Simonsen Family Fire Recovery

$12,810 of $25,000 goal

Raised by 72 people in 7 months
Created October 12, 2017
Carma Simonsen, her husband Oliver and his mother, Inger’s community was destroyed in the Tubbs Fire in Santa Rosa, CA on October 9th. They had only minutes to evacuate themselves, their pets and to rescue an elderly neighbor before their neighborhood was engulfed in flames. Like so many of their neighbors, they left all their possessions behind.  

While their homes were among the few that survived in the Journey’s End Mobile Home Park, the community is lost. It is unknown if the owner will rebuild, and even if so, it will take months to restore local services and infrastructure. It is likely that insurance will only cover a small portion of their loss, temporary housing and relocation costs.

Carma, Oliver and Inger are currently staying in a hotel in San Francisco.  They are in immediate need of basic expenses for short term, pet friendly lodging, food, and clothing while they look for new homes, or a place to move their current mobile homes, if they are salvageable.

Carma and Oliver expected to retire in their Santa Rosa community.  Inger, who is retired and on a fixed income, moved to live in the same community with Carma and Oliver.  Now they will have to rebuild their lives elsewhere.

This GoFundMe campaign is established for Carma, Oliver and Inger’s benefit by Carma’s friends and colleagues at Red Hat (contact campaign manager John Fritz with questions).  Fund from this campaign will go directly and exclusivley to Carma, Oliver and Inger.  We are asking for the support of our friends and communities to help speed them toward recovery.

Oliver and Carma

Bittle, Puzzle and Smudge - Oliver and Carma's rescue kittens.
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Update from Carma (originally posted at: http://bit.ly/2yLMrhQ)

One Month After The Santa Rosa Firestorm

It’s called a disaster for a reason. The situation is a massive disruption of normalcy! And now, a month after our frantic 3am evacuation, my family has arrived at the harsh reality of multiple levels of red tape and deep uncertainty.

Our homes are among those still standing in a mobile home park that is otherwise utterly destroyed.

The insurance says our homes can be repaired, and they are paying for the cost of repairs, however, even after repairs, we cannot live in them. Indefinitely. The future of the park is yet to be determined, as is the case with most of the neighborhoods destroyed–exactly what to rebuild there is in question. Santa Rosa needed more affordable housing before the fires. Now it needs much more!

The park owner has not figured out next steps or a timeline.

Meanwhile, our homes are exposed to further damage by looters and homeless people seeking shelter.

In my mother-in-law’s case, her home is almost new and she owes the bank $19k, and the bank has told her she is not allowed to move it. She also cannot sell it, since no one can live in it (there are no utilities and it will likely take months to rebuild all of the infrastructure in the park). So, the insurance will only pay for repair, she can’t live there, can’t sell it, has paid $57k for this home and still owes $19k, and she has to figure out where to live until all of this red tape is sliced! My stomach is in knots about it and her anxiety level is sky high.

So this has been a month long roller coaster, or rather, it’s been more like a House of Horrors–with monstrous ordeals suddenly shrieking at us from hidden places. Words like “asbestos contamination” and “condemned” and “ineligible for assistance” changed our course daily. One week to the next, patiently waiting, and no one able to provide answers. Rumors and speculation. Guesswork. Suspended indefinitely between hope and fear.

At this point, our only hope is that someday a settlement will be reached with PG&E to compensate the losses. There is evidence that their faulty equipment and/or negligence caused the Tubbs Fire that destroyed 4,658 homes in Santa Rosa.

For now, we are stuck in limbo. The fence around the mobile home park was put up by the City and is being taken down at the end of the week. There is no security onsite. We have retrieved valuables from inside, and will lock them up, but that’s as good as it gets. We can only hope this situation is resolved sooner rather than later.

We have talked with City Council, the Mayor, the Press Democrat, FEMA, Red Cross, United Way, and a couple of attorneys. And we are still stuck in limbo.

This is what it means to be caught in a sudden natural disaster of such magnitude that an entire region is disrupted.

I've attached a video shot by firefighters for perspective.
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Update from Carma

Week Two

My husband and I have had moments of laughter, in spite of the chaos and grief in the aftermath of the Santa Rosa firestorm. We were chuckling yesterday about how crazy popular The Cars album was. The subject came up because I mentioned that every time I go through something, a chorus from that album pops into my head and helps me get through the craziness.

That sums up week two after the fires. It’s all mixed up.

Grief and gratitude mix about as well as vinegar and oil. They have to be shaken pretty hard and well seasoned to make a palatable dressing.

