Dear Bruce McPherson and fellow county supervisors,
I write to you today as a woman who lost her home in the CZU fire. I am a proud San Lorenzo Valley citizen who is active in her community and is committed to rebuilding her home for her family which includes five children. As I wade through the immense costs and bureaucratic nightmare that is building in Santa Cruz County there is a huge topic that I see the county being radio silent on: fire prevention, education, and preparedness. This needs to be a cornerstone to our recovery efforts yet it seems to be entirely left out of the conversation.
Yesterday evening I read the article in Good Times that was published after the Grand Jury report was released regarding the immense risk to our area for a catastrophic fire. The findings of the report, which I knew nothing of until after my family lost everything, was an epic foreshadowing of what was to come. One thing is very clear, when it comes to being proactive with fire prevention and fire recovery Santa Cruz County has failed the citizens of the San Lorenzo Valley and our coastal neighbors of Bonny Doon and surrounding areas miserably. And it has cost almost a thousand families everything we own.
In this article Bruce, your analyst Gine Johnson states that wildfires are a top concern for you and your office since your district encompasses the entire San Lorenzo Valley. How are you addressing that concern? What are you and the other supervisors doing beyond potentially denying people the right to rebuild on their land because of fire department accessibility issues to address this concern?
We need to be proactive, not reactive.
Luck favors the prepared as they say. So what will we do collectively to mitigate the risk of this happening again? We heard from Cal Fire in those two meetings that the main issue was resources. There just wasn’t enough. I would love to know why those resources were allocated in the ways they were. Who made those calls? With such limited resources why isn’t there a focus on enforcing the maintenance of landowners properties? If they can’t afford it, what can the county do? Why doesn’t the county know where the vulnerable points of PG&E’s antiquated and outdated infrastructure that pose immense fire risks to our mountains?
And here is the thing, this isn’t something that just fire victims should be asking. While I am now starkly aware of the shortcomings of the county when it comes to fire safety and prevention, others are living in sweet naiveteé as life returns to normal for them. The smoke of the CZU fire has cleared, people are mostly back home and the hum of normalcy for many is ringing in the air. You don’t think this can happen to you, until it does. This is hands down the worst thing I have ever experienced and I wouldn’t wish this on anyone, much less my fellow citizens of this mountain community. We need to collaborate within our communities and our governmental agencies to lower our risk to life, property and the environment.
So what is the county’s plan? I would love it if that deafening silence was replaced with action and dialogue within the community. I know San Lorenzo Valley doesn’t have as much money or prestige as Santa Cruz or Scotts Valley and lacks political representation, but our families deserve, and quite frankly pay for, proper representation and advocacy for our safety and well being. We matter, and its time Santa Cruz County started acting like it.
Boulder Creek Resident and Fire Victim
SLV Support Group for Home Loss-CZU Lightning Complex fires
Photo by Antonia Bradford