom to see the country, visit with friends, or pursue interests on the road. Not so much for Florencio Rodriques. A resident of the Sonoma County area, currently affected by the Kincade Fire, Rodrigues found through bitter experience that having an RV is the best way to be able to pick up and move when an emergency hits. He’s been run out of fixed homes by floods and fires so many times, he simply bought his rig to be ready to roll.
Others have found that their rigs are useful, even if not immediately needed for an escape-mobile. Farther south near Simi Valley, the Easy Fire popped up Wednesday. Tropical storm-strength winds whipped the flames into a frenzy, and power outages, man-made or otherwise, have left whole communities in the dark.
In Thousand Oaks, a woman named Jan struggles with the lung ailment COPD. She depends on an electronic nebulizer, which she uses several times a day, to keep her lungs functional. “Mom started to do her nebulizer treatment for her COPD and they shut off our electricity, right about two-thirds of the way through her first treatment,” Jan’s daughter Julie told spectrumnews1.com. “She’s the type of person that these outages definitely affect.”
In this case, Jan’s son-in-law, Jeff, came to the rescue. Jeff has his RV parked on the property, and soon fired up the on-board generator and ran a power cord from the rig into the house to keep Jan’s nebulizer running. It doesn’t help that to safely run the power cord into the house the home’s door has to be left open a bit. That allows some of the smoke from the wildfire to drift inside – not exactly helpful for Jan’s condition; but for now, it’s the best the family can do.
Back up in Sonoma County, another family used their motorhome in a way most of us would never dream of. Caught in a “red zone” in the Kincade Fire, the Greens had a group of 10 relatives, all depending on them to figure a way out of an untenable situation. The normal route for evacuation was evidently blocked, so the Greens fired up the motorhome and used it, bulldozer-fashion, to mow down trees that blocked their escape, leading a convoy to safety.
In Sonoma County, where as of Thursday the Kincade Fire was at 65-percent containment, some residents are able to go home again. One RVing family from Windsor was so happy to have their RV available when they were run out after an evacuation order. Debbi Tyban and her family took refuge in their RV at a casino in Rohnert Park, about 20 miles away from their home. One can only imagine the anguish of stewing for three days, wondering if you’d come home to a home – or an ash pile. Debbi tells all: “We’re happy our home is here waiting for us. We feel so thankful.”
Not everyone has that experience. Bill Boutin told sacramento.cbslocal.com his story: “It was daybreak, but the smoke cover close to the ground – you had good visibility but the overhead cover, it looked like it was still nighttime,” Boutin said. Bill isn’t relating his experience with the Kindcade Fire, but rather, one he had two years ago with the Pocket Fire – also in Sonoma County.
“The next time I saw the house it was just this crater,” Boutin said. “We had to evacuate Geyserville where we are staying in an RV and the reason we are in an RV is because we got nailed by the Pocket Fire two years ago, and we’re just now getting ready to rebuild out there.” Maybe it’s good that Bill and his wife were “just now getting ready to rebuild.”
So many stories, and sad to say, not enough happy outcomes. For those of us not directly affected, it begs the question: Are we ready for our own nightmare disaster? If nothing else, is your motorhome’s fuel tank full? If weather conditions allow, do you have fresh water on board, and empty holding tanks? Do you have a few clothes and food on board? Have you trained everyone in your household able to do it how to hitch up the trailer and drive to safety?
A disaster, by its nature, can strike at any time. It doesn’t have to be a wildfire. It could be an earthquake, a windstorm or something like a hazardous material spill. If your rig is ready when it happens, you and your family will be much better prepared to deal with whatever it is that comes your way.