The first night of the fire was unusual. A hot wind that you might associate with a Southern California 'Santa Ana' began in the early evening. Santa Rosa usually has warm days and cold nights so this was a remarkable event that I haven't seen in the 15 years that I've lived in the North Bay. It was the night before Columbus Day/Indigenous Peoples Day and you could hear parties going on in the warm gusty night air. Our outdoor patio umbrellas blew over. Tree limbs on the redwoods behind the house came down.
Throughout the night Kay heard sirens and couldn't sleep. In the early morning she went outside and smelled the smoke. As she turned on TV to check the news the service went out. We sat in our car and listened to radio, and heard that Santa Rosa was burning. Although we weren't in the official evacuation area we started to pack the truck with family photos, paintings, and other things of value to us. Overhead dark smoke clouds began to cover the sky. By the time we were ready to leave I walked out to the driveway and was alarmed to see that the entire northern skyline was dark black. I felt a surge of panic and we jumped in the truck and drove west to the ocean. As we drove toward the coast the smoke did not lift but actually seemed to get thicker. When we reached the waves on Point Reyes' South Beach we saw the smoke covering the shore and extending far into the ocean. Even the closest waves were obscured in a yellow haze. We turned southward to the East Bay looking in vain for clear air, but the entire bay area was covered.
Later in the day I began to get calls and notes from friends who had lost their homes or feared that their homes were lost. One had put out fires around his Oakmont home and then left quickly in his motorhome. He found out later that the home was saved but another home that he rented out had completely burned. The tension continued for days.
When I drove back up to check the house and get more things a couple of days later I regretted it. The smoke was thick, yellow, and came right down to the ground. It was difficult to see across the street. The fire came right down into town and had burned entire neighborhoods and the hillsides for miles around. Bright wild flames charged across the wilderness areas and left black hillsides in their wake.
Now that the fires are out we have seen hundreds of acres of land scarred with destroyed structures, blackened trees, lone fireplaces, and melted cars. The areas that burned in Santa Rosa range from million dollar homes in the Fountaingrove hillsides to the modest Coffey Park neighborhood to the trailer park that now looks like a melted mass of twisted metal. Although I've been sent someone's YouTube video showing the northeast area of Santa Rosa as a targeted Agenda 21 'development area' or a 'redevelopment area', this is incorrect. What that map shows is about 12 individual development sites i.e. home sites that were currently permitted for home construction.
The question is "Will the destruction of single family homes across the city spark more Smart Growth high density development that can be pushed through with Delphi meetings pressuring the populace?" "Will this fire be the excuse to refuse building permits for single family homes?" "Will rural lands controlled by Pacific Gas & Electric, non-profit land trusts, and individuals be better managed in the future to clear brush and dead trees?"
There is an investigation into the source of the fires. Along with all of you we have concerns and look forward to more information. All investigations and all sources must be considered.