More than 75 homes have been lost along Bennett Ridge in east Santa Rosa, according to a detailed list by residents who Tuesday walked the hillside neighborhood and reported back to neighbors address-by-address on social media.
The losses were confirmed by Cal Fire spokesman Jonathan Cox.
More than 20 homes on Rollo Road, 20 on Bardy Road, 25 on Bennett Ridge and nine on Old Bennett Ridge were lost with several others possibly lost, according to the list. Surviving homes totaled about 35, according to the unofficial tally.
“Lost. Lost. Lost. Lost. All these houses are just burned to the ground,” said Rollo Road resident Matt Jennings, who made the list.
Later Tuesday, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office ordered a mandatory evacuation for not only Bennett Ridge Road but also Sonoma Mountain and Enterprise roads and the area east of the Bennett Valley Golf Course west of Trione-Annadel State Park.
The high hillside area of Bennett Ridge abuts the park, and the Nunn fire swept in early Monday catching many in the rural community asleep.
“There is extensive damage on Bennett Ridge,” Cox said. “The fire came through here aggressively and took out a majority of the structures in the area.”
Bennett Ridge was one of the more concentrated areas of homes throughout the Bennett Valley and hillside area, which connects east Santa Rosa to the Sonoma Valley. It appeared homes and structures on the valley floor were fine, Cox said. Some homes up the Sonoma Mountain Road end of the area also were lost.
Prior to Tuesday afternoon, there had been no official report of the damage along Bennett Ridge.
Neighbors, who escaped before mandatory evacuations were issued, had been hanging on updates on a community Facebook page, offering support and issuing desperate pleas as to the status of their homes. Tuesday, Jennings and his husband Rick Stewart went to the area to get that information. They slowly drove the four main roads recording what they found: utter destruction.
One Rollo Road home belonged to Brooks and Kim Fisher.
“We’re just devastated,” Brooks Fisher said Tuesday, sharing pictures of what had been a home amid lush surroundings and landscaping.
Fisher said he and his wife barely escaped just after 2 a.m. only because a neighbor refused to give up on rousting them, knowing they were home. The man pounded on the front door and screamed to awaken the couple. When Brooks Fisher finally answered the door the man yelled for them to get out.
There had been no evacuation call, as many communities received, and no law enforcement or fire presence in the area as the fire spread into the neighborhood, Brooks Fisher said.
“It was very frightening and the wind and the smoke and the fire was coming up quickly,” he said. As the couple drove down the hill to safety they saw fields and homes burned throughout the area.
He called 911 and a dispatcher said he was one of several emergency calls for the area. Many from Bennett Valley gathered at the nearby Bennett Valley fire house, which was empty of firefighters, likely already sent to battle the blaze in Santa Rosa or farther east in Glen Ellen.
Tuesday, Brooks Fisher felt luckier than some but missed their home, garden and neighborhood.
“This neighborhood was wonderful — there was a sense of place there that all our friends felt,” he said. “I don’t know that I will ever find anything like it again. I know I will have to go back and see for myself and I’m dreading it. My son’s ashes are in there somewhere. But we need to get closure and move ahead.”
It’s better news for Jennings and Stewart. Their weekend home was one of about five still standing on Rollo Road. “It’s just so heartbreaking,” Jennings said. “We look out the back of our house, to the right, it’s just foundation. Out the back, it’s just foundation. Our neighbor to the left, just ashes and a fireplace.”
“These are the houses we would walk by twice a day walking our dogs,” he said.
You can reach Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 707‑521-5412 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter@rossmannreport.