Living indefinitely in a hotel with three cats is not an option. Going home is not an option. Going anywhere near home is not an option. Meeting our insurance adjuster this week was not an option. Getting information from the park management was not an option. We hear on the news that after a disaster there is chaos and emotions run high. Chaos is a word until it defines your life. Now it’s real. This is what chaos means. It means the news says one thing, a local friend says another, the multiple authorities in charge say something else, the manager in charge of your community doesn’t answer the phone and doesn’t return voicemail (because they’re waiting for clear answers from whomever is in charge–and that keeps changing); it means the internet isn’t working, you can’t do research; your phone flakes out when you need it most–it’s one thing after another, road block after road block; inexplicable detour and traffic jams on the information highway.

FEMA sent me an email saying that we were eligible for transitional shelter assistance, and there was a link, forms to complete, and finally a map with hotels that take in displaced families and pets after a disaster. I tried to make a reservation, only to learn that the list was outdated. Several hotels were no longer part of the program, or for some reason were not participating at this time. Finally, success! We have landed in a home away from home until November 9th. Now, what do we do for the rest of November?

One thing became crystal clear immediately after the fires… we can’t go back home. There is no home to go back to, even though the structure is standing. The community is gone. Infrastructure, utilities, melted. They can’t simply run an electrical line from the street to our mobile home. Anyway, these are all logistics. This week has been about the emotional aftermath, which is that odd mixture of grief and gratitude.

We both fell silent and lethargic periodically as depression hit hard. For me, it’s that my retirement plan has been destroyed. My perfect little retirement home, my affordable little retirement home–all that research, planning, saving–all the years of work that resulted in a successful outcome–my life after retirement was all set, and now, it’s all gone. But stop and smell the roses! YOU’RE ALIVE AND WELL!!!

Grief and gratitude, it’s all mixed up. Tears of sadness and relief. Moments of horror as memories of running for your life are triggered, followed by moments of amazement by the generosity and compassion of the people who have said, “We want to help your family!” The sweetness of hotel staff makes living in a hotel with three cats a little less painful. And the gratitude–always, the gratitude–keeps the floor under us. Things could have been so much worse. We came so close to losing everything.

Silver linings have been free breakfasts and all the little and big acts of kindness.

It is hard to sleep when you have to make big decisions, when every day that you don’t have a place to live after November 9th, the last day of hoteling from FEMA, means you’re paying $3,000/month or more in rent. Urgency deprives you of sleep. Something must be done! But what?

We reached an agreement that Long Beach is a sound economic direction for us to go, because I have been paying for my son to rent a room near college in that area. Rather than continue to pay rent for him, we will combine households. He’ll live with us again, we’ll buy a condo near California State University at Long Beach. That way, I can continue to help him finish college, as he pursues a degree in Industrial Design. I can also help him learn to drive, so he can get to and from the temp jobs he’s been ubering to. He can drive our dependable 1998 Toyota Camry. It has over 207,000 miles on it, and it’s still a quiet and comfortable ride.

We have come to terms with the changes. Instead of living in the natural beauty of sleepy Sonoma County, where we could drive 10 minutes and find serenity in the greenery… once again, we are in the concrete and asphalt jungle with traffic and noise. From Los Angeles, it takes hours to drive to a wild place. We will miss our Sunday afternoons in the Armstrong Redwood Forest. There’s the grief. And then the gratitude…

Originally posted on Carma's blog:
Carma and Oliver's neighborhood
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Carma has posted a detailed account of how she, Oliver and Inger became aware of the fire in Journey's End Park, their harrowing evacuation, the impact on their family and their short term plans.

You can read it here: https://42carma.wordpress.com/

Thank you all again for your continued support of the Simonsen family.

John Fritz
Campaign Manager

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Here's an update from Carma:

We arrived at the Extended Stay in San Diego this afternoon. We couldn't find any place to stay on Friday anywhere nearby and the evacuation areas were expanding as wind kicked up again, and the fire was only 14% contained yesterday morning.

There was a mass exodus - we left yesterday, picked up my husband's last paycheck in Rohnert Park at 12:30 and arrived at the first exit on I-5 South at 6:38... took 6 hours to get out of the area... 580 was harrowing, several accidents, crawling for hours, and couldn't have the windows down because of the smoke (and the AC in my car is broke), so it was pretty rough yesterday, but we're here now, and all comfortable.

My husband's mother, Inger, is staying with a friend in Redondo Beach. Oliver & I chose San Diego because we had to land somewhere for the remainder of October, nothing available in North Bay, Guerneville was added to evacuation list yesterday, and besides that, the internet service out in the woods is patchy, we were very frustrated trying to do research online.

Oliver's son goes to UCSD, and he's an EMT here, so it just made sense to be somewhere that we can see him easily, and somewhere that has a good airport and that Oliver is familiar with, so he can do some Uber & Lyft driving. He doesn't know his way around SFO.

We've been able to actually rest today, it's so nice to have a break from it all and just watch a little tv... no news!
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$12,810 of $25,000 goal

Raised by 72 people in 7 months
Created October 12, 2017
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