Once again, this little device to the left has saved me $100+.

A few years ago, my Chevy Volt’s ABS warning light came on. A brief search around various forums said the most likely cause was driving through deep puddles in wet weather. That the water would muck up the ABS (automatic braking / skid avoidance sensor) and, typically, waiting until everything dried out and then resetting the trouble code would fix it (would make the warning light go out).

To reset the trouble code requires an OBDII scanner of some sort. OBDII is the on board diagnostics system and a standard connector for interacting with the system has been mandated on all new cars in the US since 1996 (but the original OBD systems date all the way back to 1969!).

When you take your car to the shop and they come back after 15-20 minutes with a printed report of various trouble codes? Most likely, a standard report produced by the OBDII system.

There are three types of codes, more or less, confirmed, pending, and permanent. Confirmed and pending are typically the “detected a problem, might go away” and “might be a problem variety”. Permanent are the “yeah, really, a problem was detected” variety. Would have been at least $150 to clear the codes at a dealer and, of course, an upsell for many hundrends of dollars to “fix” the “clearly on the verge of failing” sensor.

Blystone Kids with Grandma/Grandpa

Mary Jean Heyssel Bumgarner

4/2/26 – 12/11/16

Our beloved wife, mom, mom-in-law, grandmother, great-grandmother-to-be, sis, sis-in-law, aunt, cousin, best friend, friend, mentor, muse and all around wonderful human being slipped out of her place here on earth and into the great unknown last night at 8:12pm, surrounded by her beloved Roger (our dad), her 3 children and other fambly members. It was peaceful and good.
She lived and loved fully and well and taught many lessons during her life, though we didn’t and she didn’t know she was doing that…and we’re all the better for it.

Surrounded by love she was, as we always were and are – from her.

Such a good, wonderful, love-filled 90 years she had on this earth!

(Gotta believe mom and Rem are kickin’ it up together!)

This is my sister Carrie Bumgarner’s thoughts on the passing of our mother, Mary Bumgarner. She originally posted this to FaceBook and asked me to capture it here so it may last.

The photo is of Mom & Dad from, if I remember correctly, 1952. It was taken in California as they journeyed West prior to going to the Far East for Dad’s stint in the MASH 8063rd in Korea.

Mary & Roger Bumgarner in California

As many of you may know from the wonderful tributes by my sister and brother posted earlier, my dear mother, Mary Heyssel Bumgarner, passed away on Sunday. While I could add to the tributes, what I really want to say is thank you. She gave us an invaluable gift at the end. She “knew” she would not last until Christmas so she called us calmly and told us to come home. We did and her whole family was with her for Thanksgiving. She gave us the time to say “I love you,” “Thank you” and “Goodbye.” We laughed, we cried, we reminisced, we read poetry, and we philosophized. We actually got to know each other better. She gave us invaluable quality time. It made it both easier and harder to let her go.

A true force has left this earth but not our hearts or our minds. I leave you with one of her and her mother’s favorite poems:

There is a destiny that makes us brothers

None goes his way alone

All that we send into the lives of others

Comes back into our own

I care not his temples or his creeds

One thing hold firm and fast

That into his fateful heap of days and deeds

The soul of man is cast.

Thank you mom, I will miss you and love you forever.

We all face the death of our family’s older generation at some point or another. Death is inevitable.

Here are some thoughts and tools that I have found to be very helpful.

There are the obvious; make sure there is a will in place. Make sure the household can be maintained upon death; bills paid, taxes paid, bank accounts accessed without probate, etc…

Then there is the non-obvious. Or, at least, tools I never saw mentioned as we approached Mom’s expiration date and prepare ourselves for our father’s eventual death.

More likely than not, the older generation will have cabinet(s) full of paper records. Everything from real estate transactions to legal agreements to personal letters to certificates, etc….

While preserving the original of some of these documents is critical, having easy access to all of the documents while also preserving them is also critical.

To that end, get a good document scanner. The Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500, in particular. Fujitsu also makes a cheaper, portable, variant that works well, but is not nearly as bulk-friendly as the ix500.

It is the best document scanner I’ve used (and it does a good job on photos, too). The software — no surprise — is kinda lacking in the UI department, but that’s OK. You don’t want to have to interact with any UI at all and it can easily be configured to do exactly that.

Specifically, you want a solution that enables very quick scanning of hundreds or thousands of pages with minimal interruption. And the ScanSnap does exactly that. Stick a document in it, push the blue button, done. It’ll detect if there is a jam of any sort, but does a remarkable job of not jamming. It will OCR the documents as they are scanned, meaning that they are indexed by SpotLight for easy searches later (this has been invaluable for cross-referencing documents).

