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    Thoughts from Evacuation Zone #6 of the Kincade Fire

    By Paul Pendergast–

    My partner Robert Zelenka and I live near the town of Kenwood in Sonoma County (in the mountains between Sonoma and Santa Rosa). Our place backs up to Hood Mountain State Park, so we have always felt that we are definitely “in the wilderness” on one of the most beautiful north slopes in the Wine Country. 

    In 2017 the Tubbs Fire roared down to the west of us, and the Pythian Fire came within 100 yards of our home, but we made it through intact. Each day of the 2017 fires in Sonoma County was excruciating as many of our friends lost their homes in what seemed like a blink of an eye.   

    This Year’s Experience

    While we find ourselves in Evacuation Zone #6, the Kincade Fire has stayed at a distance from our home. We, like everyone in the Bay Area, endured the hurricane strength winds on Sunday, October 27, and we lost several venerable old oak trees on our property. 

    The spread of the Kincade Fire on that day was kept mostly at bay thanks to the amazing efforts of first responders and firefighters. Like many—we have had to endure the power outages of which we are now in number 4. It seems that we have been out of power for half the month of October!

     From the Community Perspective

    We have many LGBTQ friends here in Sonoma County who have been impacted by the Kincade Fire, and like in 2017, the LGBTQ network kicks into high gear to make sure that everyone is being taken care of.  Having moved to San Francisco in 1989 and having lived through the early days of the AIDS crisis, I realize that our community knows how to band together, take care of one another, and make sure that no one is left feeling isolated. 

    Times like these bring out the best in people from our community, like Greg Sarris, who is the Tribal Chairman of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria which owns the Graton Resort and Casino. He and others are examples of LGBTQ entrepreneurs from within our community who more than rise to the occasion. 

    Greg and his team have opened the doors of the Graton Resort to those who have been evacuated and they contribute greatly to the needs of the community with generous financial donations. The LGBTQ Community is resilient and we are resourceful, so now is the time when good people become great.

    From the Larger Perspective

    On the larger perspective, I resist the notion that horrific fires caused by the combination of climate change and poor management by PG&E is “the new norm.” As Governor Newsom said recently, this is California and we are known for our innovation and our ability to overcome challenges. We need to take our “California entrepreneurial spirit” and think outside the box to find long-term solutions to these issues. 

    Addressing the poorly managed power infrastructure and delivery system should be the primary focus. California must bring together the greatest minds in engineering, power generation, energy delivery, and underground utility construction to the table to develop a “Marshall-Like Plan’ to address our electrical and power generation needs. 

    We must resist with every fiber of our being the current forces that are attempting to roll back California’s greenhouse gas initiatives. We have to do what we do best in California—use our incredible diversity and economic strength to create a new model of sustainability in the face of natural and man-made disasters.

     Paul Pendergast is the CEO of Pendergast Consulting Group, a past president of the Golden Gate Business Association, and one of the founders of Build OUT California, which is the world’s first LGBTQ Industry Association dedicated to the sustainable growth of LGBT owned and certified businesses, and our allies, in the fields of architecture, engineering, construction, real estate development, and related industries. For more information: https://www.pendergastconsultinggroup.com/

     

     


    Burning Man Principles Evident During Current CA Crisis

    Nearly all that remains of once-beautiful and historic Soda Rock Winery in Healdsburg is Lord Snort, a fantastical sculpture of a boar commissioned for Burning Man by local artist Bryan Tedrick. Soda Rock’s owner Ken Wilson in 2016 purchased the piece, which still stands amidst the smoldering ashes.

    Unlike the controlled desert dream that is Burning Man, the ongoing fires, evacuations, power outages, and related problems of this month seem like a nightmare come to life. As of this writing, the horrors continue, threatening lives and property throughout the state, and in Northern California particularly impacting the Wine Country towns of Sonoma County.

    The principles of Burning Man have become evident these past few weeks when many are without basics such as power, water, working phones, hot meals, and shelter. Consider the Burning Man principle of Immediacy:

    “Immediate experience is, in many ways, the most important touchstone of value in our culture. We seek to overcome barriers that stand between us and a recognition of our inner selves, the reality of those around us, participation in society, and contact with a natural world exceeding human powers. No idea can substitute for this experience.”

    The present conditions for many are more than challenging, but the face-to-face contact with neighbors, first responders, family, friends, and coworkers continues to soothe and lift our spirits while providing often life-saving connection.

    Then there is the Burning Man principle of Communal Effort:

    “Our community values creative cooperation and collaboration. We strive to produce, promote, and protect social networks, public spaces, works of art, and methods of communication that support such interaction.”

    While the news during most months is full of stories of people harming others, these days we frequently learn about individuals who are going above and beyond their call of duty: the firemen who drove through flames to save entire towns, the gas station owner who brought in generators so that his customers had enough fuel to evacuate, and even the bar manager who kept his business open all night so that customers could calm their frayed nerves in community.

    Those of us who are LGBTQ tend to place tremendous value on community ties on any given day, much less during a disaster. Over the past decade those ties have been questioned and we often hear statements like, “There goes the gayborhood,” “Gay neighborhoods are an endangered species,” “Gaytrification is pushing us out,” and more. We wish that it did not take a crisis, or even a desired event like Burning Man, to remind us of the importance of community ties, cooperation, and collaboration.

    “Participation,” yet another Burning Man principle evident now, remains key and perhaps was on the mind of artist Tedrick as he created Lord Snort, which has become an odd landmark in the Kincade Fire zone. As the timeless principle holds, “We make the world real through actions that open the heart.”