Community Spirit Binds Rural Neighborhoods
By Jim Holmes, guest columnist
On Labor Day, towering clouds of smoke filled the skies of Loomis and Penryn as the 1000-acre Gladding Fire raced through rural Lincoln. Regretably several families lost homes, outbuildings and other property.
Some Loomis Basin residents may have also been advised to evacuate.
Thanks to brave firefighters and others, our communities were safe despite the 30-mile per hour winds. Special thanks go to our local firefighters from Loomis, Penryn and Newcastle who helped fight the Gladding fire.
We also need to recognize our personal responsibilities to make properties more fire safe. Loomis and Penryn also have dried grasses and the same lush blackberry vines that threw burning embers a long way during the Gladding fire.
In Loomis and Penryn our families would face the challenge of evacuating horses and other animals. Protecting homes and outbuildings would be a challenge here, too.
Supervisor Robert Weygandt, who represents the Lincoln area, wrote the following piece. Its powerful message is a reminder to us all.
“The Gladding Fire left heartbreaking destruction in its wake Sept. 1.
“I witnessed much of the damage traveling with emergency officials along the fire’s perimeter that evening. It was devastating seeing homes and barns I recognized in flames, watching wind-driven embers starting new fires time and time again, and glimpsing dazed neighbors I have known for many years walking along roads near their homes.
“I have lived most of my life in rural Lincoln, and I had never seen anything like the Gladding Fire.
“I want to say thanks to the many firefighters and other emergency workers who did a magnificent job battling the blaze and protected the public that day. Their skill and dedication kept the fire from becoming a much-bigger tragedy.
“I was amazed at how quickly aircraft and helicopters were overhead helping battle the blaze, and how soon fire crews from neighboring cities, as well as distant communities were on scene to aid the effort. The fire crews came together almost as if by magic and were moved around deftly so the right resources were in the right places.
“The Gladding Fire demonstrated that we need to redouble our efforts to protect our residences from wildfires. We need to take another look at whether we have provided enough defensible space around our properties and taken other steps that can help protect them from wildfires.
“We need to consider how changing land-use patterns affect how vulnerable rural Lincoln is to large wildfires. Today, for example, we have far fewer irrigated pastures to act as fire breaks and many more rural residences at risk than in the past.
“The Gladding Fire showed the strength of the ties that bind us together as a community. Neighbors helped each other evacuate. Volunteers helped Placer County Animal Services make sure animals got to safety. The entire community pitched in to help the victims.
“The fire was a disaster none of us will forget. From it, though, we emerged with a renewed sense of community, and that is one of our greatest strengths.”
Jim Holmes is chairman of the Placer County Board of Supervisors