This article appeared in the September 08, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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When fire relief comes from next door

Noah Berger/AP
Gina Souza feeds her neighbor's pigs following the LNU Lightning Complex fires in Napa County, California, on Aug. 24, 2020. Souza, who stayed behind after authorities issued evacuation orders and saved her home, was caring for neighbors' animals until they can return.

Kendall Richard wondered when the evacuation order would come, or where the crews that usually camped out in their firetrucks had gone. Fires kept coming closer to her Pleasants Valley Iris Farm in Northern California, but none of the usual help came.

In the end, she and her husband evacuated based on their own instincts. With “the whole northern state caught on fire … you get resource-thin because you’re having to go to so many different places,” one Cal Fire official told Modern Farmer.

That means help has had to come from unusual and extraordinary places. Rancher Cole Mazariegos-Anastassiou knew local fire crews “had their hands full.” So his staff of four and about a dozen neighbors used a tractor to create a firebreak by uprooting trees. At one point, they were fighting 10-foot flames with water buckets. Across the state, fire departments have also rushed to one another’s aid, with the Menlo Park fire chief telling the Los Angeles Times: “It’s just what we do. No questions asked.”

With resources strained beyond their limits, the kindness of others is proving essential. Though Ms. Kendall’s flower farm did not escape the flames, customers have vowed to help, from rebuilding to sending back bulbs they bought in the past. “This whole thing has given us a renewed faith in humanity and the kindness of human beings,” she says.

This article appeared in the September 08, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 09/08 edition
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