171101_NorCal Fires Jeremiah Kahmoson-29.jpg

Jeremiah Kahmoson is a teacher for the Windsor Unified School District and the Executive Director of the B-Rad Foundation. He and his family lived in Coffey Park before they lost their house in the fire.

The winds were coming from the east, and I was watching hot fire embers collecting at my garage door. At that point I knew it was over, it was a matter of time.

[My wife] was really worried about getting stuck in traffic and not being able to get out. There were a lot of people having the same thought, abandoning their cars, and running. It caused an incredible traffic jam, but I get it. People were fearing for their lives.

When the sun came up, the whole valley had filled up with smoke. You could see the jet stream across the valley in the wind patterns, and it was black. Everything to the north was black, and to the south was blue sky. It was like a yin and yang skyline.

“I wasn’t afraid, until we were safe.”

I started getting confirmation from people in the Sheriff’s department and from first responders who were basically saying, “Your neighborhood is gone.” And then it was, "Oh my God." So it was a delayed reaction and it came in waves. I probably had an hour of needing to be away from my wife and children. I just sat in the middle of a big field and sobbed. And the other piece that has lingered, that has just now started to subside, is I wasn’t sleeping. I’ve had some really disturbing nightmares. I’ll lie down and my mind races. I’ll go back over all the steps, through the sequence of events. And I’ll wake up almost every morning at 2:01 am. That was right when we first got woken up by things being thrown at my house. 

If I’ve learned anything—it’s just to slow down. And the most earth-shattering realization is how much we absolutely need each other. I’m giving complete strangers hugs. I saw a man and his wife and their truck had run out of gas and they were trying to push it down the street; he was clearly struggling. So I got out of my car and I helped him push and I gave him twenty bucks because I had twenty bucks and he needed gas money. And you know, why not?