When I decided I wanted to keep Shelby’s story current, as in set in September of 2020 current, little did I know I’d have a pandemic and a devastating fire thrown in to test my life skills and my writing.
As I’ve mentioned before, both of these current events took me by surprise. And both ended up in The Found Child.
I think about fictitious Shelby now, living in rural Bonny Doon, in the Santa Cruz Mountains and wonder what life would be like for her now. I do know plenty of folks who live in Bonny Doon and I know it’s not easy, with blackened trees, ash and soot that gets blown around in the breeze, and the very real fear of another devastating fire tearing through the forest. And my heart breaks for those who lost their homes.
The CZU Lightning Complex fire was contained after burning for 37 days. It was started by multiple lightning strikes created by a dry thunderstorm. It burned 86,509 acres in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties and destroyed 1,490 structures. Massive.
I’ve learned a lot of things over the last month. If your house was damaged or destroyed, you can’t clean up fire debris on your own. It’s toxic, so you need to hire a certified contractor and go through lots of paperwork. Your homeowners insurance may or may not cover debris removal. You can sift through the ash to look for things, but you can’t move the ash or create a hazard for the debris removal folks.
I’ve read, as well as noticed as I go out and about, that our homeless population increased. There are encampments as you enter and leave Santa Cruz — tents at the intersection of Highways 1 and 9, and RVs heading north on Highway 1 at the city limits. These encampments are controversial, with lots of conversations on NextDoor. Here are some article links that are fairly current:
- From local TV station KSBW: CZU Lightning Complex increases homeless encampments in Santa Cruz
- Congressman Jimmy Panetta statement: FEMA APPROVES SHELTER EXTENSION FOR CZU LIGHTNING COMPLEX FIRE SURVIVORS
- San Francisco Chronicle: Santa Cruz County lost almost 1,000 homes to CZU fire. Its housing crisis is now worse than ever
- Good Times: Santa Cruz County Fires: Meet the Climate Refugees
My husband and I took a small tour of an area where the fire ripped through. One pass was enough for me, with once-beautiful homes now just black and flattened on the ground, with maybe a chimney left standing, massive redwoods now torched and blackened; hillsides devoid of vegetation, now ready to slide in the first rainstorm. Tragic and knee-buckling and something that will stick with me for a long time.
Well, that’s it for today! Stay safe everyone, in fires and covid-wise!
Until next time,