As many of you have read of late, California is suffering from its worst fires in history; several raging infernos that have gobbled up whole cities with a speed that makes escaping precarious. Capricious winds and  ample fuel has created the perfect storm, decimating entire communities. As it stands now, 70 some confirmed dead with over a thousand still missing. It truly is heart breaking.

Last year, with both the Napa and Santa Rosa fires creating havoc and ruining lives, I thought it could not get any worse, I was wrong.

For about 10 days now, the air in the Bay Area has been unbreathable. Despite us being a few hundred miles from the actual flames, air quality remains “unhealthy”.  Right now, no place on the planet has dirtier air. Respiratory masks are ubiquitous. In my mom’s nursing home, about 5 miles away, industrial size respirators, the size of Buicks, populate each floor, with clear warnings to stay in doors.

I have been to Paradise………………it is now a smoldering heap of ash. Unlike the Bay Area, Paradise is a small town with small town values. Mostly red, a church on every street, folks who know their neighbors and understand the word ,”community”. And, with great suffering, magnanimous acts of humanity abound. Common folks, like this guy,  do the extra-ordinary because, well, that’s what neighbors do.

One story that I read today touched my heart; a short read, have a tissue ready.

I went to a Christian High School just like Forrest Lake. Is it at all surprising that one community, a stranger, would muster up support, care and love for another community in need? Not at all. For those that like to wield the sanctimonious club of ,”What would Jesus do” mostly to injure or malign a rival, this is more in line with the sentiment;

“One of the biggest things it taught me is that we’re there for each other in times of need,” he said. “It could have been me, it could have been our school. The community that came out gave me a sense of hope for humanity.”

TBH, I’m surprised it even made the papers, doing good for its own sake is reward enough and certainly the Forrest Lake community was not looking for publicity;

So when you give to the needy, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues andon the streets, to be praised by men. Truly I tell you, they already have their reward.

They would probably wonder what all the fuse was about.

We should also remember the unfortunates in Southern California that have suffered as well. I used to live in Calabasas, hiking and biking every inch of Topanga Canyon and Malibu, beautiful country now charred beyond recognition.  Maybe The Judge can give us a first hand account of the conditions down there.

Without getting into the politics (yes, forest management could have been handled differently) the simple truth of the matter is that California has a lot of timber, trees need water to survive, and for 6 years now that water has been insufficient. The drought and pine beetle disease has decimated once fertile and flourishing ecosystems. Dead trees and dead underbrush make an ignitable source a recipe for disaster. Now fires start and spread with a speed that outruns the local fire departments, leveling whole communities in the process.

On a local level, our animal shelter has made several trips up north to bring displaced animals to a safe and secure facility so that hopefully their owners, once their lives stabilize, can reclaim lost pets and build new lives together.

Lastly, a shout out to the Red Cross for their help. When folks lose everything, the simplest of tasks and the most mundane of needs becomes obstacles. The Red Cross responds with food, some clothes, tents, sleeping bags, toiletries, whatever folks need. God bless them and if the need arises, a donation would go a long way.

One of the reasons I lament the secularization of our society is that folks have been conditioned to look to the government for help, it did not use to be that way. When we say that charity begins at home, a natural extension of this is that our home is our community. Churches, synagogues, these used to be the welfare stations for the poor and those in need. In some places it still is. The religious communities laid the foundation for the obligation by all to look  after the less fortunate. Without the religious underpinnings that sow the seeds of sound and moral duty, these lessons must now be taught by the parents of the next generation. I sure hope school is in session.

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Glad you’re okay, Rich.


Heartbreaking, just awful. All the best to you and your loved ones in particular Rich. Whereever it comes from, I hope people continue to get the help they need. I see James Woods has put politics aside and is doing some great work assisting via social media, good on him.

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