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Kerry Scott Baldwin

Kerry Scott Baldwin

We hear the word “Strong” a lot these days. Unfortunately we often hear it because of devastating events — a terrible crime or act of nature.

It’s often proceeded by a city or region (Boston Strong, Houston Strong, etc.)

And now we hear Napa Valley Strong, Sonoma Strong and Wine County Strong because of the recent, destructive wildfires.

Each “Strong” phrase means so much more than just something bad happening. They are powerful words that convey losses, remembrances, challenges, overcoming, community spirit, and a sense of unity.

I’ve lived in the Napa Valley my whole life, as have many readers. There have always been fires, but never have I experienced numerous wildfires at one time. It felt like we were surrounded by a ring of fire … even more so when several fires merged together.

Oct. 8, 2017 was a beautiful Sunday for the final round of the Safeway Open golf tournament, albeit there was an afternoon, gusty wind. Players and caddies were commenting on the wind affecting their shots. However, it didn’t seem too out of the ordinary. We’ve had wind before.

At the end of the day, there was a trophy presentation and everyone began to head home. Shockingly hours later, Silverado Country Club and Atlas Peak were the scene of a massive firestorm. It still hardly seems possible.

Upvalley, the Tubbs Fire began and quickly raged all the way to Santa Rosa. The deadly firestorm destroyed everything in its path.

Almost every town in the valley had some level of concern during the next two weeks. Neighbors were packing their cars, cutting their trees and watering their roofs. Because of the nature of our family business, Silverado Orchards Retirement Community, we never left the valley. We needed to look out for our residents and staff.

Along the way, the Napa Valley learned many things ... We learned that even in 2017 there can be a complete communication breakdown by losing power, Internet, cell phone service, landlines, and local FM station KVYN. You had to go in person to talk with someone! I dusted off an old radio with D batteries and managed to find local AM station KVON. My Mom and I discovered we could use her OnStar car phone to reach family and friends.

We learned about advisory evacuations, mandatory evacuations and what those meant. There was also misinformation floating around. We learned that advisory evacuation meant a “bag by the door ready-to-go” and “car backed into the driveway.” We learned what really matters to take and what is replaceable.

We learned that fires at night really light up the sky, even a few ridges away. Nighttime fire viewing causes much anxiety since there is no air attack in darkness. Wasn’t the daytime air attack quite a sight to see? There was everything from the gigantic 747 Supertanker to Chinook helicopters.

We learned all about masks! Most people now know that a N95 particulate respirator or better is the proper choice to protect us from smoke.

We learned that St. Helena can actually be more closed down than any holiday I can ever remember. There was a chain across the post office doors. St. Helena had a few bright spots. Some family members and I had a delightful dinner at Market Restaurant. It felt like the town center. Thanks for being open!

We learned so much about each other and the goodness of the Napa Valley. Firefighters and first responders are saints who work tirelessly and care about people. Thanks for all you did and are doing. Many different volunteers donated their time, money and belongings to those in need.

The apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4:12-13, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” He added, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Everyone knows someone who lost it all. Hopefully insurance and government assistance comes through for them. Hopefully through love, prayer and the support of the community, the fire victims will overcome.

All around town and the valley, I’ve seen Christ-like acts of kindness and helping others. As the fire containments increased and the smoke began to clear, people started getting their lives back on track.

The destructive wildfires of October 2017 have ultimately brought the community closer together. Indeed, we are Napa Valley Strong.

Speaking to the disciples, Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Because of Jesus, we can be Heaven Strong.

Kerry Scott Baldwin is an Elder of the Pacific Union College’s Seventh-day Adventist Church.