Guest editorial: Summit County residents must prepare for a fire | ParkRecord.com

Guest editorial: Summit County residents must prepare for a fire

Melissa Marsted
Park City

I am writing this about two hours after I heard fire engine after fire engine roaring and racing up the street parallel to my street in Pinebrook-Park City. On the night of the Santa Barbara Tea Fire I have no recollection of hearing sirens. I always wondered why, but to this day, the sounds trigger horrible panic attacks in my brain and in my body.

It is not the stuff I lost but having a safe place to call home for me, my two sons and our three pets and having to move multiple times during a four-year period while we negotiated with the insurance company. The final policy payout did not arrive until nearly four years later and by that time the additional living expense line item had expired. During that time period rental prices in Santa Barbara were skyrocketing. It was clear I was not going to be able to stay.

Will the triggers ever go away? Nationwide fires, floods, evacuations, deaths, losses…never ending. Then we have to remind ourselves that we can grieve from the life that once was and rise from these losses…from the ashes, from the debris and create a new life – not necessarily better.

You might see me crying unexpectedly. Tears stream down my cheeks until I am sure I am safe; that my sons are safe and my friends. I feel others' losses as if they are my own. I am an empty-nester and alone more often than not and have tried to respond to these triggers instead of react but it is a never-ending battle.

It will be ten years in November since I had an hour to evacuate from the Tea Fire which consumed my house and its contents within twenty minutes of leaving as witnessed by a neighbor who stayed behind. I looked at the fire today and immediately starting packing while occasionally checking on the fire until moments later I heard the first fire engine head back down. The smoke plumbs were no longer rising up. I later learned a construction trailer had caught fire.

I write this to urge you, as Summit County residents, with the fires nationally and the recent Tollgate Fire to do what you can to prepare your house to evacuate and to check your homeowners' insurance. Do you have renters' insurance? Do you know your policy? Do you know if you have Extended Replacement Cost? Do you know what you would get for the structure and the contents. Do you know what you would get for having to rent while you are rebuilding or replacing your home? What are things you own that are irreplaceable. Think ahead. Plan. Prepare and do it now so you don't have regrets.

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The good news is that I was able to buy here five years ago. My passions as a runner, skier and author of children's books about the national parks have coalesced during this time of healing and finding joy again here in Park City. Through determination we can and we will rise from the ashes when life takes a turn.