by Chris Grabill, SCCA Board Member
More than 100,000 acres burned in the October wildfires, including hundreds of homes along Sonoma County’s streams and creeks. This scale of disaster has a sizable and devastating effect on our water sources.
As winter rains pick up, they add the serious danger of hazardous materials entering our waterways, soils, and groundwater.
The burn area includes 617 streams and creeks, each with numerous damaged home sites in water runoff zones. Clean up efforts are moving as quickly as possible, and we are grateful for Cal Fire’s efforts — but the enormous extent of the fire damage often means that high priority hazards can be overlooked.
For example, days before our first rain, electrical wires lay scattered in Mark West Creek, along with arsenic- and creosote-pressure treated wood debris from 38 different bridges.
Based on our local knowledge, relationships with landowners, and our direct link to state cleanup agencies, SCCA members helped to target and mobilize State Agencies to get the toxic debris removed in a matter of days, just before the rains hit.
This is difficult and intricately detailed work, beyond the capacity of any single agency or organization. Every single dwelling site needs our attention, compassion for the owners and our help to contain the most immediate threat from of toxic ash and rain runoff into waterways.
We have a narrow window to prevent mass contamination through this rainy season, and it will need us all to step up. This means closely coordinating all actions. Grassroots groups move nimbly, but government which tends to be slower, has the resources.
We need to communicate consistent best practices as a community and align our monitoring efforts. If we want to build community trust, and protect ourselves and natural ecosystems from toxins, we must not work in silos. We simply don’t have the time for it.
This is where grassroots shines. And we’ll need your help.