Lucky me, I’ve been a Cambrian for more than 40 years. During that time, I’ve been blessed to have lived in four distinctly different but equally caring neighborhoods, among the many that exist within our amazing community as a whole.
However, trying to define exactly what a neighborhood really is has been a discussion topic at several recent gatherings, first at the North Coast Advisory Council’s April session, and then May 28 at the initial meeting of the recently relaunched Cambria FireSafe Focus Group.
In a way, the first meeting led to the second.
Former San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Shirley Bianchi and Linda Finley, at-large member of the Cambria Tourism Board, went to NCAC in April with a letter signed by more than a dozen Cambrians. Because of the area’s extreme fire danger caused by four years of drought and an aging, drying forest, that letter urged the council to form a committee that would immediately gather and collate information from various agencies that plan for, respond to or manage the results of emergencies and disasters.
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The volunteers then would combine the information and get it to the aforementioned North Coast neighborhoods.
That somewhat amorphous start evolved into the Cambria FireSafe Focus Group, recently ordained by the countywide FireSafe Council, which then appointed Bianchi to chair the assemblage of concerned Cambrians and others.
The focus group’s first official session brought together 19 people ready to do whatever they could to ensure that Cambria is as fire safe as possible, and to help Cambrians be as ready as they can in case a wildfire (or other catastrophe) happens.
Among the meeting’s many topics, the individuals and representatives of organizations as diverse as Cal Poly, Friends of Fiscalini Ranch Preserve, Cal Fire and Greenspace also discussed Cambria’s neighborhoods, in terms of at least four distinctly separate evacuation plans for the community. Four!
All that brought me back to my own neighborhood, and how lucky all of us within it are to have a long-established, informal, help-each-other network, a Cambria-ized version of Neighborhood Watch.
If something goes awry — an ambulance shows up, or we don’t see each other often enough to be sure everything’s going well — we in our neighborhood reach out. We have each other’s phone numbers. We know when someone’s out of town or ill. We’re not in each other’s laps, socially, but we watch each other’s backs and homes and offer help when it seems to be needed. And each of us knows that.
Such a deep sense of casual but consistent caring about one another is heartwarming, wonderful and such a comfort.
In a crisis, it could be a lifesaver.
For us, “neighborhood” encompasses about a dozen homes, which would be a manageable Neighborhood Watch-style number in case of natural disaster, such as an earthquake or approaching wildfire. I know we’d all make sure everybody within our neighborhood is accounted for, out of danger and assisted, if needed.
I’d like to think that concept is in place all over Cambria. If it isn’t, it should be.
I also hope the focus group will make sure any emergency and evacuation information is readily available (in bulk) at motels, vacation-rental agencies and, somehow, to homes rented through such websites as Airbnb and VRBO.
As we all plan for what we hope will never happen, we know we must help those visitors, too, especially because they know little or nothing about navigating Cambria’s complex, absurdly laid-out, narrow streets. How many times have you helped a visitor get back to Highway 1?
Just imagine being a guest trying to find, drive on or exit from Haddon Drive and Pitt Place, Croyden Lane and Sunbury Avenue, Fern Drive, Iva Court, Chiswick Way and/or even the full length of Burton or Pineridge drives.
Assisting those visitors in a disaster will be important to all of us — after all, they’re the ones most likely to clog crucial evacuation routes.
They literally don’t know where to go or how to get there.
We North Coast residents are blessed to live where we do, among so many caring people. Now’s the time to take that caring to the next level, to make sure we’re all ready … just in case.
For details on Cambria FireSafe Focus Group, email Shirley Bianchi at firstname.lastname@example.org.