Samantha Legorreta

September 8th at 12:22am. My almost 5 year old is asleep in my bed because of a bad dream. My phone rings and I quickly grab it before it wakes her up. It’s my dad, responding to the text I had sent him only minutes before. “It’s gone, it’s all gone” is what he tells me when I pick up. He is talking about the Creek Fire in Fresno County, the bad dream that my hometown has been living in since the fire broke out in Big Creek a few days earlier. It has reached the ridge at the top of 168. My dad, who is on the Bald Mountain Volunteer Fire Department, has been helping with the fire since they were evacuated Sunday. My mom has been staying with my family in Friant, near Millerton Lake. I quietly sneak out of my bedroom to the newly decorated nursery where my mom has been sleeping. But she’s awake because she knows too. Quietly we mourn the loss of our beloved ridge.

 

 I try to go back to sleep. But when I close my eyes all I see are flames crawling the walls of my family’s home, my neighbors’ homes, my childhood school, destroying a lifetime of memories. And now all we can do is wait. Wait to hear if anything on the ridge survived. Hold our breath and wait. 

 

 Cressman’s, gone. Friends’ homes, gone. It’s 2:10 in the afternoon. My mom and I had just watched Nathan Magsig drive the ridge, past my grandparent’s home that is miraculously still there. But surrounding their home it is almost unrecognizable, all the homes around are gone or badly damaged. My mom’s phone rings. She’s upstairs. It’s my dad. He is in tears and can barely speak. A knot in my stomach forms as I prepare to hear that the home I grew up in, got married at, is gone. “It’s here!” he says. 

 

But for 70+ other house of the less than 2 mile stretch, the families who called them home were not so lucky. Our neighbors, our teachers, our friends, our family. In one night a fire tore through and destroyed years and years of memories. Memories left behind by those evacuated because there was no way a fire that started in Big Creek would reach our ridge. But it did. And it didn’t have too. It could have been prevented. The fire could have been contained. And Climate Change has nothing to do with it. 

 

I am not denying Climate Change. But that is not what caused this fire to burn so hot and so fast that our brave firefighters had no chance against it. It doesn’t matter who manages our forests, Federal or State. It matters that they are mismanaged due to years and years of bad policy. If you need proof, go look at Camp Edison is Shaver, which is privately managed. The fire reached that side of the lake and had no fuel, because it had been managed (https://www.aforestwithouttrees.com/). Listen to the experts, because this time Climate Change is not the culprit. Mismanagement of our forests is. 

 

#mountainstrong #creekfire