Story and photos from Greg Holman
As many people on the west coast are living inÂ the smoke of hundreds (down from thousands) of lightning fires, it would be logical to do a story about the only regular maintenance involved in owning a solar system – periodically cleaning the panels. However, this is about something much different. With the instantaneous distribution of information, news, video and images, we are becoming a country – no, a world of desensitized individuals. 10,000 perish in an earthquake in the Middle East, millions of people displaced because of a hydroelectric project in China, and the list goes on. So, when more than 80 homes burned in the wind-driven â€œHumboldtâ€ wildfire in Paradise, California, it was “section B” news for many people.
For residents living in and around the town of Paradise, this was reality. Thousands of people were displaced, most temporarily. Others were displaced from their homes forever. Somehow, this is amplified when it is realized that 7 of the people who lost everything were my former students.
The PG&E Solar Schools program began in 2004. Who knew that it would grow to the large community of schools, non-profits, and people passionate about the program. Before the fire was even out, there had been several teachers throughout the state, officials from the Solar Schools Program, NEED, and the Foundation for Environmental Education calling and emailing to see if their school in Paradise was alright. Stay tuned for an article on what is being done for those students who lost their homes.
When something of such large scale hits so close to home, you realize how little we need to get by. Quickly, you see just how much we do each day is an â€œextraâ€ and non-essential to go through life. Many of the people most affected are the ones with such a positive outlook â€“ ready to rebuild and move on. Looking at my family and house still standing, I realize that so many things that we plug in are just luxuries.
As I am writing this, a three-week siege of lightning fires are slowly coming under control all over California, and again in the Paradise area. 50 more homes were lost in the region to these fires. Over 10,000 people are being allowed back into their homes as evacuation orders are being lifted. The governor twice, and tomorrow the President, will be in the area to assess the damage and plan for recovery.
If the second round of fires were not bad enough, today it was announced that the first fire has been deemed arson.
Lets focus on what we can control. First, get out and give your solar panels a good cleaning. Squeeze out every extra free watt you can by using â€œsoftâ€ water and a squeegee. Next, try to volunteer in your area in any capacity that you can for emergency preparedness. Donations of used clothing and goods to non-profits, financial donations, or volunteering for a number of local organizations can be ways to help!
Anyone interested in helping is encouraged to donate to their local chapter of the American Red Cross, or for people specifically in Paradise: the American Red Cross or the Paradise Community Foundation (www.paradisecommunityfoundation.com).