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Firestorms in California

Firestorms in California

Dear Readers, We are in the midst of the firestorms in Northern California.  Some of you may not realize that, and I would like to share what we are experiencing with you. DrBaileySkinCare.com is a web site that serves an international readership. My medical practice serves patients in our local community including Sonoma County, Mendocino County, and Napa County among others here in Northern California. Both businesses are in the middle of the epic firestorm that is making international news. Our offices are to the west of the actively burning areas and are safe at the moment. Many of our patients, customers, staff and their families are not and have not been since Sunday night. The impact on the community is bigger and worse than words and pictures can depict in the news. I am a 4th generation Californian and have experienced my share of fires – as you do when you live in a place with verdant hillsides in winter and spring, and zero rain between June and October. We all know the risk we take living here but nothing of this size has ever occurred. Devastation is everywhere, in every conversation, in every thought. For me, the crisis started Sunday night when my husband and I were woken up by the phone. My mother-in-law’s frantic voice said something like “We need to come over now, fire, have to leave the house.” The cell connection was poor but we rushed upstairs to ready the guest room and wait. They live on the north edge of Fountaingrove, a densely populated hillside with apartments, condos, houses and some posh estates. Most of Fountaingrove has been destroyed. My in-laws escaped, fleeing flames. The fire came down on my in-law’s home so fast - it is a miracle they survived. My mother in law looked out the window sometime after midnight when she had that nocturnal call of nature we all dislike. The sky was red with flame. Both my mother and father-in-law are almost 90 and hard of hearing. We don’t know if someone tried to rouse them or not. They were the last people out of their neighborhood. We learned the next day that all neighborhood homes were destroyed - except theirs and their next door neighbor’s.  Yes, their home survived! I think my father-in-law could give lessons to all of us on fire retardant landscape maintenance. That’s another story. Meanwhile, they and a host of other evacuees and their pets are at my house. As I type, 200,000 acres of homes, businesses and forests have burned. 31 confirmed lives have been lost, over 3,000 homes and businesses destroyed, thousands and thousands of people displaced - and the counting has not really begun. This IS the worst fire in terms of destruction and lives lost in California history. The images and descriptions you hear in the media don’t give you the true feeling of what it is like to be here right now. How can so much have burned, how can so much still be burning….? Monday and Tuesday everyone was in shock. Today, Friday, I am getting the feel that people are moving forward with less shock and more clarity, though still in the midst of disaster. We have a long, long path ahead. Smoke still fills the sky. Ash and burn debris fall constantly from the sky - burned leaves, burned papers, unrecognizable burned things that were part of the structures and lives of those we have seen daily for years – and the sky where I live is not even downwind from the fires. Those of us lucky enough to be out of the direct path – for now – have homes covered with ash and full of displaced neighbors, family and pets. And, we are all living in a surreal limbo at the complete whim of the winds.  However, it all may be slowing down, or maybe we are getting used to it. The number of fires has decreased from 22 to 21, though that’s because two have merged. It was cool last night and that helped fire fighters. Some of the fires are now 25% contained and others have gone from 0% to 5% containment. Not control, but progress. At DrBaileySkinCare.com, we shipped orders for the first time yesterday. We answered emails and phone calls because staff were able to turn attention away from disaster to work, and UPS was able to make a pickup. The medical office opened Wednesday and filled with stunned but relieved patients glad to have some ‘normal’ to attend to. Not all staff were able to take a break from the disaster but we had enough to do the jobs needed of a medical practice. The Firestorm of 2017 will be over at some point. Each of us and our community will then be able to assess the damage and plan for recovery. People are starting to learn if their homes were destroyed or not. A neighbor of my in-laws just called and said “At least hearing about my house was something… because now I can move forward.” Her home was destroyed. The one thing I have heard over and over is that in all of this we are each learning that the important thing is we are alive. It personally reminds me of The Cancer Year. Thank you all for your patience. If you are local, be safe and take good care of each other. Warm Regards, Cynthia Bailey, MD Dermatologist and Founder of DrBaileySkinCare.com Photo courtesy of Gabrielle Lurie, The Chronicle