I watch the news like everyone else (that’s a bad habit for you), news of crimes, bad politicians, traffic, wall street, healthcare and weather plus stories about good people doing good things for the community. Lately, it’s been about heartbreaking stories surrounding the devastation of the wildfires. I have seen many images and videos about intense angry fires that devour every structure in its path, and watched my wife talk with her mother on the phone while my mother in-law was grabbing stuff from her home before the mandatory evacuation order came down. Still, it was just normal for me, another wildfire tragedy, been so many lately. I felt bad for the devastation but that was it, feeling bad watching the news and life moves on right after, no hard feelings.
Then one day at a friend’s house for a lovely Sunday brunch, I ran into our good friend Beth, we haven’t seen her in quite some time and she introduced us to her boyfriend Kurt. Now, we heard before that Kurt had lost his home in the Tubbs fire back in October of 2017 and we talked about him loosing the house and the horrible process that people go through after the devastation. Kurt is a very nice guy, very early sixties, well educated dentist with his own practice and currently living in a guest house of one of his friends.
Somehow, The conversation with Kurt hit a cord with me and few weeks later, I contacted Beth asking her if she could pass on to Kurt that I would like to take some aerial images of his property after the fire and he agreed and on we go.
Woke up early, grabbed my drone, got into my Prius and started a long 110 mile drive to Windsor, CA on a perfect San Francisco Bay day in August, foggy and overcast, the way we like it. I met Kurt at a Badass coffee house (that is the name), got our morning cub of java and I proceeded to follow him to his property.
What you feel when you first get there is a cloud of sadness, it is as if the air was filled with sadness, such a strange feeling. Nothing is left there, all gone after cleaning the property, just ground and concrete foundation. Since his property is on a hill, the view from what used to be his front porch is absolutely stunning. I was looking at what makes all of us live in California, it is such a gorgeous state.
My sadness level increased once I got my drone up in the air, the bird’s eye view makes you see things from a different perspective and Wow, the amount of devastation that fire caused in one neighborhood is astounding when you look at it from above. I kept my drone flying taking images and recording video.
After an hour of shooting, I decided to map the area. For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, we fly drones in a certain flight path and we acquire hundreds of truly high quality images, pass it all through bunch of softwares to pretty much create a brand new 2D map and a 3D model of the entire property.
I stood there talking with Kurt, right where his garage used to be, and he said “morally, you think about this and you have to question yourself, should you count your loss and move on or, you stick with memories and rebuild what you started? How do you figure this out?
In my home office, I uploaded all the images and the videos and started to process the data I gathered. It has been over couple months and I just can’t stop thinking about the devastation caused by the fires. I met few people who lost their property, got to hear their stories on how they actually deal with such grief in their lives and I started to feel sad with every story I heard. I now have sadness in my life and somehow, I feel good about it. Sadness opened my heart to a catastrophic tragedy that I used to feel just normal about it, it made me realize that what they lost is so enormous I honestly have no idea how they cope. With it.
From the horror stories I heard, insurance claims are not easy, insurance company need so many details that most fire victims don’t end up with the appropriate and deserved compensation for their loss. Therefore, WAAS was created.
I came up with our Wildfires Aerial Assessment Services, a program that offers property digitization. Data and evidence produced and collected before and after the fire is of such value to any local, private or federal claim. A solid comparison of what one had and what they have now is a clear and irrefutable evidence to submit as a claim. Aerial mapping, imaging, new technologies and science is what everyone needs as confirmation of ownership.
My heart breaks for those who slept outside the first night, those who were unable to take a decent shower for few days, those who lost their furry four legged friends, those who stood on a pile of trash of what used to be called a home. My heart is aching and I want to help. i want to help those who are in high risk fire area and prepare them for an unfortunate event in case it happens and I want to help those who lost everything they had to a fire.
I’m a changed human at this point, sad and frustrated that many lost and they will not recover from it. Suddenly, it appears that watching the news didn’t affect me as much as paying a visit to a wildfire site.
Join me in trying to figure out a way to help. Cheers!
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