by Digger Barr
At a quick glance around the large room, I estimated the median age was well above 60 years of age.
Not your typical age group looking to start over with their lives and rebuilding their homes.
But after a fire burns your life into charcoal. What other options are there?
Another visual inspection says these are not people of means.
How does one start over without money? How does one get even the most basic needs met let alone rebuild a home without funding?
These good people were drawn to this community meeting seeking information but it also is very telling of their intention.
They are not leaving their land. They will rebuild. That is the strength and fortitude found deep in the souls of humanity.
Turning their backs and walking away is an option. But they did not.
This was a meeting held in Medical Lake in the state of Washington, Friday of September 22, 2023.
They came to the meeting to ask for support, to give support, and find out what support may be available.
Neighbors reuniting with neighbors after a sudden disruption in their lives.
You could hear them greet each other. ” Where did you end up?”
Where are they staying ? Friends, family, camper trailers, someone’s garage somewhere.
Wherever they are now is where they probably will have to winter over. The weather turned quickly this week.
Cold and rain have moved in reminding us even further how close to nature we are when stripped of our artificial environments.
Some of the houses are burnt so completely that the ash has fallen into the basements.
Cement foundations are surrounded by scorched blacked trees.
The landscape is eerie with miles of charred trees and shrubs.
The result is an open view so you can see further into the land. You would almost miss the rubble that used to be a house if it weren’t for the sudden open space.
In the evergreen state timber is the predominant feature. In this wooded area that was fuel for this raging fire.
Much of it is now flat as restoring power and utilities includes cutting the now hazardous trees at the base.
The blackened bark blends with the homes ashen grey heaps and remaining crisp brown foliages that somehow managed to escape disintegration.
Yes, that used to be someone’s home. Someone’s security, their destination spot after a long day.
It was their life formed from dreams and filled with keepsakes.
All those now are just a memory.
These people will rebuild. They are the salt of the earth. I am impressed with their resilience.
They wore strong and happy faces as they greeted each other. And now they get word that help from outside will be sparse. ‘Don’t look for the Government to rescue you’ said one speaker. During these times it’s the community that we turn to.”
The Governor actually did allocate some disaster relief money. But this wasn’t the only fire. There was another and another. I don’t know for sure but I would imagine the money is to help all the victims of all of these wildfires.
That’s a lot of people and a lot of damage. That lump sum pledged would barely cover recovery for a small percentage. And of that percentage it would be going straight into the pockets of contractors gathering around to help. Nothing negative against the contractors. Not in the least. They are amazing to put on hold any project during the current profiteering building craze sweeping the industry. They are here to focus on helping people rebuild. That is truly wonderful.
But how do the good people who have lost everything buy dinner?
How do they send a birthday gift to their grandchildren?
You see, they have to start from scratch. None of the emergency funds will actually reach their hands.
This is where community is needed. This is where community thrives. I am witness to an outpouring of generosity and genuine efforts by a few that are serving so many, The main issue is knowing how and where to connect. And the consensus amongst the people here, to do it ourselves. A facebook page set up for the Gray and Oregon road fires has 7 thousand followers. This is remarkable. Here people are asking the most basic of questions and the response to each question is helpful, genuine and immediate.
No forms, red tape or bs. Just a heartwarming community.
But still, they need money. Not for the tendrils of charity operations, money needs to find its way into the actual hands of the fire survivors.
These people are having to re-do everything below ground and up.
There was talk about fixing an exploded septic tank even before the house’s foundation could be accessed.
Winter is less than a month away. Time is of the essence. Utilities are ready to help but they need the landowners permission to take down the trees. Unless it is more or less than 2 acres. More regulations that need to be understood.The only thing left of value and the landowner can agree to give it away or incur the salvage expenses and further delay recovery. They cannot remove building rubble without the asbestos inspection permits and qualified contractors. And if they attempt to cleanup on their own, they have to bundle everything in a sealed, contained wrapping. It is an asbestos scare.
The red tape here is overwhelming and if you have nothing left how can they afford to do it ?
This is a small window into the lives of multiple situations going on around the planet. Last count I heard was over 1400 fires in the United States. There are countless others across the globe. Along with earthquakes and floods, there is much more than buildings being lost.
In the case of Lahaina, the rebuilding is not even on the table. At least here in eastern Washington they are able to return to their homes remains. This is a helpful step toward healing as it gives them a place for action and a chance to feel like they have a place to start again.
All of this doom and gloom isn’t the whole story.
Driving through the blackened landscape I saw bits of green pushing up in random spots.
The planet wasn’t waiting for government permits to rebuild.
She was doing what she does best. She was growing again.
Burned areas are experiencing a cleansing and rejuvenation. Spring fresh green color is sprouting forth as an oasis in the starkness of an ensuing fall season.
It is hope and a remembering of what we can do, who we can be and what comes next.
It shows the way for new beginnings and what can be the result of the cleansing process.
The planet is ready to start over. She does it without drama despite dramatic events.
She does it with grace and provides a sense of awe as we bathe in her beauty.
There is much to be said about new beginnings. It may be hard. And we will miss cherished items.
Our hearts will always be with loved ones that we may have lost.
Again Gaia is showing us the way.
A new way is there.
We just need to see it.
A new way is here.
Now we can embrace it.
My heart is with all those that are struggling with this change.
May our recognition of this struggle in some way also help bring in the light.
May our thoughts and actions show love and compassion.
Waiting in the wings of the charred remains is the spark of inspiration.
This is not lost. It is being found.
The Phoenix is born.