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Sonoma County Gazette

Fire and Gratitude

Oct 23, 2017
by Lyndi Brown


Going into November, we all bring an abundance of gratitude and appreciation to our first responders. The new fashion statement is Yellow suits. We’ve been through a trauma, and a bonding experience. If our Rancho Adobe Fire District were on the ballot for a sorely needed tax increase for fire services, let me tell you, it would be a landslide win! Hold that thought!

I spent an hour at the Rancho Adobe Fire District’s Station 2, talking with board president Greg Karraker. Greg jumped in to staff the Penngrove business line on Day 1 and stayed put as steady rock of clear communication.

“I saw a crew come back after 36 hours of firefighting without a break,” he said. “They got some food, a couple hours of sleep and couldn’t wait to get right back out there. Each station has to hold back one engine and a three-person crew, yet the team is itching to get out there”.

He fielded calls from residents about evacuations, rumors and fire progress. threads were buzzing with questions and hearsay. Greg calmly separated rumor from fact.

When up-to-the-minute info was needed, he’d walk out and ask a battalion chief. “They know what’s really going on.”

Greg shook his head about the communications and technology. We are used to living in a Google/Wikipedia world, and despite our crash course in signing up for Nixle alerts, there is no single source of accurate information. He referred to a hand-drawn map of all Penngrove areas and addresses, drawn in the late 90s. It’s enough for normal firefighting times, but when people want to know the status of their home, we need technology to overlay a current digital fire map with a street address. It is something that exists, technology-wise, but it isn’t in place for this fire. With digital fire maps being updated twice every 24 hours, information can be old.

Next visit was to Penngrove Social Firemen’s ClubhousePenngrove 4-H volunteers and P.W. Scroggins transformed the social hall into a pop up donation center. The 4-H advisor Robin Booth and her team kept the site open from 7 am to 7 pm daily, while club members sorted clothing, supplies and planned deliveries. I was amazed to see long lines of tables marked by category, with clothing in neat piles. Members Keiana Grima, and Courtney and Caitlin Booth filled me in on how things worked. They created a Facebook page, Save Sonoma County, which got 500 likes in one day. “We put the word out for donations and contacted businesses for help,” said Keiana. “A team of drivers picks up donations and delivers where they’re needed. We started deliveries with a dump truck. We delivered apples to Elks Lodge 901 in Petaluma, clothes to Calvary Chapel PetalumaFriedman’s donated air mattresses, and we delivered to the Fairgrounds. We delivered Gatorade and water to other firehouses and the CHP, too.” The group even kept firefighters in clean sox and briefs.

A Penngrove Social Firemen cooking team made sure firefighters got three squares a day. Kim Hanson, Chuck Lucas, Cathy Steinmeyer and Burr Wilson had a busy crew.Yanni’s Sausage andFull Circle Bakery were quick to donate food. A JavAmore Café customer stopped in to pick up a sandwich order, and stepped right into the sandwich-making crew. Oliver’s gave sandwiches for 60,Cafe Salsa, Amy’s Kitchen and Mi Ranchito donated burritos. Olive Garden and BBQ Smokehouse in Sebastopol delivered 50 dinners. It just goes on and on: the generosity and love of our community!

Historic USO Dance Party By Nov. 10 we’ll be ready to gather in community for a USO dance party at Petaluma Woman’s Club. It’s a fun benefit for the beloved clubhouse’s Restoration Fund, and it happens the night before Petaluma’s Veterans’ Day Parade. Don your vintage togs and get ready to swing, sway and boogie to the big band sounds of the 1940s, featuring Swing Fever Big Band Swing.

The event recreates the USO Dances that were held in the historic clubhouse during the WWII era, complete with period refreshments, swing dance lessons and fantastic prize opportunities, all in keeping with the patriotic theme. Simple foods will recall the wartime atmosphere, and the bar will feature the Aviator cocktail in the Officers’ Lounge, along with non-alcoholic beverages served canteen style. Drawing prizes, include exclusive seats for a ride in the Huey military helicopter on a flyover at the Veterans Day Parade. Prize tickets will be available at the event for $20 each, and in advance from club members.

It’s all happening at 518 B Street in Petaluma, CA where mothers in the 1940s chaperoned their daughters, who answered the call to this fun duty by the commander of nearby Hamilton Field Air Force Base, who wanted wholesome R&R for his troops. The USO Dances became another page in the multifaceted history of the 125-year old clubhouse, recognized by Heritage Homes of Petaluma. As it has for over 100 years, the club continues with event rentals, membership events and community activities. Tickets to the event are $50 each, available through Brown Paper Tickets.



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