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Sonoma County Gazette
Letters to the Editor

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Oct 23, 2017


Strength and Unity

My heart is heavy as I observe the devastating toll the firestorm has taken. Amid the ashes of unthinkable loss and destruction, what shines through is the strength and unity at work in our community.

Last week, nearly every school district in the county was closed. As some school sites begin opening their doors again this week, student safety and health will continue to be top priority. Staff are working around the clock to monitor conditions so that school at the remaining closed sites can resume as soon as it is safe to do so. More than anybody, educators and school staff understand the importance of restoring a sense of normalcy and routine to students.

On behalf of the Sonoma County Office of Education (SCOE), I want to extend my sincere gratitude to these men and women, many of whom have lost their own homes in this tragedy. Thank you to custodial staff for providing our students with a clean school environment by replacing air filters, cleaning desks, and power washing school grounds. Thank you to office staff for your diligent record keeping and communication with parents. Thank you to teachers and counselors for adjusting your schedules to provide guidance, comfort, and stability to our children. Thank you to school and district administration for your dedicated leadership and coordination. You all play an essential role in ensuring the success of our students, and you couldn’t be more valuable in these challenging times.

Steven D. Herrington, Sonoma County
Superintendent of Schools

In the October Gazette under the Cotati Heart and Soul there is a article of concern to me. The Gazette printed a personal vendetta attack on a shopping center in Cotati.

The Wolf Den Plaza was attacked in this column for simply enforcing their (clearly marked and noted by the writer) customer parking restrictions. The writer of the column was not shopping at the locations and used their parking lot for her convenience while attended a function close by.

I don’t believe this to be a good use of the platform provided by your paper. The suggestion to not shop at these locations is offensive and destructive to the small businesses serving the community. I suggest she follow the rules in the future to alleviate this situation.

Michael Dawson

I agree with you Michael. Every innocent business had the potential to be hurt, and not one of them was at fault. Simply following the rules would have stopped any offense before it even began.

Wood Heat

Getting chilly these nights, and I am struck with the realization that our main source of heat is our wood-burning stove, but I simply can’t fathom lighting another fire that would torture this air we are trying to breathe. I wonder what the wood burning community is thinking and what are some guidelines? Is it time to get the gas heaters out and make every day a spare the air day? Thoughts from the community are welcome.

Chris Dec

I heat with wood as well - but love it. It’s a sustainable source of energy. All the logs come from tree services. Trees grow every day. I have an EPA Certified wood stove that literally puts no particulate matter into the air and re-burns smoke until there is nothing going up my chimney. But still - I have plugged in my electric heater - the little oil ones that look like radiators. With Sonoma Clean Power electricity, at least I know that my power source is clean & renewable one. No petroleum products. We do everything we can - and yet - it’s still not enough. But we must stay warm. There are ways to be warmth are clean and sustainable. If you don’t have an electric heater, you may consider one - but be warned - your power bill will go up a lot!

Some wise words on restoration after these fires from our neighbor Ray Krauss:

I’ve watched recovery over a period of more than 25 years of a 60,000 plus acre burn area on the Blue Ridge between Yolo and Napa County that burned twice in less than a decade. Best advise is, if any doubt, do nothing. The areas requiring intervention most urgently will be the fire brakes; the dozer cuts. And there are going to be many miles of those, perhaps more than we can help. That alone will take a massive volunteer effort that someone is going to have manage. CalFire will have a large scale mitigation effort that will at least involve trying to repair to some extent drainages and avoid major gullying. They may also undertake some erosion control seeding, though in my years could not be persuaded to use native grasses. Even if they had, they would have be genetically distinct from the local populations. In 1964, post Hanley fire erosion control consisted of aerial seeding of Harding grass and the panting of thousands of pine trees. Someone should make early contact with CalFire and see if we can closely coordinate our efforts with theirs.

Left alone, most burn areas will recover and thrive. We should be in store for one of the most spectacular spring wild flower seasons in 50 years. Most of the oaks, excepting those at the top of ridges where the fires swept upslope gathering tremendous speed and heat, will survive. Most of those that have burned, including many of the seedling and sapling size trees, will root sprout and grow especially well because they are starting from an established root system, have very little competition, and thrive on the nutrients released from the ashes. After the massive Lake County fires a couple of years ago, many of the oaks put up new sprouts even before the first fall rains. All the of the chaparral will regrow without hesitation and with great vigor. Grass lands I’m not so sure about, but fire should favor the fire adapted species which may include more natives than not. And lacking previous seed collection from local populations, any native grass seed we could find would be genetically novel to the area. Often the best approach is to monitor regrowth and to collect seed from the closest adjacent populations in the first year or two, grow out and harvest a seed crop from what we can collect, then plant it out in subsequent years, again in especially suitable locations.

So that really leaves us with not a whole lot to do except the dozer lines. Take heart, despite the initial appearance of destruction and desolation of a massively burned landscape, fire is truly a rejuvenation. Get out your cameras and your hiking boots, and monitor, monitor monitor. Then perhaps in the second and third and fourth years and beyond we will find opportunities to replant some of the more rare species in especially suitable places.”

“Fire Storm”

There is a threat of destruction by fire,

Fire in the east that colors the sky

Promise of battle and causes of fear

Relief, if it do not roll our way.

Answer the call, answer the call,

Firefighters, firefighters, answer the call.


Be not deaf to the sound that warns

Be not still to the voice that alarms


Answer the call, answer the call

Come, come, firefighters, answer the call

Ready, be ready to battle the storm

Firefighters, firefighters, answer the call


Let your reforms for a moment go

Put your budgets aside, there is work to be done

Look to your engines, and gather your crew

Firefighters, firefighters, operate as one

Answer the call, answer the call

Firefighters, firefighters, answer the call.

With acknowledgement to Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809 - 1892) and dedicated to the men and women who responded to North Coast counties fire complex October 8, 2017. ~ Richard


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