CPF District 4 represents the counties of Sonoma, Napa, Solano, Marin, Contra Costa, Alameda, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara.
Northern California unions step up in response to historic North Bay Fires
On the evening of October 8, 2017, communities in the North Bay were ravaged by what became the deadliest firestorm in California history, claiming 43 lives and destroying over 8,000 homes, most within a matter of hours. In the center of the storm was the city of Santa Rosa, which lost 11 percent of its homes in the Tubbs Fire. Santa Rosa Firefighters Local 1401 President Tim Aboudara, whose local was the command post for an unprecedented relief effort, reflected on the experience.
Why was the Tubbs Fire so destructive?
You had 40 to 70 mile-an-hour winds and canyons feeding east to west. The fire sometimes was travelling a couple hundred feet per minute through areas you can’t get to, and the fire happened at night -- all the homes that were in the path of this fire had people sleeping in them. By sunrise on Monday, six or seven hours of burning, 6,000 or 7,000 homes had been burned and close to 40,000 people had been evacuated.
How did the union mobilize its efforts?
As soon as I came off the fire lines, I called CPF and IAFF and started to set up a local command center. Since the department did a mandatory recall, everyone was firefighting, everyone was at work. John Bagala with Marin Firefighters Local 1775’s executive board came up and opened the union office, and once we got together we started putting a plan in place.
What were you focused on in helping the membership?
Our number one priority was locating our members and their families who had lost their homes. We had as many as 700 firefighter homes in the threatened areas, and 41 lost their homes. Our next priority was supporting the incident itself. For the first 24 to 36 hours, there really wasn’t an Incident Action Plan or logistical support, so we as the union were getting water, food and supplies up to the companies on the lines.
How did the other unions in the area come together to help the membership?
We had over 15 different locals that sent members to our union hall to volunteer. On any given day, we had as many as 25 people at our union hall or being dispatched to do work supporting members, the community and the incident. Local 1775, which was right down the road, set up a fund-raising page for our affected members that has raised more than a quarter million dollars. There wasn’t a local in the Bay Area or the Sacramento area that didn’t participate or contribute.
What kind of help did you get from CPF and IAFF?
We had the entire CPF and IAFF leadership all together in our office by Tuesday, providing support. CPF and IAFF helped us build the map that allowed us to find our members who’d lost homes and help them and their families get back on their feet. The California Fire Foundation had thousands of SAVE cards to us by Tuesday to distribute not just to our members, but to all the people in the community who lost their homes. The CPF connections also helped bring both U.S. senators and Governor Brown together in our union office, hearing the stories of our firefighters who’d lost homes.
What kind of help did the union offer?
Firefighters and families that lost homes were able to come in and get an IAFF Disaster Relief card, a California Fire Foundation SAVE card, information on how to access Red Cross, FEMA and so forth. Probably the most important thing we were able to offer was peer support. Locals that had helped out during the Ghost Ship Fire came in. We started doing station meetings and reaching out to families. This incident was historic in its magnitude, destruction and death toll. We know we are going to have behavioral health struggles in our agencies, so it’s important to engage right away.
As you look back on the event, were there any insights gained?
I think mostly this just reinforced to us what the union is all about. It didn’t matter if it was Local 689 in Alameda, or 798 in San Francisco or 1775 in Marin or 1186 in Vallejo. We were all union, we were all firefighters and we were all there for one mission: to help our members and our communities.
Alameda, Bay Area Firefighters Come to Aid of North Bay Colleagues
When more than 40 firefighters lost their homes in the North Bay wildfires, their union brothers and sisters across the region stood ready to assist in a time of need.
Chief among those offering aid were the members of Alameda Firefighters, Local 689, who, in the days immediately following the worst of the devastation, organized a lobster feed fundraiser on the decks of the USS Hornet to raise money for firefighters who had lost their homes in the wildfires that burned throughout Napa and Sonoma counties.
In all, nearly 200 tickets were sold, with attendees coming from various locals across CPF’s 4th District to stand together with those who had lost everything.
“The outpouring of support was incredible, particularly from within the firefighter community,” said Alameda Firefighters President and CPF 4th District Vice President Jeff DelBono. “The men and women who lost their homes during this disaster worked tirelessly to protect their communities, and this event was just one small way that we can support them and their families on their road to recovery.”
In addition to support from within the fire family, the event enjoyed considerable backing from the community, including a variety of businesses and local vendors who came together to make the evening possible. All lobster served throughout the evening was donated by the New England Lobster Company in Burlingame, while Tucker’s Ice Cream, Linguine’s Pizza, Faction Brewing and Wine Trees USA came together to donate the remaining food and beverages for the event.
“This event couldn’t have happened without the support of residents and businesses throughout the Bay Area,” DelBono said. “Watching them come together for such a good cause was truly inspiring, and something that firefighters throughout the Bay Area won’t soon forget.”