I configured the iX500 to scan straight to an iCloud folder. Once captured, I’ve then been renaming and creating a folder structure, as warranted. Being in iCloud, I have easy access to the documents from any of my devices. I do wish that iCloud allowed folders to be shared amongst users (radar filed), though.

In our family, my father was (he hasn’t picked up a camera in a couple of decades) an avid photographer. As such, we have boxes and boxes of slides dating back to the 1950s. Beyond some genuinely amazing bits of family history, said slides also capture little bits of history — and sometimes big bits — that are of interest well beyond the family.

Now, I could send these slides off to a service like iMemories or the like and have them scanned. And I might still do that. But it is scary to think of the only copy of said slides being out of our hands even for that.

For the 1200 or so slides my Dad had, I picked up a Wolverine F2D 20MP slide scanner. Key features are that it works quickly, writes the images to an SD card that can be imported just like an SD card from a camera, and the results are of good quality.

It does all that. Quite well. And very quickly. You can get higher quality by spending more and going with a computer connected device, but it isn’t nearly as convenient.

In scanning all of the images, it also catalyzed some wonderful conversations with my father as he relived some of the memories contained within.

As it turns out, my father has one of the single largest collections of slides from a single MASH unit in Korea that I’ve been able to find. Over 200 images of his time in Korea. Once I’m done capturing them, we’re going to donate this treasure trove of documentation to one of the historical preservation groups focused on the Korean war.

8063rd MASH Sign

This is an image from the slide scanner. A slide from ’53 in Korea, specifically.

Pretty good for a slide that has been shoved away in a box in an attic or a corner of the garage in Midwest weather for 60+ years!

Beyond the aforementioned obvious, this post is really to encourage you to preserve the past. All those documents? The slides? They mean little to anyone but the family, but they surely mean a lot to the family.

And, while you still have the chance, sitting down to talk through the events of your elders is a tremendous way to learn much of your history.

Mary Posing

RIP Mary Hessel Bumgarner. Born April 2nd, 1926. Died December 11th, 2016.

AKA Mom.

Many have asked how Mom wanted to be honored and remembered. She had three causes that she actively supported in the past years and asked that others support them as well.

For straight donations, please support The Food Bank of Central Missouri or a like minded organization in your area. Alternatively, Mom supported The Rainbow House and encouraged others to do the same.

In more recent years, Mom was very vocal in her support of The Slow Food Movement. She asked that we encourage everyone to join.

Not just Mom to her three children, but a matriach.. a muse… an advisor… a mentor… a critic… a master chef… and many many more roles to many many people.

While I — we — will miss her and we do grieve, she would tolerate no sadness in this passing. Mortality is unavoidable and her’s was a life fully lived.
She lived a 90 year long life that can only be called extraordinary. She spent 67 of those years happily– nay, passionately– married to my father, Roger Bumgarner, a man whose compassion, strength, humility and patience is equally as extraordinary.

Beyond all the people whose lives were enriched by knowing her, she left a legacy of many stories. Stories that underscore that up until her last breath, she did it her way. And stories that we can all learn from and, in so doing, if we act upon their lessons, the world will be a better place.

Stories that ultimately center largely around a few central themes.
Be kind. Through kindness, you’ll find friends and gain knowledge in the most surprising of places.

Be curious. Everywhere you look — truly, everywhere — there is something to be learned. New science. New art. New patterns. New ideas. New ways. Open your mind and it will be enriched.

Be accepting and kind. No religion, no skin tone, no orientation, no nationality, no age, nor any other difference means automatic condemnation. Every person deserves a chance.

Embrace change as it is the nature of the world. To do otherwise, is to be left behind.

Think. Observe. Experiment. Problem solve. Debate. Argue. Embrace being wrong. Correct. Move on. Repeat. Share.

Be generous. Not just with money, but with your time. Share your knowledge and experience with others. Catalyze growth in those new to the world. Encourage their creativity and interests. Mom was a muse to many, sometimes directly and oft indirectly. Many a career was accelerated, if not made, because she provided a bit of guidance or support at a critical time.

A wonderful woman has left this world. The world, though, will reap the benefits of her presence for years to come.

A quick word on that photograph. It was taken a couple of years ago, well after her COPD diagnosis and many many months more life than anyone was led to expect (Mom did not like to be told what to do).

