Article By: Giovi Andreassi
With fires becoming an annual occurrence in Sonoma County, families must be prepared to evacuate somewhere safe, fast. Likewise, those who live in areas that are not affected by the fires must be prepared to take in evacuated friends and family.
Jenesis Blancaflor, a senior at SRHS who lives in Rohnert Park, has had quite the experience taking in an evacuated family during the September Glass Fire.
Blancaflor, along with her family friends who evacuated to Rohnert Park, was up at three A.M. the night that the fires hit Skyhawk. Blancaflor’s guests watched in horror as they saw their house burning on the TV screen.
Blancaflor said, “It’s really hard to see someone’s reaction losing their house firsthand. It made me feel a bit helpless at first; it doesn’t feel like you can do anything to make them feel better.”
Blancaflor was surprised at how, after the first shock of losing their house, her guests reacted quite well. They acknowledged that they were grateful for their safety and that this would just be another obstacle they had to and could overcome in 2020.
Blancaflor added, “I felt grateful to even have a home where I could take in friends who weren’t lucky with the fires. We tried to make the experience somewhat bearable with dinner nights and games, and it wasn’t too hard since they had such a positive attitude.”
When asked what advice she would give in order for people to be prepared to take in evacuees, Blancaflor emphasized the importance of making people feel at ease in such a stressful time. Even talking to the friends or family about unrelated topics makes them feel a minimum of normalcy. It’s better to not talk about the fires 24/7, because that is probably already constantly in a fire victim’s mind. Instead, Blancaflor says, make the guests feel comfortable, read the room and see if they are in the mood to have a conversation or if it looks like they would prefer some space.
“I would just say that empathy is really important in these situations,” Blancaflor says, “If you’re lucky enough to survive another fire season in Sonoma County, put yourself in the shoes of those who weren’t as lucky and do what you can to alleviate at least some stresses of the situation.”