Machen MacDonald: Respecting ‘FIRE’ |

Machen MacDonald: Respecting ‘FIRE’

The Garden Fire burned 10 acres near Wolf Road in south county Tuesday afternoon.
Brian Hamilton/ |

I would like to begin this week’s column by offering my heartfelt condolences to everyone affected by the local fires, including those in Napa and Sonoma counties. My thoughts and prayers have been and will continue to be with you.

To all the first responders and volunteers stepping up during this time of disaster, I offer my deepest and most sincere THANK YOU for all that you have done and are doing as our community finds its way back to some sense of normalcy.

My family and I safely evacuated our home near McCourtney Road at the request of law enforcement who knocked on our door in the middle of the night Sunday, Oct. 8, and informed us we had five minutes to leave our home.

It was just enough time for my wife and I to gather our three children, dog, cat, and two Guinee pigs. We were lucky to have loving family nearby in Alta Sierra where we could retreat and spend four nights as Cal Fire stayed on our property for 48 hours keeping the threat of fire away from our home.

My family and I are feeling blessed and filled with deep gratitude for all the generous offers from so many local friends for hospitality and support. What an amazing community within which we live.

It will be a while before a portion of our property and surrounding properties are back to normal. As I gaze out my office window while I write this article I see scorched earth only 20 yards away from me.

A narrow 4 foot wide dirt path, dug by Cal Fire, remains where our fences once stood. This path is what now separates our untouched property from acres of colorless carbon covering the landscape beyond.

Now when I think FIRE I think:

Family First — As prepared as I thought we were, when it came down to having just 5 minutes there is no time to think or to grab what I fantasized as maybe being important and could not stand to lose. There was only enough time for family. Family is most important. Period.

Insurance / Irreplaceable — Be clear about what is irreplaceable well before any threat of danger is upon you. If it’s not out on display in your home, store it for easy retrieval on the way out to safety.

Keep pictures and keepsakes that you may not have out for presentation in one easily assessable dresser drawer. It’s easier to pull out a dresser drawer and throw it in a vehicle than it is to rummage throughout various rooms. Have good insurance for replacing and rebuilding.

The stress of second guessing if you have a good policy is not worth it. Whatever the difference may be from a mediocre policy to a stellar policy is well worth it, especially at the time of need.

Work with an insurance agent that does their job and recommends (and, dare I say, pushes) you to get what you need vs. just getting the minimum of coverage. Realistically, most things can be replaced.

Ready & Responders — Be ready with vehicles full of gas. Have a bag packed with a few days worth of cloths and toiletries, and any medications. There are plenty of resources online to find a complete list of what to have packed ahead of time in times of disaster.

Follow the directions of professional first responders. They know what they are doing and have trained deeply, enabling them to think and process data accurately during disaster. During emergencies, their logic surpasses yours every time. Trust them.

Environmental awareness — In times of emergency it is critical to be aware of what and who are around us. Most people will not have the presence of mind to act as smart as they are.

They may actually overthink rather simple situations, like putting hazard lights on and driving less than 5 mph during time of evacuation to look at the flames. Yes, it actually happened.

I know my comments seems like common sense. However, when under duress of self preservation, common sense and rationale may be running on close to empty. Make it so you don’t have to think in times of danger.

There is no time like the present to plan ahead for possible disaster. Having a list of what to grab before you are forced to evacuate is great.

The problem is finding the list when disaster hits is not going to be easy, let alone running around collecting what’s on the list … what’s that? — times up — we gotta go. Get it? Have it packed ahead of time.

The only purpose the list will serve is having thought about it ahead of time.

This week, pack your bags, review your policies, gather your irreplaceables and store in central location for easy access, and most importantly hug your family. In fact, do that now. Many people will never get another chance to do so.

Thanks again to all first responders, especially Cal Fire for your selfless service.

Make it up, make it fun, and get it done!

#1 bestselling author Machen P. MacDonald, CPCC, CCSC is a certified life and business coach with ProBrilliance Leadership Institute in Grass Valley. He helps business people gain more confidence and clarity to live their ideal life. He can be reached at and 530-273-8000.

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