Oct 25, 2017
by deTraci Regula
As I write this, a recent rain has cleared the air and the sky is blue. This was not typical for us for over a week as the “Wine Country Wildfires” raged. Our foundress here at Isis Oasis Sanctuary, Loreon Vigne, had happily agreed to sell some of our land so that a larger and more modern Fire Department building could be built in Geyserville. She had said that it might be useful to have a big firehouse just next door.
As I walked through our garden each morning to find out what the latest advice would be, I appreciated her wisdom. I’m not sure the Fire Department appreciated my persistent daily questions as much but they were always pleasant and kind as we tried to figure out what to do under our advisory evacuation order and to try to predict if that would turn into a mandatory one. With all of our birds and animals relying on us for their safety, and the amount of time it takes to get them out, we could not afford to get this wrong.
Since preparing for evacuation also has its risks of injury to our elderly animals and to our handlers, we also did not want to do it needlessly. But finally, when I could look out the door and see seven hot spots on the Mayacamas hills and an ominous growing glow beyond, and with high winds predicted, we decided to box the cats for transport and prepare for evacuation. Aside from the ocelots and servals, we were particularly concerned about our big emus and African crested cranes. Since attending the disaster preparedness round table at Safari West recently, I had learned from a USDA vet that bagging the big birds might be one way of safely getting them out in case of fire.
Problem: we had no bags big enough. But as a retreat center, one thing we have plenty of is bed sheets, mostly in shades of purple and turquoise. We pulled some older ones and our volunteers sat in the dining pavilion at 2am and began sewing them into giant bags. One of our volunteers, Tali, had recently mastered the ancient art of cordage and had made colorful ropes which we threaded through the bags to secure around the birds’ long necks, so they actually looked quite pretty, well dressed for their sudden holiday trip. Smaller birds such as some of our pheasants were tucked into pillowcases and we sent them all off to the Citrus Fairgrounds evacuation center and other locations in Cloverdale. Our Vivarium creatures were sent out in two groups, one half enjoying a holiday on the coast where impromptu “tours” of the collection were provided for local residents, and the other half also enjoying a holiday at a private house in Cloverdale. Our alpacas and Nigerian goats were cared for down south, where they provided some distraction and comfort to an evacuated family with children. Their 30+ pound bag of treat food was completely used up in their days away, so a lot of little hands got to feed our alpacas!
We are so grateful for everyone who helped us get our animals to safety and back again, especially Liz who helped us find trailer transport. And ofcourse, we are so grateful to all of thefirefighters who kept us safe!
One of the most dramatic moments in “Fire Week” was when I looked up at a sound and saw what appeared to me to be a 747 with the red and white logo of Virgin America Airlines flying just above our Great Tree, apparently about to crash as it was descending so low. We could see its underbelly in full detail as it flew with incredible slowness over us. We ran to the foot of our northern driveway and watched as the plane banked sharply left and flew even lower. It passed the bridge over the Russian River and then began to emit a beautiful crimson fire retardant just beyond a nearby ridge. We hooted and hollered and it was one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. What a skilled pilot! Of course, it was not a Virgin America Airlines plane but the newest, largest firefighting plane available.
Before we were readying for evacuation ourselves, once again the Temple of Isis opened Isis Oasis Sanctuary to evacuees and we hosted about 30 people, providing food and free lodging as we had for the Rocky fire a couple of years ago. Some are still with us as of this writing and we are working with FEMA to host others.
If you have been affected by the wildfires, registering with FEMA is crucial as it opens up many resources to you.You have only 60 days to register, so if you think you may want their resources, don’t delay. They have opened the “one-stop shop” at the Press Democrat building in Santa Rosa at427 Mendocino Avenue. I highly recommend visiting the office in person, as the many tables offer all kinds of assistance that you may not even know exists, everything from Small Business Administration loan information to Sonoma County permitting help to free counseling referrals and much more.
I was there to get us listed as an evacuee location, but ended up registering for other types of help for us as well. If you are in need ofproperty clean up, it is essential to contact FEMA first as they havefree clean up services available, but if you start the process yourself, I am told that may limit the amount of help you can receive moving forward. Visiting the FEMA office was comforting and inspiring. I’ve never been a big fan of the Department of Homeland Security logo, previously associating it only with having to take off my shoes and jewelry at airports, but I was very happy to see it here combined with caring people from all over the country coming together to help our own besieged county to recover.
Therapy dogs and their handlers roamed through the crowd, aRed Cross woman volunteer gave out small stuffed Mickey Mouse dolls to children (and an adult or two), and everyone I encountered was simply so kind.
I’m not doing a “Foodie Moment of the Month” in this issue, but if I did, the donatedBoar’s Head sandwiches, coffee, and snacks provided at the FEMA office for those affected by the fire would win hands-down.
One of the most difficult losses for evacuees is the sad truth that many pets did not make it out with their owners. In ancient Egypt, the divine was seen to be manifested in animals as well and beloved animals were accorded full funerary rites. Ancient Egyptian society fully recognized the pain of losing an animal companion.
On November 12th atIsis Oasis Sanctuary at 20889 Geyserville Avenue at 3pm we will be holding a special interfaith Sunday Service to recognize the loss of beloved companion animals and to celebrate their lives. This will be followed by a light supper. This event and meal are both free to the public. Companion animals are welcome. Please RSVP at 707-857-4747. We are looking for animal artists, pet psychics, grief therapists and others to donate their services and be present with us at this event.
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