10.20.2017People

Escaping the fires of Wine Country with a RV full of animals

By: Megan Schaefer
The Waldbaum’s had to act quickly when the Wine Country fires turned toward their home.
Watch Video about Fleeing the Wine Country Fires

Imagine this: A fire is quickly nearing your home and you need to evacuate. What do you grab? For Laura Waldbaum the decision was easy: her animals.

The Santa Rosa native didn’t think twice about what to save during the Wine Country fires when police showed up at her door, urging her to flee. “The police told me, ‘This is an evacuation zone. You’re not supposed to be here. You need to get out now,” Laura recounts the conversation she’ll likely never forget. “The fire is approaching [our home] and you’re gonna get blocked in there. If you’re in there, we are not going to save you. You need to get out.’”

So, she did. Laura and her husband, Ray, were quick to act, herding their two, fluffy Bernese Mountain dogs and brood of chickens into their RV before driving off to Napa Valley College for refuge. “We decided to just come here -- to the shelter,” Laura says.

This is an evacuation zone. You’re not supposed to be here. You need to get out now.

LauraWaldbaum

Once Laura and her family were out of harm’s way, she was eager to let her friends and family know that they were safe from the deadly Northern California fires. “I wanted to update my friends and family on Facebook because people were looking for us. Nobody knew where we were and the fire was near our house,” she explains. It’s the same situation many Californians are facing. “Then Verizon got here.”

Verizon was quick to react when California’s most severe wildfire ravaged the Golden State, partnering with relief organizations, evacuation shelters and assistance centers to be there for those affected by the disaster.

“At first, they had computers that you could use here at the trailer,” Laura says, noting that Verizon set up camp at the shelter to help evacuees connect with loved ones. “And now they have a little Wi-Fi hotspot right in this general area that we’re hooked up to.”

After Laura tracked down her friends and family to let them know that she was safe, she started looking up information about the extent of the devastation in addition to tracking the current location of the fire. “We were looking at the map, which shows how close the fire is getting to our house. Now we’re looking at the roadmap to try and see if we did try and go home, how would we get there?”

According to Laura, being able to stay connected has “really improved” their horrific situation. “We couldn’t wait to get down here this morning to look at the maps, see exactly where the fire was, look at the road closures [and] respond to people.” she says. “It’s really hard for us to get current information about what’s happening over where our house is. So the internet has allowed us to do that,” she adds. “Thanks so much, Verizon. We’re finally able to communicate.”

Read more news and stories about Verizon Emergency Response efforts

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About the author(s): 

Megan Schaefer is a member of the Verizon’s external communications team. Her interests include brand storytelling, social strategy and technology.

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