Shall I stay or shall I go


Smoke lies thick over Hidden Valley Lake, CA. Photo by David Andersen, @davidxandersen.

Roberta MacIntyre, Staff Writer

In Hidden Valley Lake, we watch and wait. After experiencing the Valley Fire in 2015, it isn’t any less distressing to be surrounded by the Sulphur Fire to the north, the Pocket Fire to the west, and the raging Tubbs Fire to the south. The resultant road closures have severely limited our movement. There is only one way out of this inferno – north on Highway 29 to eastbound Highway 20 or westbound highway 175.

Nearby Middletown is on evacuation advisory. Numerous residents of Hidden Valley Lake have “migrated” out of the area to safer ground. Many of those still here have hitched their boats and RVs to cars and trucks, or packed them with irreplaceable belongings, just waiting…

On Tuesday, before the roads closed to the degree they are now, I took the long way around and made it into Santa Rosa to help cover the news for The Oak Leaf, Santa Rosa Junior College’s student news outlet. But currently I’m stuck at home, feeling like an underachiever, while my classmates are working like mad to get the news out.

While covering stories on Tuesday, I met a few folks who chose to “stay and defend” their homes rather than follow the usual convention and leave as directed. In these cases there seemed to be a common denominator – they saved their homes. One case in Coffey Park, a man saved half of an entire block. Now I’m wondering, should I get the order to leave or when the fire brands start raining around me, should I stay and defend my home or should I leave and pray?

Well, I’m not one for praying.

Be advised, I do not recommend anybody to “stay and defend” when ordered to evacuate. This is foolishness. However, I’m a retired firefighter and I have fought the fight. I know what the heat feels like. I also know how to defend a house.  I’m physically fit, and I know my limitations. I know when it’s time to “write it off” and get out. At least I think I do.

As my neighbors are making their slow migration out of the area, I have prepared to stay and defend. There is a fire hydrant across the street. I have a fire hose and a good nozzle. My house has good, defensible space around it. I only have one neighbor who is close to me, and that house is more than 30 feet away.

I think I can do this. I put all the pieces together and now I’m ready – ready to stay and defend if I think it is safe to do so. I’ll let you know how it turns out – stay tuned…