Evacuated areas still unsafe
County and state officials Tuesday night asked for patience as firefighters and fire responders scramble to manage the fires ravaging Sonoma, Mendocino and Napa counties.
“I can tell you without question I have everybody on the ground working on this,” said Congressman Mike Thompson. “Please be patient. We have never been taxed by a natural disaster to this extent. It’s overwhelming.”
According to Cal Fire, as of Tuesday night, the fires have burned 27,000 acres, consuming 571 structures, including 550 residential and 21 commercial buildings. The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office has confirmed 11 fatalities related to the incident.
“This is an absolutely horrific event,” said Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano.
Giordano said that sheriff personnel, along with National Guard members and other law enforcement agencies, are working around the clock to patrol the evacuated areas, ensuring looters can’t take advantage of vulnerable areas and that individuals don’t return until its safe.
“It is still very dangerous,” Giordano said. “All of our resources are on that mission, to keep people alive, to keep property safe.”
Thompson, along with Congressman Jared Huffman, Assemblymember Jim Wood and State Senator Mike McGuire informed a full crowd at Santa Rosa High School that officials are working on assessing evacuated areas in effort to allow those who fled flames rolling into the Santa Rosa area early Monday morning return back to their homes.
“We are going to have tough days ahead,” McGuire, who calls Healdsburg home, said. “We are going to get through this. We will come out stronger. But it’s going to take all of us working together to make sure that happens.”
Officials aimed to appease frustrations over apparent lack of resources tackling the Tubbs and Nuns fires in Santa Rosa and Pocket Fire farther north near Geyserville.
“Resources statewide are exhausted,” Cal Fire Chief Ken Pimlott said. “We’ve got them coming from out of the state. We’re doing the best we can with the resources we have to prioritize. We have to prioritize. We have to save lives and save homes.”
Santa For a Fire Chief Tony Gossner echoed Pimlott, saying the fires have been, “very difficult to manage.”
“I feel very confident in the resources we have. There’s never enough. There’s never enough resources,” Gossner said. “We have everyone available in the county on the fire.”
Gossner’s right — municipal and volunteer departments from north and west county have pooled their resources to saves lives, douse structures and form lines in effort to contain the fires. Many other smaller west county districts, including the Forestville Fire Protection District sent engines and volunteers to aid Santa Rosa. Bodega Bay Fire Protection District sent an ambulance, water tender and type 1 engine. The Sebastopol Fire Department sent three engines, according to Chief Bill Braga.
“We’re hoping to make some progress,” Braga, whose parents lost their house in Coffey Park, wrote in a text message Monday afternoon.
The Geyserville Fire Protection District sent an engine to Santa Rosa, an engine and utility vehicle to the Pocket Fire and two engines to a fire on Chalk Hill Road.
The mutual aid has been mirrored by neighboring communities as those sheltering evacuees, such as Sebastopol, Bodega Bay, Cloverdale, Healdsburg and Petaluma, have come out in force, providing volunteers and donations to those who have lost everything.
“West county is currently providing shelter to thousands of fire evacuees and refugees,” Fifth District Lynda Hopkins wrote in a text message. “I’m absolutely humbled by the way west county residents have stepped up to help those in need. In two short days, we’ve assembled a grassroots coalition of local nonprofits, churches and volunteers that have set up makeshift shelters complete with farm fresh, from-scratch meals. Donations, driven by social media to address needs at specific shelters, have poured in.”
From Sebastopol out west to Forestville and Bodega Bay, restaurants and local businesses have donated meals and goods to those in need.
“I was out in Bodega Bay this afternoon and every evacuee was wearing a brand new Bodega Bay sweatshirt donated by local businesses,” Hopkins wrote.
Up north, local organizations are uniting to help those who have lost houses. According to Jefferson Elementary’s Jenn Craig, the Cloverdale Unified School District is setting up a relief fund and effort for those employees who have been affected by the fires.
Hopkins urged those wanting to help to donate to relief efforts. Redwood Credit Union is raising funds through its North Bay Fire Relief fund and the Red Cross is accepting monetary donations as well.
“We are facing an unprecedented disaster in Sonoma County, but it is being met with unprecedented kindness,” Hopkins wrote.