Early in the morning of Oct. 9 at Simply Solar’s Petaluma office, our management team was trying to make sense of the fire disasters unfolding around us.
I, along with two of our other founders, Jake Hassid (director of operations), and Ben Goldberg (sales development director), were at the office. Ben had evacuated early that morning with his wife, daughter, and three dogs. Our fourth founder, Sam Prom, had tragically already lost his home in the Coffey Park fire, hours earlier, and had evacuated to a relative’s house with his wife and two children. The mood was somber, but active — already check-ins with staff, family, friends, and customers were taking place. Daybreak approached, the sun firmly occluded by the thick smoke haze.
In the days and weeks that followed, Simply Solar, like many businesses during this emergency, had to balance the needs of our staff, customers, and community in the face of tremendous uncertainty. Our focus, immediately, was to ensure the safety and stability of our company, its people, and our community at large, and were humbled by the outpouring of support and gracious response to everyone who was affected and displaced by the fires. Indeed, the people and businesses of the North Bay stepped up tremendously to the task of providing support, shelter, and supplies in the aftermath of the fires.
For us, that meant that all staff was paid throughout the entirety of the disasters, whether they were evacuating, volunteering, or working. Our office was opened up as a shelter for evacuee families and their pets from Santa Rosa and Sonoma — temporary bedrooms were set up in private offices, and donated food was brought in from businesses like Mountain Mike’s pizza in Petaluma and Byte in San Rafael. Our weekly sales meeting became a volunteer session, with team members helping out at local relief facilities. At our annual community fundraiser, hosted at the Hotel Petaluma, we raised over $4,000 from attendees to go to Social Advocates for Youth and fire victims.
As an active member in the Santa Rosa business community, Ben Goldberg helped to coordinate a myriad of relief efforts, leveraging Simply Solar’s network to get aid quickly. We poured support in to promoting Bryan Fikes’ HelpFireVictims.com organization, which is organizing a donation car drive, toy drive, providing temporary housing options, and fundraising for future relief efforts. Weekends were spent coordinating the construction and delivery of a temporary Burning Man village, used for shelter, provided by Oasis Village. Out of that connection, came a contact with Darron Peters, of Culvert Ops Construction, who is working with Ben to build a small network of tiny homes on his property for families in serious need. So far, they’ve lined up a local retired veteran and chef at a local non-profit, and are working with city officials to expedite the construction.
Disasters like this percolate through the entire community and affect much of the infrastructure we take for granted. With a customer base of solar powered homes throughout the bay area, Simply Solar’s operations team worked to identify affected customers, give them the information they needed, and continue to coordinate ongoing projects. From Jake Hassid: “Permit offices were slammed. PG&E was experiencing delays as they fixed their outages. Many of the organizations we rely on to help us complete our jobs were suffering alongside us. We still had financial obligations to our staff and vendors, even if completing installation was out of our control.” The spirit was always to keep moving forward, and continue to provide smart energy solutions for homes and businesses.
Sean Green is chief technology officer and chief financial officer at Simply Solar, based in Petaluma.
Read more about the recovery from the North Bay wildfires: nbbj.news/recovery