Recovery for Dave Natalie & Atticus

Dave, Natalie, and their 4-month-old baby boy Atticus were awakened in the wee hours of the morning on October 9th with an evacuation call. Taking themselves, the clothes on their backs, and the 3 dogs, they left their home in Santa Rosa for what would be the last time. Within a couple of days, they learned that the home was destroyed by massive wild fires and with it, their belongings. With a great network of family and friends they are safe with a roof over their heads. They have insurance, but it will take time before they can assess and go through the hoops and paperwork that comes with these disasters.

My name is Joe Kenney from Portland, OR. Dave and I were best man at each other's weddings and have been best friends for nearly 30 years. Setting this up on his and Natalie's behalf is the least I could do to help. This fund is set up to help with some of the larger items that need to be replaced and can’t wait. This includes a crib/mattress, rocking chair, baby carrier, baby dresser, changing table, jumper, high chair, blankets, and play yard among others (as you can tell, very baby-centric). Anything over the goal amount will go towards their debt repayment which has become an increased strain during this difficult time. Needless to say, any and all funds will be given directly to Dave and Natalie and will be put to good use.

Below I asked Dave if he could share his family’s experience because I am lucky enough to have not encountered a crisis such as this and cannot put into words what they are going through. These are his words:


Where to begin? Right now, we are safe with some friends, though our home is still in an evacuation area where hotspots are popping up.  It's been exactly 1 week since the phone call we almost did not receive.  It's been a week since we had a home.

Around 9pm, we went to bed without a thought to the howling wind that started up at 10-15 mph. We went to bed around this time as well, lulled by the sound of winds picking up and becoming violent.  It was hard to drift off, but somehow we managed.  

At some point in the night the power went off, and that disturbed us because the baby monitor requires a power outlet to stay on.  We smelled smoke a little more prominently, and the winds were more intense than they were before.  I checked over the house and saw no damage, and lit some candles for the bathroom.  We went back to bed, leaving the baby's door open down the hall, just in case.  The power came back on, which reassured us that things were getting better.  We were wrong.

An hour later, at around 1:30am, the power went out again, which switched off the monitor and woke my wife, who started smelling the smoke at that time.  It was then that received a phone call on the landline.  My mother-in-law didn't hear the phone, having taken a sleep aid to get over her jet-lag from her travels.  My wife answered it.   It was the emergency system telling us to evacuate our home immediately.

In a panic, my wife ran to tell her mom who was still fast asleep that we had to leave.  She came back to me to make sure I was up.  I had already started gathering my clothes on and getting a small bag ready.  We started the process of leaving our family home full of memories and pictures we'd never see again.  

We got the baby in the car seat and got our three dogs on leashes, put the two older dogs in the carrier and loaded up the car.  I had to move my wife's small car and my work car out of the driveway before we could get the family vehicle that we would all fit in out of the driveway.  As I did that, my mother-in-law went across the street to the elderly lady that lived across the street to make sure she was up and moving.  She was in her driveway getting in her car, though she was confused.  The winds were howling and gusting at 70 mph and the trees were creaking under the strain of their full branches.  It was pitch black except for the glow.  

A huge orange blaze was visible over our hillside.  It looked like the gates of hell had opened up and were coming towards our neighborhood.  It was still far off, but it was coming.  The direction of the wind told me so.

We got into the car, loaded with only dogs and people, a safe, dog food, water bottles, charging cables, and our medication.  We didn't know how long we would be evacuated.  We didn't know we'd never see the house standing again.

We drove to our evacuation site across town.  It was filled with families and pets, everyone they could get out of danger areas.  Medical personnel prioritized elderly and children.  Red Cross volunteers handed out apples and water cups.  We lined up against the wall on chairs for 3 hours before we decided we needed to go further south.  We heard that the elderly were being evacuated from their nursing home and the hospitals were being evacuated as well, so we decided to make our way to San Francisco if we could, to stay with my brother in law.

On our way, we stopped and got coffee, bathrooms, and realized that we were safe.  We still had no idea what was happening with the house or the fires.  No pictures yet.  The radio was doing a continual broadcast but they had as little information as we did.  

By 10am we made it to San Francisco and safety.  It was there that we stayed over night, exhausted and worry-shocked.  No one got a good nights sleep, but we were glad for the safe harbor.  We turned on the news and saw the first pictures of our town.  It was a war zone.  Firefighters prioritized saving lives and evacuating people from danger rather than fighting the fire, which had covered the city like a blanket.  It looked like a bomb had gone off.  Cars were warped, streets were melted, buildings were ash.  We fell asleep not knowing anything about the next day.

Thankful for the rest, we decided we needed to move on the next day.  It was a tiny apartment, meant for two people, and we were three additional people, with three dogs, and a baby.  We had to find bigger accommodations, so we decided to move north of the affected areas into a town called Windsor where we had friends staying.  They were safe, though they didn't have hot water due to the gas being shut off.  We made it there in record time because no one was on the freeway.  We passed our neighborhood on the freeway when we got up to Santa Rosa, and saw the devastation.  

Smoke was still coming from smoldering ruins.  Police shut off most of the 8 exits off 101 to Santa Rosa.  We only saw what the fire had done in that corridor.  We made it up to Windsor safe.  It's here we are still staying, with friends, in two of their spare rooms.  

It was here that we heard we lost the house.  My father in law was traveling for business and came home early, and arrived to hear the news, but was glad we were safe.

After the shock, we started the process of itemizing our losses and looking at our insurance policy.  Turns out we are covered, but the insurance adjusters and claims people cannot get to the house yet.  We are stuck because our neighborhood is still evacuated while they search for people, and contain the fire.  So we cannot move forward with our policy to reclaim our lost possessions.  Fortunately we have a lot of friends and family who can help with small items and clothes for my wife and I, for my in laws.  But the baby furniture and the bigger ticket items we cannot replace by ourselves right now.  

My wife and I have student loan debt from our time in seminary.  I'm a Lutheran pastor, working a temporary job while looking for a full time call in the church, my wife is a Catholic Youth Director, though the church that she is working in has been evacuated as well.  We have had credit card and tax debt from previous moves and relocations that caught up with us.  All of this helps explain why we were living with my in laws, and thank god for that, because my mother in law didn't hear the phone ring to evacuate us. Thanks to that blessing, we are all safe and were able to evacuate.  But it does highlight our financial need.  

Any help you can provide, helps our baby get the furniture and the comforts that he lost during this disaster.  It helps us move forward with energy and positivity knowing that the next days are brighter. He makes us smile every day, and is constantly bringing light into our days, so we hope that your help can brighten his. Thank you and God bless you for your time.

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Organizer and beneficiary

Joe Kenney 
Portland, OR
David Miller 
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