If you know Mom, you know that she absolutely hated having her photo taken. I was surreptitiously trying to get a decent photo a couple of years ago and she was, as is usual, giving me lens melting glares of disapproval.

Finally, she said, “I’m going to die soon and you’re going to share a photo of me with everyone. I’ll be dead, I won’t care if it is bad or not, but… here.. I’ll pose once.” Credit to Christine for teaching Mom a proper pose.

May we all live a life so full of adventure, love, beauty, and so totally on our own terms.

Miss you, Mom. So long and thanks for all the fish (and everything else).

We just spent a couple of weeks traveling around Ecuador.   Fantastic country, you should go! (We missed the earthquake by days. Devastating. They could use our help about now.)

Of course, we had our bags of electronics.  Lighter than books and necessary for processing photos.  Entertaining, too.   And, of course, with the right software, they can vastly augment the travel experience.

The key is to find software that works well in areas of the world where Internet connectivity is a rarity.   Offline modes are key.

Here are a handful of iOS applications that have proven to be extremely valuable during our travels.    They fall into two categories;  mapping and translation.


For mapping, my use fell into two focus areas.  First, there is the obvious need to figure out where we were and what might be around us (and how to get there).  As a secondary use, being able to drop pins on a map and take a few notes about what was found at that location proved handy.

For offline maps with tons of information, I haven’t found anything better than Pocket Earth (there is a pro version that costs money up front, but appears to have unlimited downloads of the offline maps which are in app purchases in the free version).

Beyond having excellent maps, there is a $5 add-on that offers topographic maps, too. This was fantastic as we wandered through the Andes mountains. We could spot volcanoes and know how high the peak was above us or know how far a waterfall was falling. Or how deep the gorge was that we were zip lining across.

As well, Pocket Earth will download wikipedia articles for whatever regions you download and it can also download wikivoyage articles, too. These are placed on the map so you can quickly learn about wherever you are!

You can also drop pins in Pocket Earth to keep track of where you’ve been., however, has better pin dropping and diary features, and supposedly integrates with openstreetmap’s editing capabilities so you can push new points of interest back to the OSM database.


After having been to South and Central America a few times, I’m surprised by how much spanish I’ve started to understand and, even, speak. But I’m so far from being able to claim knowledge of said language that I need help. Lots of help.

This is where the Star Trek sort of experience kicks in; years ago there was Word Lens which did real time translation of text by simply pointing your iPhone’s camera at said text. Works great. Still does, but it is now in Google’s Translate app.

That is about all Translate does offline. The iOS app can’t do offline dictionary based translation, doesn’t have phrases, etc…

However, Xung Lee has got this covered exceptionally well. Traveling with this app bundle — Spanish English Dict Box Pro and Translator Pro Offline Spanish English Sentences — was fantastic. We were able to consistently convey what we needed in a polite (we checked with our bilingual guide to make sure we were conveying politeness and appreciation for the patience of whomever we were interacting with) fashion!

The dictionary app provides more than just translations of words, but every word comes with a long list of common combinations. Looking up “water” reveals “boiling water”, “carbonated water”, “cold water”, “hot water”, “foul water”, “ice water”, etc.. etc… etc…

The translator pro app is focused on phrases and sentences. Look up “tea” and you get all kinds of phrases about asking for tea, the cost of tea, someone making tea, etc…

Combine words and the app will come up with common phrases that involve both words. “Cold beer” comes up with phrases about desiring a cold beer and phrases about how nice a cold beer is on a hot day.

My kind of apps.

All in all? Probably $12 to $15 in apps. Which, frankly, is ridiculously cheap given just how much the above augmented our travel experiences!

Highly recommended.

Unfortunately, our 20+ year old KitchenAid mixer was lost in the fire. Of course, it had to be replaced because such a mixer is a staple in any kitchen. After doing a ton of research, it was both confirmed that KitchenAid continues to be of excellent make and that one should really go with at least the 6 qt model as it has a significantly more powerful motor than the 5 qt motor.

Yes, we went with the Candy Apple Red model. It looks quite stunning on the black granite and against the blue tile backdrop of our remodeled kitchen.

Beyond mixing dough, the KA mixers can drive a whole series of attachments. Frankly, it works the same way as a John Deere tractor. There is a little port into which you plug various attachments and the high torque motor then drives said attachment. This includes everything from ice cream makers to grain mills to juicers to pasta makers to, yes, meat grinders.

