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Santa Rosa Fires

October 8, 2017

I woke up around 2am Monday morning smelling heavy smoke. I went on Facebook and found one of our friends was fleeing her home because a fire was headed right for it. This was up by Safari West, and seemed to be a good distance away from us, but the winds were whipping like I had not heard in a long time. I continued looking at the Facebook feed and started reading about other places burning -- KMart, Kohl's, Fountaingrove Inn and Santa Rosa's landmark Round Barn!

I read more and more and found places near Dave's work were on fire. I woke him up to tell him he may have trouble getting to work because there were buildings burning. He got up and turned on the news. We saw the fires were on every news channel. They showed patients at Kaiser being evacuated. At around 5:00am, it would have been time for Dave to get up. He decided to get dressed and see if he could get to work OK. He just made it a little way up the road before realizing he wasn't going to get anywhere. EVERYONE was on the road and headed south in the opposite direction! It took him over half an hour just to get back home.

We continued to watch the news and wondered if we were going to have trouble getting to school. Then we heard all schools in Santa Rosa would be closed. The footage of the fires on the news just kept getting worse. They started showing images of Coffey Park -- where I lived for several years in two different houses. EVERYTHING was leveled and burned to the ground. It was like watching a movie -- it didn't feel real. It looked like a war zone.

We closed up all the windows in the house and sat glued to the news. Nighttime finally came, and I could not go to sleep. I set my alarm for two hours so I could be sure to wake up and check for the glow of fires in the distance -- like many others we knew had posted. Many of our friends in different parts of Santa Rosa had already evacuated. Some were mandatory, others were because the fire was just too close for comfort. I realized I didn't need to set my alarm every two hours because I could not sleep more than about an hour at once, even though I was exhausted from being up since 2am. I turned up my cell phone to listed for alerts, made sure I was signed up for the notifications. I had links to every possible fire map I could find. I refreshed it constantly.

Morning finally came, and the fires were still raging. The wind had died down a bit, but were expected to pickup again. My text notifications kept going off with new areas evacuated. Every time I heard my phone, my stomach dropped. My mom and sister's family live only about a mile away. My mom had seen the distant glow of the fire the first night and we were all concerned about the wind. The days and nights came and went, and one of the fires jumped the highway and spread to an area just East of us. My mom downloaded apps to follow the wind direction. Heavy winds from the East could have potentially pushed the fire to our part of Santa Rosa. I finally broke down and packed a box of items from each boy's room, and backpacks with clothes and necessities. I made sure the cat carrier was handy. We had one carrier for two cats. I also made sure we had a box we could put the chinchilla in since her cage is too big. We also had a guinea pig to bring.

Firefighters came from all over California, Oregon and beyond. They worked tirelessly to hold back the fires. After about 10 days, the fires seemed to be moving far enough away where I was not paralyzed with the fear of having to leave our home. They still continued to burn and it took weeks before they had full containment. The boys had 3 weeks off of school. When they returned, they found many staff and students had lost homes, including Hunter's school principal. The fires took many lives, and burned thousands of homes and businesses.

Dave drives through Coffey Park daily, which is right near his work. He took some pictures. I've also finally seen the devastation first hand. It is unimaginable. There are also some photos os singed weeds and burned leaves we found in our backyard. We will never forget these fires.

- Heidi

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