August 2020

Glued to the television at 6 a.m., we were listening to Cal Fire official's morning briefing on the CZU Lightning Complex,  when the warnings of evacuation turned into reality.  Go!

My husband and I lived in the Zayante Felton area until we evacuated last Thursday, August 17th, at 10:02 a.m.

Our last night's sleep there was Wednesday on the 16th if you want to call it that. In his business truck and me with my Hondo Pilot fully packed, we took the last glances of our properties before heading down the street.

Last glance

I walked across the street to our rental home to let our tenants know it is time to leave. Adjacent to this house is our second rental home already vacant. Before leaving, I paused to give a second glance at our home.

We both had thought about the risk of these retirement investments three on one street in case a fire should happen.

 We knew our insurance could never cover the losses. Plus, we have one more final investment home blocks down from the San Lorenzo High School. Could we be lucky enough not to be hit by fire?

Fire doesn't care about luck.  But strangely, none on this mattered as we headed out.

Earlier, before we left, we took pictures for the insurance company. My office is downstairs, overlooking our Zen garden, our vegetable garden, plum & cherry trees, oak, and bay. The deer love our back yard, and we enjoy the openness and beauty. And all the songbirds singing at night.

My last moments in my office were practical; only later did I  begin to think, what did I miss?   I stood before my workstation and thought about taking my laser printer, but it was too big and bulky to carry.

Do I take my marketing materials and give-away goodies? I took my PC, camera, projector, and all the backup cords and such.  I knew digitally; I would have all the documentation I needed.  I had a presentation on the 25th, but I missed sending out the speaking request form and the professional development program's presentation deadline.

In other words, amid chaos, I had forgotten about them, and when I did recall, it wasn't a big deal.  Books, pictures, stuff I decided to leave behind.

We were Homeless

We did have a safe-haven with family, but when the fires started encroaching upon UCSC, their home was on the Westside of Santa Cruz, and with hazardous smoke conditions, and I have asthma, we chose to stay at another friends home, on the floor for two nights.  We were grateful, period.

But the experience of evacuating brings up all kinds of insights and learning. Community wise it was like an explosion of focused and constructive energy. MyScottsValley group and Facebook became quick and immediate sources of information. So many of us were posting updates, and while at times it was confusing, still, the string of communications was terrific. 

I am no longer naive about the facts regarding the importance of emergency evacuation procedures and protocols, at least in this situation. We now have confirmed reservations with a friend, so that in the future, they will be our first point of contact.

I was incredibly unprepared for the length of time it takes to return home after a fire evacuation.  But clearly, we are one of the lucky ones, this time. We still have our homes and choose to live in the Santa Cruz Mountains, risks and all. 

But, we will be talking with our insurance rep, and yes, our emergency plans will be better prepared.

As a businessperson and resident, I am keenly aware of our friends, neighbors, and colleagues' strength and generosity.

In Gratitude

Martin and I are grateful to our fire fighters, the volunteer police, and local businesses and non-profit organizations who extended their helping hand to them and us; evacuees.

We will never complain about the taxes that help to support Calfire and other related programs that save our homes. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Janet Janssen, writes the Strictly Business column. She is an Executive, and Life coach, Scotts Valley Chamber Ambassador, trainer, and public speaker.  

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