Oddly, the KitchenAid meat grinder is largely made of plastic. It doesn’t have anywhere near the same build quality as the rest of the mixer.

Quite a bit of searching turned up Smokehouse Chef’s very well reviewed Stainless Steel, Dishwasher Safe, Meat Grinder / Sausage stuffer / Food Chopper. It is worth every penny of the price. It features a rock solid all metal build, a much much larger food hopper than the KA grinder and quite a few more cutting discs. I haven’t tried the sausage stuffer, but it seems quite high quality, too.

Quite a significant upgrade. It’ll work with all models of KA mixers, but they recommend — and my experience confirms — that it really works best with the higher wattage motors.

Note: Instead of a tilt head, this model has a lifter that lifts the bowl while the head is fixed. While the mixer is larger capacity, it requires less vertical space than the 5 qt model.

Grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis)

Over the summer, we escaped for a while to Alaska via a trip put together by International Expeditions. This was our second trip with the company — our first being a week on the Amazon River (fun story, photo set on flickr) — and it certainly won’t be our last as International Expeditions does a fantastic job.

For the Alaska trip, we opted for the 11 day grand tour.

Beyond a fantastic tour of glaciers, a backcountry lake lodge, and Denali National Park, highlights included fantastic lodging in the most remote of places, incredible homemade meals, mind blowing scenery, and a wonderfully friendly group of random travel companions that quickly become a temporary family (with whom we wouldn’t mind crossing paths again!).

It was, no surprise, a great place to take photos and I’ve pushed an album to Flickr.

Alaska is both surprisingly diverse and, yet, equally as surprisingly limited in natural diversity.

On our tour, we ranged from a coastal rainforest to arctic tundra and even spent some time in the air flying around Mt. Denali.

And that covered a very tiny part of the state. It is also hard to fathom just how big Alaska truly is. Watching this glacier calve, we were nearly 1 mile away from it and yet it still seems to tower above us and there were still miles of glacier behind and above it! And beyond the top of that glacier? An ice field that is larger than most states in the lower 48.

Alaska is very different than anywhere else we’ve visited. Whereas the Amazon was full of a seeming infinite number of species of plant an animal, there are actually very few species in Alaska; only 150 or so native plants have been cataloged (with many variants within those particular individuals).

While in the rainforests of the equator, things rot with incredible speed, trees may lie on the ground in the Alaska rainforest for years because their simply isn’t the warmth or sunlit energy to support the decomposing agents. Thus, the Alaskan rainforest floor is a thick layer of, well, mulch on top of rock. Springy, almost magical to walk on. But no real dirt.

And some of the seemingly most innocuous and beautiful plants are quite deadly.

Even the mosquitos are different. In Alaska, the mosquitos are the top pollinator. All those incredibly yummy tundra blueberries, cranberries, and crowberries? Pollinated by mosquitos. Still annoying critters. But mosquito defense did lead to some interesting fashion statements.

A fantastic place to visit!

Car Windshield After Fire

Lots of people are asking about various events related to the fire. This is a summary of the first 10 days of our adventure broken down as a series of short comments. A bit of a ramble in no particular order, I suspect, but here it is.

I chose the photo at left as a reminder of all the things we didn’t lose — no humans were hurt and all of the pets except one parakeet made it through unscathed — and that even such a destructive force as a fire can yield surprising beauty.

In the days that followed the event, the San Jose Fire Department sent crews around fairly often. Not just to ensure no hot spots remained, but also to use the event as a means of learning to fight such firees more effectively in the future. It was very interesting to be a part of the conversations as to how they’ll modify strategy in the future and what worked for this event. I’ll continue to collect photo streams and other information on the Photo Dump post (in fact, there will be a new stream on that post shortly after this is posted).

It was kind of funny how apologetic the fire fighters were about the destruction they caused in the house (which was quite minor compared to the destruction caused by the actual fire). I finally stopped the two that were walking me through after the fire, pointed out my kitchen window at the utter devastation of the house next door, and told them that saving my house was repayment 100 times over vs. any damage they may have caused.

Now that the laundry room — the inside portion of the house most severely impacted — has been cleared, it has become very clear just how close we were to losing most or all of the house. The roof is beyond charred. Take a log from your fireplace after a roaring fire? Yeah, that’s our laundry room ceiling.

While the wall burned through on the outside, it didn’t burn through the drywall. If we had the original thin wooden wall paneling in that room, it would be a very different picture. Drywall makes a good fire break.

Everything in the laundry room is a total loss save for any metal or ceramic pieces. The washer, dryer, and utility sink all partially melted.

