From the Rio Vista Beacon, 07/13/2016
Fire On Main Street Locke Leaves Families Homeless. Personal Story by one of the Victims
By Douglas Hsia
The afternoon fire on July 3rd in Locke was put out by teams of courageous firemen. I was recovering from my gut wrenching experience of watching the fire engulfing the two units of apartments upstairs of my shop which just stopped short of lighting up my unit. I thanked all the well-wishes from neighbors and tourists especially Karen Zehnder of Lotus Gallery who offered her flat in Walnut Grove to us, the displaced tenants. The dusk set in. I started to ponder what lay ahead and what the next step would be. Chairman of Locke Foundation Stuart Walthall came to me and asked me firmly what they could do for me. It was so firm that I felt the pressure to come up with a request. Instinctively I asked for lighting so that I could go into my shop to see what was salvageable.
Before I knew it, a Rotarian, Russell Ooms brought in the flood lights powered by a diesel- generator that illuminated my ground zero. Neighbors jumped in and rescued what were salvageable. A two-truck convoy pulled into the Main Street standing by to take in my salvageable. I found most of my merchandises were water-logged. However my family heirloom, an 8 ft. tall 200 year-old French armoire was still in a salvageable condition. Gill of the Boat House Marina secured it with expert rigging on the bed of his truck. He then drove it away to safe storage.
When I was interviewed by ABC Channel 10, I shared with the reporter Gabrielle the touching moment of compassionate support from the local community. As she knew I returned from Hong Kong recently, out of spontaneity, she asked me if such compassionate support existed in Hong Kong. Her question put me into thinking. Yes, Hong Kong has a highly professional fire service and very compassionate citizen. Hong Kong, being a highly urbane community, I imagine the compassionate community support would probably come through offerings of soothing tea and hot soup while in rural America is through show of can-do spirit.
Being someone who spent most of his adult life in Hong Kong, I could see objectively how this country has evolved from the era of unjust legislation; Chinese Exclusion Act 1892 and Alien Land Act 1913 to an era of caring state. In 2003, Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency granted the community funding for installation of fire suppression system, it was the very same system that provided the sprinkler system that kept the exterior walls of the inferno building intact and from spreading to neighboring buildings. In other words, the system saved the entire community 13 years later.
The following year, with arrangement with local landowner Clarence Chu, SHRA sub-divided the land to the building owners so that they could finally own the land underneath their building which was made impossible under the Alien Land Act. We had righted the wrong. It was later followed by funding to build a State Park Museum showcasing the community’s heritage to the tourists.
Effective government service is evident at Federal, State and County level. At the annual July 4th Locke Music Jam and BBQ, the organizer arranged money donation for the displaced victims. The compassion was again evident at the community level. On July 4th, after the incidence, we were so glad to see our country was working at every level. We celebrated July 4 in an uplifted mood despite of the loss from the fire.