I like Quincy Sheriff Greg Hagwood, but seeing his name on caller ID is never a good thing. I usually answer the phone by saying, “Now what?”
“We have five fires burning in Deans Valley,” he said, the morning of Saturday, July 29.
I looked at my other hand, the one not holding the phone; it held cherry tree saplings just pulled from my lawn. Until he called, three tasks were vying for my time —doing yard work, cleaning the house or writing the week’s editorial. The decision was made: None of the above. I headed to the office.
The fire was a moving target for the next several days, prompting a lot of behind-the-scenes talk of evacuations — one of which materialized. We here at Feather Publishing took our part in the firefighting effort very seriously — helping to disseminate the information that area residents needed. Our newspapers have changed dramatically during the two-plus decades since I began working here. Back in the early ‘90s, Feather Publishing would write the more in-depth pieces and provide the photos. The radio would broadcast the minute-by-minute news. It has become increasingly clear that our websites, plumasnews.com and lassennews.com, now serve the role of providing the immediate news.
That was evidenced by the number of page visits plumasnews.com received throughout the fire and particularly during that first weekend. Quincy residents logged on, but so did their friends and family scattered across the country worrying about loved ones.
At 6 a.m. on the Sunday morning after the fire broke out; I locked my house and headed to the office, knowing that the sheriff planned to call for an evacuation at 8 a.m. The fire cooperated and the order didn’t come — at least not then.
It’s interesting what you choose to take when you know that everything you own could be destroyed. Like most people, I packed photos, some important documents, a quilt made by my great grandmother, etc. Then I made the mistake of calling my oldest daughter. She had just been home for a visit and during that time we had looked through my high school and college yearbooks, finding photos of her father and me when we were much younger. “You have to take your yearbooks,” she said, and then began rattling off a host of items I should take. “I only have my Subaru,” I reminded her. “Get a U-Haul,” she said. “You can always unload it.” Just where she thought I would find a U-Haul at midnight on a Saturday night in Quincy, I don’t know.
As she was instructing me to take every article of clothing that I owned, I told her I really needed to go. Then a friend called. She wanted to drive from Graeagle (by this time it’s nearly 1 a.m.) and load as much as she could in her SUV. I thought to myself, “Am I missing something? Should I be taking more?” I just couldn’t think of anything else that I really had to have that wasn’t already in my car. No doubt, had my house actually burned, there would have been items that I missed.
This summer thus far is going down as my least favorite of all time — it began with two broken toes on Memorial Day and has had few highlights since. I’m more than ready for cool nights, football games and pumpkin spice anything. And, no offense Greg Hagwood, but I’d prefer no calls from you, unless it’s just to say, “Hello.”