Camp Meeker Beat by Tom Austin - July 2019

Welcome to high summer! You are probably gearing up for July 4th, in whatever form or fashion you choose to celebrate it. Even if you’re not happy with the direction the country is heading (and many clearly are not), try to take the long view and celebrate what is great about this country. I won’t be so pompous as to tell you what that is. We all have our different answers. Seek and ye shall find.

If your celebrating includes pyrotechnics, I’msure I don’t need to tell you to be safe. The last several years have been a grim reminder of the dangers. For Camp Meeker denizens, I don’t need to be vague or general in referring to fire danger. If you haven’t heard yet,we had a bit of a fire in Camp Meeker ourselves in mid-June. It started in a cabin above Mizpah road, which itself is the highest paved point in the southwestern lobe of Camp Meeker: south of Tower Road, west of Bohemian Highway. The cause has yet to be determined, but there was a structure fire, apparently including explosions, and the flames spread to the nearby underbrush.

I will pause a moment to let that sink in, and to let you ponder the implications. Yes, it is exactly as serious as that. That you are sitting safely in your home planning your July 4th adventures is down to several factors — the primary factor being the fast response of the Camp Meeker Volunteer Fire Department. They responded both directly to the fire and indirectly, in contacting the greater fire prevention team in Sonoma County. In particular, thanks are due to Cal Fire, specifically the Sonoma Air Attack Base, operating from Sonoma Airport. The fire was big enough to be visible from Fitch Mountain in Healdsburg, and warranted an airborne response. We can all be thankful for how well these heroes did their jobs. In fact, Fire Safe Camp Meeker (FSCM) is circulating a signup sheet for us to thank them directly. More about that below.

I was alarmed as you were (or are, if you are hearing all this for the first time in this space). I would like to modulate that unpleasant emotion into something more substantive and constructive. It is certainly understandable if you feel overwhelmed and helpless at the sheer power and destructive capability of a wildfire. However, and this is the salient point, helpless you are not. There is a great deal you can do to lower the odds of such a natural disaster striking Camp Meeker — both together and individually. There are also natural defenses that Camp Meeker has, at least compared to inland forests. For example, the rugged terrain generally inhibits the dry offshore winds that do so much to amplify wild fires. I say this not to foster a sense of complacency, but rather to build confidence that defending Camp Meeker is a task we can succeed at.

There are so many steps we can take! The first one I will take is to direct you once again to the FSCM website: As with the other work they have done, they have put together a very clear and informative website, with detailed information on a variety of subjects. I will try to expand on one such: COPE groups. COPE stands for Citizens Organized to Prepare for Emergencies. Think of it as a Neighborhood Watch, but for fire safety. A COPE group usually consists of 8-10 houses, which would be neighbors you already know. This is Camp Meeker, after all! Group members exchange phone numbers for alert purposes, help each other on defensible space and home hardening, and identify tasks that might be better done together – for example, clearing a troublesome blackberry patch. As always, there is much help available – from the CMVFD, from FSCM, from St. Dorothy’s. All of these organizations are passionately dedicated to these goals, and would be ecstatic to know that the citizens of Camp Meeker need and welcome their help.

I’m going to make one more pitch: there is a website called The idea is not unlike that of the COPE groups: get to know your neighbors and share information. There are already 104 people from Camp Meeker on there, and over 1500 from nearby communities. That’s where I learned about the fire — and countless other ways to share information. It is really well organized and (as far as I can tell) free from the nonsense that afflicts so much of the internet. Give it a try, sign up, and we’ll see you there!

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