By Jasmine Westerdahl
On Monday, Oct. 9, at 4 a.m., Principal Angie Weems of Redwood Adventist Academy (RAA) made the executive decision to cancel school that day due to the threat presented by the Tubbs Fire, which had burned over 36,800 acres in the Napa and Sonoma Counties. Hours later, RAA was destroyed. This devastation left 128 students without a school and five families without homes.
School resumed for the students at Redwood only seven short days after this tragedy hit. Nonetheless, faculty and staff at RAA made sure that the first few days back were solely focused on emotional healing as the students recovered from the loss of their academy. Loma Linda University provided free resources such as grief and trauma counselors for both students and teachers.
The Adventist community worked fast to support their family with not only providing emotional support, but also equipping students with school supplies and two new temporary locations. For the time being, the K-8th grade students are meeting at the Santa Rosa Seventh-day Adventist Church and the high school students are at Rio Lindo Adventist Academy.
“We have an amazing church. We have an amazing conference. The Seventh-day Adventist community around the world is just fabulous. The prayers that we have had from people, and people calling and reaching out to support us is the most overwhelming and emotional part to me,” says a grateful Weems.
Redwood is not letting this catastrophe deter them as they are adamant that the school be rebuilt in the same location. Weems declares, “There is no question that the school will not move or go somewhere else because it is something that is very needed in this community. We’re the only Adventist elementary school from Ukiah to San Francisco on the 101 corridor.”
Even with their determination, it will take many long months and hard work to bring the school back to its former glory. Weems explains how, due to the intense heat of the fire, everything must be torn down. This includes the cracked and damaged cement foundation, which must be completely removed. RAA plans to come back better than ever by restructuring and redesigning the new building to meet today’s requirements and needs.
The fire that destroyed much of Redwood’s property miraculously spared their organic farm and crops. Plans to donate the produce to restaurants preparing food for displaced individuals were foiled, however, when concern about the produce’s toxicity levels arose due to the smoke and fire exposure.
Nothing is certain regarding the produce, but Joby Oft, director of agriculture at RAA, reveals that they have been sent to the University of California, Berkeley for testing. The remaining vegetables are being used for compost and crops for the starting new season. “Our farm will be one of the first things that comes back to life on our campus,” says Weems. According to Oft, the organic farm will be up and running in around six weeks.
As time goes on, Principal Weems requests that they are not forgotten as Redwood is in need of much help during the clean-up and rebuilding process in the months to follow. She has been emotionally overwhelmed with the extensive amount of help RAA has received in the past couple of weeks and says, “It is so amazingly moving to be on the recipient side of getting all this help.”
For those who are curious about how to help, Fabio Maia, Pacific Union College’s mission director, has established a fundraiser on Pure Charity to raise money for Redwood Adventist Academy. All proceeds go straight to the school. Pure Charity is open for donations at www.purecharity.com/redwood-adventist-academy.