Friday, October 2, 2015

The Butte Fire -- It's Time To Rebuild

Today the children at Rail Road Flat School were Super Heroes!

The small Elementary School is where my wife volunteers. And yes, today when she showed up, she found most all of children dressed as Super Heroes. She visited a while before meeting me here at our American Legion Post in Glencoe.

She was happy to see the kids all having so much fun, attending Super Hero training classes, playing Super Hero photo/musical chairs, having fun at the X-Ray game, and of course Villain Bowling -- something all Super Heroes do. She also enjoyed watched the kids get excited over making their Super Hero masks.

It is great to see such things. I love it. I love it because it means life is returning to normal after the Butte Fire forced many to evacuate and destroyed many homes. I love it because it is a small sign that life doesn't stop because of adversity.

A shirt on a volunteer this last week said it all, "Adversity Makes Us Stronger!" I agree, it certainly does.   

This last Thursday, October 1st, at 6:00 pm, the Butte Fire was declared 100%. Contained.  With that announcement there are no road closures, and all evacuations have been lifted. And yes, the last of the folks who could not return home can now do so to start the work of putting their lives back together.

Does this mean every Firefighter has returned to where they came from? No it doesn't. Fact is that hot spots and flare ups are still being watched for and put out. Just yesterday I saw a plane and helicopter come over Glencoe presumably to attend to a spot in need of drenching.

Even before the fire was declared 100% Contained, Butte Fire victims began debris cleanup efforts in an attempt to salvage their lives. To help in the effort to tote away debris, beginning last Wednesday, September 30th, the Calaveras County Environmental Management Agency initiated efforts to start the clean up process.

Under the CalRecycle-Calaveras County Butte Fire Debris Removal Project, teams from the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) are being sent in to remove household hazardous waste and conduct asbestos assessment. They are sampling all residential properties in the areas affected by the Butte Fire.

And while I have a problem with the Federal Government stepping in in the form of the EPA to threaten victims with huge fines if they remove what the EPA classifies as "hazardous waste," work will begin in the Western portion of Jesus Maria Road areas and progress through the affected areas of the Southern portion of Mountain Ranch Road.

So yes, it is now time to rebuild!

Yes, it is time to grab the bull by the horns and get to work! And frankly, it is what we do. Keeping our heads above water and not drowning in an overload of hardship is something that we all do on a daily basis. Consciously or not, we all use coping skills that we probably don't realize we have. We rebuild because that's what we are made of.

A friend was talking with me about a few problems having to do with his living situation, his job, friends and family members in trouble medically, financially, and emotionally. Yes, it seems that his plate is overloaded. And yes, because of stress, he's now experiencing medical problems related to anxiety and depression.

Proving that one problem can feed another to create more problems, it seems, that like others, he just can't catch a break. But the good news is, that while a great many people suffer from stress, anxiety, and depression, there are a number of medications to help address those problems.

No, anti-depression medications are not meant to cure anxiety and depression. But along with getting support, fact is medications are meant to take the "edge" off of what you're feeling.

Tough times and uncertainty in the future can bring on despair. Despair is an age old killer. Medical problems both personal and of those we love can certainly bring on feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. The victims of this fire have the right to be depressed and overwhelmed. Why shouldn't they be since many have lost everything they had.

Friends, as bad as it can get, we shouldn't allow despair to overwhelm us -- especially if we are doing all that we can humanly do to address the problem. And as for helping others, for me, I know real well that all I can do for friends and family is to be there when they need me. All I can do is give strength to those willing to take my support.

Hope inspires hope. Strength inspires strength. A belief that tomorrow can be a better day than today, inspires others. Knowing that we can make things better really works because prayer and being positive works.

We have to make life what we want it to be. We cannot depend on others or "fate" to do that for us. Life is ours to steer and tough out, to adjust, and to enjoy. Life has always been that way.

During this fire, some folks lost everything. But frankly, I believe they will roll up their sleeves and get in there to clean up and rebuild. They will because they have decided not to give in to despair and depression. They will because they have decided that doing so means getting back their lives.

I believe that we determine if we are to live, how we will live, and how we will make that happen. While this is going on, we have to be tough and caring, strong and loving, smart and use whatever wisdom God has given us. Yes, we must use all of the tools that God has given us to live good lives -- even if that means digging down deep to find the strength to rebuild when it appears we have lost everything.

My wife and I were evacuated from our home because of the Butte Fire. And frankly, with all of the rumors out there that our little place in the mountains was burnt to the ground, I thought we lost everything.  I truly started thinking about the "What now?"

I started thinking about our insurances, the cost to rebuild, what would be left, getting a trailer, maybe buy a manufactured home, replacing our barn, how would we house our horses this winter when it snows, all sorts of things related to getting back to normal. I absolutely refused to accept the notion that my wife and I couldn't make this right -- and maybe even make things better than it was before.

While evacuated and holding up at my Mom's home in Ione, we stayed strong, stayed positive, were there for others and stopped listening to bad information. When we were allowed back in after being evacuated for 11 days, we found that the rumors were wrong and that our home was spared. The fire burned a horseshoe around our little community and spared us. Yes, the wildfire took more than 70,000 acres and almost 600 homes -- but spared ours.

While my wife and I thank God for that, we know just how close we came to losing everything. And honestly, I came away from this admiring my wife even more than I did before. Fore while we were worried about losing our home -- she was actually more worried about our friends and neighbors who we later found out did in fact lose their homes. Yes, selflessness even in the face of adversity is admirable.

The great part about life is that, like a house, it can be rebuilt. There are many who lost their homes and yet they are staying optimistic that they can rebuild. Sure it might be in a while, but they can do it. And yes, I always salute those who can pull themselves together to rebuild their lives. After all, that is what being an American is all about. We pull ourselves up by our bootstraps all the time.

Free people determine their destiny. And yes, we are all blessed with the ability to be stronger than we think we are. It comes for our understanding that things can always be worse.  It comes for our understanding that our problems may be petty compared to others.

For me, I have found the saying "I felt sorry for myself because I had no shoes until I met someone who had no feet" to be true. There are always others in worse straights. And yes, that has helped me stay grounded.

Knowing that we not only survive, but that we also prevail over problems simply because that's just what folks do is very reassuring during hard times. And frankly, I fell reassured that our friends and neighbors will prevail over their loses. Normal will return to the Motherlode soon.

And yes, that's just the way I see it.

Tom Correa