GRASS VALLEY, Calif. — The nation’s eyes, ears and hearts are dialed in to the tragedy that’s unfolding a bit northwest of here, in Santa Rosa.
Fire has destroyed thousands of homes and killed dozens of people. The death toll is expected to increase. Firefighters have poured in from all over the continent to assist in that terrible fire.
My wife, Toby the Puppy and I came to Grass Valley on vacation. En route to this marvelous place we learned of another fire. We half-expected to drive to a site full of smoke; we thought we might have to purchase surgical masks to keep from inhaling all that smoke and dust.
We arrived to find the sky relatively clear, unlike what we saw in Chowchilla about 180 miles south of here. Then we pulled into our Nevada County Fairgrounds RV park and found quite a sight: dozens of firefighters roaming around; rows of firefighting equipment; tents full of supplies (food, clothing, blankets, etc.); one-person tents pitched everywhere.
They’re fighting these fires fiercely. They seem to have caught a break with the weather. The winds were calm upon our arrival, although we heard from several folks that the previous day brought choking smoke to the area.
We visited with a young man who appears to be a senior firefighting officer. He guesses about 1,000 firefighters are on hand. He said they are coming in “from all over. The Midwest is the farthest away.” Jail inmates are fighting the fires. They’ve got CCC crews on the task, too.
He estimated that the fire has burned about 14,000 acres.
It isn’t yet contained, he said.
What’s more, the efforts of these men and women are not going unnoticed by the community. They have made signs on the chain-link fence bordering the fairgrounds. They have earned the community’s gratitude and wishes for God’s blessings to all of them.
On our way back to our RV site, we encountered four young firefighters: three men and a woman. “Where you from?” I asked. “Northern Idaho,” came the response from one of the men.
“We just want to thank you for all you do,” my wife said. “That means everything to us,” he responded. “We sure don’t do this for the pay,” he joked.
These young heroes are here apparently for the long haul, or as long as it takes.
God bless all the firefighters scattered throughout this fire-ravaged state.