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Sonoma County Gazette
Camp Meeker Beat

Cozy Up to Christmas

Nov 23, 2017
by Tom Austin


Christmas already? Where did the time go? Never fear – you’ve got a few weeks to get it all done. So get you some hot cocoa, curl up under a blanket by the stove and plan your shopping. If you’re really lucky, there’s a nice rain coming down while you read this.

We’ve also got a winter solstice coming up.

I look forward to that just as much. The solstice is when the season turns the corner. It’s the start of winter, but it’s also the time when the days stop getting shorter and start getting longer. The time between the sudden shock at the end of daylight savings time, when all of a sudden it gets dark way, way too early, and the time when twilight, ever so slowly, starts getting later, is a matter of but a few weeks. Spring is sneaking in on little cat feet all through the winter, in its cold and wet manner. Here’s a fun fact for you: the solstice is the shortest day of the year, but it has neither the latest sunrise nor the earliest sunset. How? Math.

Let’s not get in a hurry for spring, though. Time hurries quite well enough all on its own. Winter is the time to hunker down, to hibernate, to germinate the seeds that will burst forth when the sun returns. All of the seasons are important.

Camp Meeker is quiet and, yes, damp.

That’s a good thing. We’re all still reeling from the fires, and maybe a bit jumpy. I was driving south on Bohemian Highway last weekend when I saw something that jolted me right out of my reverie – smoke. A cloud of smoke, and, when I got closer- flames. Just a little patch of it, mind you – but it sure got my attention. I ducked right into Westminster Woods and tried to call 911. No signal. However, I quickly found some people on duty and was shown promptly to a land line. While I called 911, they rounded up a fire extinguisher and headed out. I headed out there to show them where the fire was – and couldn’t find it! I had made a couple of passes and gotten out to find it on foot when Steve Baxman of Monte Rio fire showed up. I showed him a dark spot in the dry grass and he said “yup…that’s a burn.” A real sick burn, all right.

Within minutes two more trucks showed up, and fire teams from Monte Rio, Camp Meeker, and Cal Fire had things under control. Steve reported that a motorist had pulled into Monte Rio Fire just as he was heading out, reporting the same fire, and that he (the motorist) had already extinguished it. Everyone was careful not to disturb the miniscule fire scene, so that a cause of the fire might be determined. A careless smoker tossing a cigarette butt is the first thing that occurred to everyone, but Steve noted that loose butts are not effective at igniting grass when the relative humidity is above 20% – but don’t take that as license to be careless, please!

The good news in that adventure, for me, was the incredible speed of the response. Everyone involved acted quickly and correctly, from the staff at Westminster Woods, to the unnamed motorist – THANK you for your service – to the Monte Rio and Camp Meeker VFD’s, to the Cal Fire guys, to the hospitality of, who bunked dozens of fire trucks on a nightly basis during the big fires. Thank you, one and all. I’m hoping to bring you some firsthand accounts from fire fighters from Camp Meeker during those fires, so stay tuned for that. Meanwhile, stay safe and warm, and maintain your defensible space. If you remember, the County Fire folks were out here a few months back, explaining some new laws relating to fire safety requirements. There were some concerns, valid ones, about how and when this new law would be enforced. Those questions still need to be answered, but I would emphatically say that the “why” of that discussion has been pretty well answered. So let’s all rejoin that process proactively and enthusiastically. We still have any number of suddenly dead oak trees above us. Let’s work together to get that wood chipper back out here. Stay tuned, and a happy Solstice to you.


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