This has been a harrowing 10 days buy we’re rounding the corner towards recovery.
For us it started at 1am Monday morning when our phone rang. Phones ringing atbthatbtime are nver good news. Our Son who manages Stagecoach Vineyard up near Atlas Peak said his ranch was on fire and he and his Wife may eveacuate to our home in Forestville.
Winds are blowing through th etrees 40-60mph and all we can do is lay in bed listening to the wind, sirens and smelling smoke. 3am the phone rings again, my Daughter in Bennet Valley asking what she should do. “Evacuate now, come here!” I tell her.
Phones start blowing up with text messages, Nixle alerts, evacuation notices. Coffey Park is on fire, Hopper Ave businesses up in flames, US 101 shut down in both directions. Fire in Glen Ellen, Kenwood, Sebastopol. The freaking world is coming to an end! At this point laying in bed is moot. We get up and I turn on the TV and radio. They are showing video of a mobile home park on fire in Santa Rosa. My Wife’s best friends Mother lived in that park! The reporters going on about how up to 30 homes may be lost. All I can think is, “If that fire came over the hill from the Valley then Petrified Forest Rd, Porter Creek, Mark West, Fountaingrove are all on fire. This is a disaster of epic proportions. Everyone in the house is up and dressed.
My Wife works at te Press Democrat and has to go in to work the phones because none of her CS Reps can make it in due to evacs, road closures etc... A Nixle alert comes through:
‘The following areas are now under mandatory evacuation:
West of 101 in the Piner Rd area to Downtown Forestville
Palomino Rd all directions
Vanoni Rd to Gill Creek Rd, all directions
Arnold Drive to the State Hospital and West of Jack London State Park’
I head to high ground to assess the risk in Forestville. Fire still 10 miles East.
My Daughter calls from her Boyfriends home in Santa Rosa, they are evacuating.
5am, roads are packed with cars in this quiet rural town of 3,000 residents. I go to the gas station to fuel up and there are 30 cars waiting in line. Is this really happening? Go back home, my Wife is leaving. Normal 30 minute commute takes her 1-1/2hrs.
A 4 hour time capsule to begin a 10 day nightmare. Still trying to account for everyone I know but it isn’t easy. 3,000+ homes destroyed just in our County. Scores of businesses burned. Up to 15,000 people displaced in an area that had a 2% vacancy rate. 5% of the total housing market in Santa Rosa gone. Yesterday was the first that resembled anything close to a normal work day but normal as we know it will not be normal for years. I look at the loss just to people I know and it is unbelievable. Hundreds of friends and extended family suddenly homeless. The magnitude of this disaster is nearly incomprehensible.
Oh, and this is a wine board. Wineries will recover, rebuild, reinvigorate just like the community. It’s what we do.
Nothing like a disaster to bring a community together though. The outpouring of volunteers, donations, and stories of 1,000s of people going above and beyond for their neighbor abound. Deep down we are so good. Wish we were always like this.
I’m not forgetting all the loss from Hurricanes, Earthquakes and the like which have been ongoing this year. But I witnessed this first hand so it hits me differently and more to my core. Now that the hillsides are bare are we going to have another heavy rain year like last? Landslides and flooding could double down on the mess we are already in. I pray that nobody ever has to go through something like this. Nerves completely frazzled, bad dreams at night, anxiousness about the future, and I didn’t burn. Think about what others have going on. Damn!
If anyone is interested I have a slew of fire relief wine auctions currently running in Commerce Corner at Wineberserkers.com.