June 30, 2016 (Dulzura, CA) Supervisor Dianne Jacob holds these coffees with constituents often. It is her way of keeping her ear to her constituents. This previously scheduled meeting also became a way for the community to voice it’s accolades and concerns due to the Border Fire.
Like all disaster response, this one had it’s good things, it’s bad things, and the very ugly things. One of the very ugly things was the death of Jim and Kyrie Keefe, and that they were found by community members. These community members are understandably very angry at the authorities, who they feel were quite uncaring about two missing people.
We first will let Julie Salmon tell it herself, in this video from this morning, Then the appeal from Kim Hamilton that they are the people on the ground, and they had to be listened to. We are also including the video with some of the reaction of the Sheriff’s department to what was a very troubling report.
Then we are going to give voice to Iris Gardener, and Leann Mitsui, the latter with Salmon, found the two bodies. We believe in letting them speak for themselves, with us just offering you the audio. Their stories are very powerful, and they are stories of resilience, well placed anger and survival. There is third person who was also critical of what happened, and why this is a problem for trust in government and how to restore it. She is the person who had to involve higher ups in law enforcement.
Captain Hank Turner and an Assistant Sheriff Michael Barnett promised that they were going to look into it and take action where necessary. He also repeated the official story that they had searched the property, but it was only the property, but not the hill behind it. We included the video above, as well.
Claudia Millerbragg told Captain Hank Turner the same things that we hard. Essentially the lack of respect from officers to the community. Or the fact that the officers treated them like they were ignorant country hicks. The captain asked for an email so he can follow though with this as well.
There were other issues raised by those attending the meeting, Some are the same ones that come every disaster, such as cell phone coverage, or shelter issuers. Though in this case they were not minor either. One of the people attending the meeting, from Campo, and I am sorry we did not get the name, went in detail into her and her husband’s ordeal with the shelters.
For starters they moved people thought three shelters. Part of the reason was the fire was moving and CAL FIRE changed locations a couple times. They had to leave the first shelter very fast, ten minutes, that is all they had. The second time, the also had little time, and to make a long story short, she did that with her husband was injured and her pets. People in the back country (and the city for that matter) will not leave their pets behinds. So having a plan to evacuate animals is critical.
Once they go to the third shelter, the problem was the humane society that did not have enough crates, to care the animals. It is great that the shelters are now small pet friendly, (that was a lesson from Katrina), but they need to have enough supplies. Moreover, her husband’s foot injuries were serious enough he is still in the hospital.
There was more ugly, and that had to with animal control. This was a running theme throughout the meeting, and most people had very little good things about it. Or at least of those who spoke.
Then there is the good. In general people had a lot of good things to say about the Border Patrol and CAL FIRE. People had all but admiration for the response. Chief Tony Mechan did address two concerns from residents. The first was the reposition orders. He owned the confusion of when the evacuation orders were lifted. He said it was his call to do it by 5:30 so people could go to their children’s grunions at El Capitan High School, but that did not fully get to all agencies or field personnel. He apologized for that.
The other thing he promised the community to review is who comes in or out during a fire. Usually when people leave, they are not allowed back in. A gentleman raised the issue of his wife who needed to get medical care. To make a long story short, she missed an appointment, and he wondered whether there should be a gray area. So did Iris Gardener, and that had to do with bringing feed and water for animals.
For the most part, CAL FIRE got not only the thanks of the community, but admiration for what they do. They are, in the words of one attendee, getting better at what they do.
We also learned a few things that are important. Some we already knew but are wroth repeating.
* The County will waive all rebuilding fees for all buildings that there are records for. Jacob quipped about how things are in the back country, but how important it is to have those records in order, for times when you need to rebuild.
* The bins are coming, which will help to get rid of debris
* There will be a HAZMAT collection point sometime in September in the Potrero area.
The county also gave copies of the Red Guide and other disaster information. CAL FIRE gave a list of their social media. If you do not follow them on twitter, you should.