Bonny Doon evacuees thank firefighters

August 17, 2009 10:07:49 PM PDT
Firefighters are making progress against a major wildfire still burning in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The 7,017 acre Lockheed Fire is now 80 percent contained.

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A mandatory evacuation order is still in effect in Swanton -- a community of about 500 people. Two thousand residents in nearby Bonny Doon were allowed to return back to their homes Sunday afternoon. There are some important lessons learned from this wildfire.

"It seemed superbly organized," says Bob Hines.

Hines says he had great confidence he would return to his house in tact after emergency personnel told him to evacuate.

"First we got a call and then a representative from the sheriff's office came, and they were followed very shortly by a truckload of fire people from Santa Clara that were surveying the neighborhood, and they inspected the house and asked where the propane tank was," says Hines.

Favorable winds, along with CAL FIRE's strategy for bulldozing fire breaks in rugged terrain, kept the advancing flames a couple of ridge tops away. Still, it was a period of anxiety as residents grabbed valuables and left the danger zone. Barbara Louv and her husband packed up their camper and headed to Davenport. They, too, appreciated having more than a moment's notice to pack and leave.

"Of course we had practice from last year, so we knew what our five minute list would be and our half-hour list. This time we had three or four hours to organize," says Louv, a 30 year resident.

The work of fire teams and other emergency crews hasn't got unnoticed. Residents have put up signs of thanks up and down the roads of Bonny Doon. Some are planning a thank you gathering, similar to one they had last year after the Martin Fire.

Residents also did their share, clearing their homes of brush and making water pumps available so firefighters could use water from swimming pools and storage tanks.

Emily York isn't sure how soon she's going home. With three active sons and an elderly uncle to care for, the smoke in the air is still a concern to her, as well as the stress of the evacuation.

"I didn't really understand how stressful this is, literally grabbing stuff and trying to get out and not knowing if you can come back and not knowing how long it would be. So this has been stress like I've never known," said York, a Bonny Doon resident.

Well, the stress and the anxiety for Bonny Doon residents is not over yet. Many point out that the fire season is not over, so they're not exactly going to unpack. Many of them are going to be standing by to evacuate again if necessary.

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