Fires and Genealogy

Just under three years ago, a wind event in Northern California started at least 12 fires. These fires devastated large portions of Sonoma and Napa counties. The Tubbs fire, just to the north of my home, ravaged the city of Santa Rosa in just hours. Everyone knew one or more people who lost their home in the fires.

Just a year later in 2018, the Mendocino Complex Fire became the largest fire in California history with just under a half million acres burned. Sadly, just months later, the Camp Fire claimed the title of most deadly in California when 85 people lost their lives as the towns of Paradise and Concow were destroyed.

Once again a wind event wreaked havoc in October 2019. The Kincade fire was not deadly or quite as destructive as the previous years. The threat was large enough over 180,000 people were evacuated from their homes.

Now in 2020, Northern California is facing fire again. Just over a week ago, we experienced a crazy thunderstorm which saw over 10,000 lightning bolts light up the sky. Unfortunately, this led to many small fires that have merged into several massive fires. Every Bay Area county except San Francisco has a major fire burning in it.

Screenshot from AlertWildfire Black Mountain Marin camera. The 747 Supertanker is getting ready to approach for a fire retardant drop on the Woodward fire in Point Reyes National Seashore.

So what does this have to do with genealogy?

First, those of us in California need to be documenting our history for future generations. How were we impacted, what did we do to help, how did we feel, how has fire changed the way we live? These stories will personalize history for our descendants.

Second, as a genealogist, I want to protect the research I have done. I find there are two components to this plan. A specific evacuation plan including identifying genealogy materials and where on the list they fall for packing the car is super important. Next is digitizing all paper materials to make the evacuation plan more manageable.

My family reviewed our evacuation plan this past weekend. We checked our emergency go boxes for what needed to be updated (first aid, food, toothpaste, etc). We also checked our evacuation go list. The list is in order of importance for packing the car. This is to help determine what gets grabbed depending on the amount of time we have. We also figured out that my genealogy treasures will fit in the car (along with kids, dog, etc.)

Every year as fire season takes it toll, I say I am going to digitize everything. Every year I have made small gains before becoming distracted and not completing the project. I am determined to tackle and FINISH digitizing a couple boxes of paper this year. I have started by reviewing my scan, cite, save process. I have a box out and using a phone scanning app, a few items have already been crossed off the list. Some of these items will start to appear as blog posts.

Have you thought about what will happen to your genealogy treasures in the event of an emergency or natural disaster? What have you done to prepare?

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