The sliding door is gone, and the frame melted through. There is a pool of aluminum on the floor.

Water got into some of the slate floor tiles and caused them to explode as the water boiled. Not enough to need to replace the tiles, though.

We had California Closets based shelving/storage in the laundry room. It was OK, but sub-optimal. We are going to pay the difference between replacing that and fixing it properly and use this as an opportunity to fix it the way we want it. This also means we can fix the dryer vent and all the plumbing, both of which are… stupid.

Our foam roof likely also contributed to the preservation of the house. The straight tar/gravel original roof melts in a fire and drips, basically, raw fuel onto the fire below. While the covering on the foam is pretty toasty, and entirely gone in some spots, the closed cell foam underneath is fine. In fact, our roof should still be watertight. Apparently, that’ll be tested next week as there is rain in the forecast.

While the foam is intact, it won’t be for long. Because the cantilevered eaves are completely toasted, they have to be replaced. That means replacing at least 3x the length of the overhang on the other side to support the cantilever.

But they can’t simply be cut back to the first beam because that creates a hinge effect that weakens the structural integrity of the roof.

Thus, they roof decking will have to be cut back to the first, second, and possibly the peak on that slope of the house. Likely, it’ll be a mix of cut backs to try and preserve some of the wood.

Bottom line: The foam roof on that slope of our roof is coming entirely off.

Electrical Panel & Laundry Wall

The electrical infrastructure on the house is completely toasted. More likely than not, there will have to be channels cut through the foam on the roof all over the house to run new wiring pretty much everywhere needed.

Same goes for the water and gas, but that is much much simpler infrastructure than the spider web that is the electrical wiring throughout the house.

At least we’ll be able to fix our thermostat! And add an outlet here and there!

A temporary power pole has been installed in the back yard. But the City won’t grant a permit for hooking it up until some other bit of paperwork is completed. This is, apparently, a new requirement and our contractors are trying to figure out why.

We should have power on site in the next week. At the moment, we have extension cords running to two neighbor’s houses to power the various filters needed for the fish and to power the gigantic air filtration unit brought in by the cleaning company.

Yes, the neighbors will be able to bill us for power used and insurance will cover it. More importantly, by doing this we don’t have a generator in the neighborhood running 24/7.

The vultures and ambulance chasers have finally gone away. Within hours of the event and for days after, we had a stream of contractors and public insurance policy adjusters show up trying to convince us to hire them and sell us on the notion that our insurance company is The Enemy.

It was bad enough that I told two of them that stepping foot on my property would be considered trespassing as they were no longer welcome and they could take it up with the local police.

This isn’t to say that I wouldn’t be willing to use a policy adjuster, if it were really necessary. But, no, that isn’t happening unless there is some issue with the insurance company (so far, no signs at all that there will be). And I’m sure as hell not going to use one that showed up on my property after chasing down the news copters.

The insurance company (State Farm) has been, thus far, great to work with. Their general approach is to offer full solutions, never push any given provider, and allow us to hire whomever we want to do any particular bit of work.

So far, the recovery efforts involve the following providers:

    Jon R Crase Construction
    We were introduced to Crase on the evening of the fire. They are on the short list of companies that the fire department uses to secure a site once the flames are out. As well, Crase is used by State Farm to double-check whatever contractors one might hire. And, most importantly, they have Eichler experience. Representatives from Crase have been on site and have consistently gone well above and beyond any contractually expected services. And they have that Eichler experience.
    ServPro is doing a pack out cleaning & storage. That is, they are packing out everything in the house that was affected by smoke/fire, inventorying everything, cleaning anything that needs to be cleaned, and then storing it until the house is ready to be moved back into.

    For all intents and purposes, it is as if we are moving out and in to our own house.

    This includes everything in the garage. All those nuts, bolts, screws, nails, and hardware that Roger and I have been collecting over the years? Yeah. Packed. Inventoried. Cleaned. And eventually returned.

    Custom Craft Urethane
    Keith Nokes of Custom Craft, who did our roof after the last remodel, was on site with ladder up before we had even started to consider how to pursue reconstruction. He wanted to see what’s what and offer any information he could. He immediately volunteered that he would want to be present for any roof work regardless of who we hired (some insurance companies would insist on particular people to do certain tasks). Yeah… no… Keith / Custom Craft will be doing our roof. Period. End of story. There is no one else we would remotely consider.
    Horizon Energy Systems
    While the solar wasn’t damaged, it is going to have to come off the roof for the reconstruction as the roof under it will be mostly replaced. Horizon installed it in the first place and did great work (the linked post has some insight into the madness of an Eichler roof). Yes, there were some significant challenges to the original installation, but Horizon has since modified their installation procedures because of the mis-adventures on our roof. Out of pocket, we’ll be adding additional rails for mounting more panels (but will hold on adding panels until we have electricity again).

