Mountain Ranch, CA…I say this with an ache in my heart though. This trip to the #ButteFire burn area was by far the most exhausting and emotional so far. Mountain Ranch, the tiny town that has become an island in a war zone known as a wildfire, had their Christmas parade yesterday and you could feel how forced the attempt to experience some small piece of holiday joy was. The sadness in people’s eyes and wounded hearts could be hidden from me. I felt every bit of it.
As I drove through and around a large percentage of the burn area seeing the complete and utter destruction, I couldn’t help but remember how beautiful and green and lush it had been. With rivers and ponds and lakes surrounded by huge, healthy, noble forests. Where people lived off their land hand in hand with nature, raising their children and children’s children to love the land. I was utterly heartbroken.
Then to spend hour after hour listening to the survivors of this horrific catastrophe try to make sense of what has happened to them. They talk to try to explain what they are feeling but only others who have experienced it can truly “get it”.
Even three months after the start of the fire, a huge percentage are still in the very beginning stages of grieving. They are only now just starting to emerge from their shock and many are still in shock. Wandering aimlessly. Looking for help. Merely able to react to things on a moment to moment basis, living only to make it through one more day without completely falling apart.
There is no glimmer of hope in anyone’s eyes. Only a deep deep pool of sorrow that will never completely go away. They have no hope for their future if they stay on their properties. They know that they will never live long enough to see their dream lands returned to their former glory. They only continue to fight and move forward because they always have. They have nothing left but their charred properties and memories.
They are some of the strongest and bravest people people I’ve ever met! yet they are utterly vulnerable to the storms of life.
Three months after the start of the fire , FEMA says they have brought in only 7 homes, compared with the thousands of cases they have opened. Red Cross is unable to account for the 400 people they registered early on in the fire. They do not know the current living situation of these 400 people,but we do.
We, the average people who have been working on the ground, one on one, advocating for our newly adopted families KNOW! We hear from them and see them and live life with them and WE KNOW.
WE KNOW that so many have fallen through the cracks. WE KNOW that many of them lost everything they had AND are slowly, agonizingly, trying to come to terms with it all.
WE KNOW that every task for them is overwhelming.
WE KNOW that they must have advocates.
WE KNOW we must hold them up and spur them on.
WE KNOW that a large percentage have returned to their properties because they have nothing else.
WE KNOW that some are living in tents and campers with no electricity, water or septic. Risking their chances of getting a FEMA home because FEMA says they have “shelter” now and they don’t need a home.
WE KNOW that they live in fear of winter storms that will come with a vengeance and destroy their meager attempts to get relief from the harsh elements and could literally kill them with the drop of a burnt, dead tree, or a flood of debris.
WE FEEL this fear with them and for them.
We struggle daily to provide for their needs. We watch as their needs change from moment to moment and ride the roller coaster of emotions with them.
We sleep little, but more than them.
We try to get through our lives only to be able to get back to them as soon as we can. Wondering always if they are OK.
I know that I have to help them.
I know that I have to help them trust again. Trust that someone, anyone will help them even after they have been made promise after promise only to be crushed when the promises are tossed aside like the ashes of their lives in the wind.
I know that I have to suffer alongside them to truly gain their faith in my ability to bring them relief. Even if that relief is only in the form of a warm, dry and safe sanctuary from the weather. Full of hugs and love.
My life has completely changed too. From the moment the fire started and I reported minute by minute the status and ferocity of this i, to now, as I bring them relief, I know I have been forever changed. To the core of my being.
I also know that I cannot give up on them. We cannot give up on them. We CANNOT sweep them under the rug and carry on as if nothing is going on that is out of the norm.
I know I will not give up on them. I will fight for them until the day they all have a home again. Somewhere they can rest their weary bodies, minds and souls.
I will NOT buckle under the threat to my own mental, physical, spiritual and emotional well being. My needs are nothing compared to theirs. I am blessed beyond belief and through that I can show them the promise of the Blessing that Jesus Christ, the creator of everything we know to be true and good, has made to them and the sacrifice that He made to fulfill His promises of a peaceful, joyful, everlasting life with Him in the true heaven of their dreams.
Mountain Ranch Community Relief Efforts – mtranchstrong.com
Out of the Weather Rallys – https://www.facebook.com/mrreliefefforts