Oct 23, 2017
In the early hours of Monday, October 9th, all of our West County Fire Departments emptied our stations to fight the catastrophic fires attacking Sonoma County. We worked together, even cross-staffing each other’s engines, to send as much help as possible – while still preparing for what could be coming our way (and handling regular calls for service). The fires were traveling on wind gusts exceeding 80 miles an hour. Initial efforts to put out the fires had to be set aside for life safety and evacuating as many people as possible. Evacuations included Sonoma Developmental Center, senior living center in Fountain Grove, etc. Firefighters, current and retired, streamed into our fire stations to be ready for whatever might come. This was all managed by Sheriff Central Dispatch and REDCOM dispatchers, who fielded 300 calls/hour –that is a 911 call every 5 seconds!
For the next 24-48 hours, West County fire engines continued to support fire suppression on multiple fire fronts. As mutual aid engines arrived from throughout California, most of our engines were released. At the time of this writing, the fires are mostly under control and crews are returning.
What an amazing community we have! Many shelters, both official and unofficial, sprung up within hours to house people displaced by the evacuations. Local hotels and vacation rental owners offered significantly discounted rates, friends and family opened their homes, and complete strangers were seen picking up families from shelters and taking them home. Even out-of-county firefighters and police officers found love from Sonoma County residents offering housing. To the countless residents, merchants, and restaurants throughout West County that donated or prepared food/supplies for not only the evacuees, but firefighters, both local and from afar… we can’t thank you enough.
We cannot stress enough the importance of staying informed before any disaster strikes. To have information pushed to you, sign up for Nixle (text 888-777 with your zip code) and/or SoCoAlert.com (707-565-1369) for phone alerts. During an emergency, critical information can be found on the Facebook and Twitter accounts of the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, County of Sonoma, City of Santa Rosa, etc. KRON 4 carried significant live coverage of the fires and briefings as did KSRO radio, 1350AM and 103.5 FM.
Hopefully, this event has made you think about what you would take if you had 1, 3, 5, or 10 minutes to evacuate. What isn’t easily replaceable? Legal papers, family photos, computers, medications, family jewelry, etc. Make sure to grab your cell phone and charger to let everyone know you’re okay. For our 4-legged friends, besides the food and leashes, don’t forget a cage/crate. This may be necessary for shelters or friend’s homes. Another issue was the lack of gasoline, either due to none left, no power, or the danger of flying embers.
There is excellent information from CAL FIRE about “defensible space” around your house. Think about cleaning gutters and keeping flammable materials away, such as firewood, plastic cabinets, fences, kids’ toys, etc. Remove curtains from windows that can easily catch fire from radiant heat. If you do evacuate, turn off the gas and water before you leave.
The support has been amazing; it makes us proud to call Sonoma County home and raise our families here. We would also like to extend our heartfelt sympathies to all those affected by these events. It will be a long road to recovery, but anything is possible with this great community!
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