What’s next?

Unlike a remodel, half of the demolition was unplanned and performed by a the monster that is an uncontrolled fire.

Thus, none of the planning that would normally have taken place prior to applying the first SawzAll has occurred.

The immediate next steps — now that the clean up is largely done to the point that doesn’t require demolition — is to secure the various permits with the City of San Jose. To that end, the City sent out an inspector to assess damage, write a report and put it on file. With that in place, pulling the needed permits should be relatively straightforward. Should be.

We also need full design documents drawn up for the floor plan of the house. On these will go the schematics for any work to be done. Because the spiderweb that is the electrical is destroyed at the panel, it is likely that the work will reach all corners of the house.

Given that the roof will be torn up, the walls redone, the laundry room rebuilt, etc… we’ll likely also use this as an opportunity to fix a few things here and there.

They are questions that hav come up over and over; “How can I help?”, “What do you need?”, “What can we do?”.

The generosity and support of our neighbors, our friends, and our community have been truly amazing. We are surrounded by kind, generous, and awesome people through which we would easily have many places we could stay, temporary homes for our dogs, and all the support in the world.

But, really, we — the Bumgarner family, specifically — are fine. We, through an odd coincidence, have a house to live in for the near term and our insurance company’s response has been incredible (enough so, that a whole post will be devoted to the insurance process).

The two neighbors that lost their houses have places to stay, too. While there losses are total, their immediate needs are covered (seriously — the Bumgarner family got off easy in this one!).

And, really, this is about the same story is it will be with any disaster where the families involved are both fully insured and live in a supportive community.

So, how can you help?

At the scene as it happens?

Get the person away from watching the destruction of all their worldly possessions. Take them into a home far enough away from the scene so as to not be able to directly watch, but close enough to still be available and “behind the lines”, so to speak.

A couple of neighbors did that for my wife, son, and dogs. It was a tremendous help. It provides a base of sanity and calm in between bouts of dealing with the chaos.

Just Be Available (But Don’t Interrogate)

Every person will process what has happened differently and at a different pace. Some won’t need much support at all, others may need lots. Some might need some very odd thing to make them whole again.

Providing the most basic of support through simply listening will be of great help.

Avoid interrogation. No, in the 48 hours after the event, we don’t know how long it’ll take to rebuild our house, we don’t know what the neighbors’ plans are and, no, it really isn’t helpful to suggest what the neighbors might do one way or another. We — all of us, neighbors whose houses were unaffected, too — are simply trying to get to tomorrow with one less set of variables hanging over our heads.

Host or Provide a Home Cooked Meal

On the night after the fire, a friend of ours showed up with a steak, potato and asparagus dinner. She set the table, served the meal and cleaned up. It was, truly, a wonderfully relaxing and therapeutic event.

Last night, another friend of ours brought over a gigantic pot of jambalaya and we had dinner with the family that lost their home. Their comment? “This is the first home cooked meal we’ve had and it is wonderful.”

So, really, something as simple as inviting the impacted families for a simple meal or taking a meal to them will provide more comfort than you can imagine.

Donate to the Red Cross

The Red Cross was on scene the evening of the fire and had a triage center set up at the nearest school. They found lodging for the one family that needed it and triple-checked that the rest of us really did have a viable living plan. Within 24 hours, the Red Cross had agents in the area to see if anyone needed any kind of support, including counseling to deal with the trauma of the event. This included support for all of those living in the neighborhood.

Make Sure This Doesn’t Happen To You!

More likely than not, this was initially an electrical fire. The houses in our neighborhood were all built in the early 1960s and many have the original breaker box with the original wiring. In particular, all of the houses were built with Zinsco electrical panels. They aren’t safe.

So, yes, you should, right now, go out, have a look at your electrical panel, and replace it if it is more than a few decades old or otherwise unsafe.

Same goes for your gas infrastructure. Go have a sniff around your meter. Or ask that the gas company bring a sniffer and simply check. In the wake of the fire, PG&E went door to door with a sniffer and checked for leaks. Sure enough, at least one neighbor had a leaky connection near the meter.