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Sonoma County parks ravaged by fires

Fire engulfs a stand of trees on Mount Hood Regional Park on Sunday, October 15, 2017. (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)

MARY CALLAHAN,

North Bay fires that have killed dozens in four counties have also punished public parklands across Sonoma County.

What started in Trione-Annadel State Park initially has moved to Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, Hood Mountain, Shiloh Ridge and Sonoma Valley regional parks.

The 47,000-acre Nuns fire spread north and west into Sugarloaf park Sunday and the 700-acre Oakmont fire that started near Pythian Road moved toward it on a trajectory through Hood Mountain, officials said.

“It looks angry up there,” Santa Rosa Fire Chief Tony Gossner said. “It does. There’s no way around it. The thought is they (the fires) will grow together.”

The latest information indicated that the Sugarloaf visitor center, white barn and Ferguson Observatory were still standing, but it was difficult for fire officials to know precisely after such a significant burn in the late afternoon.

Park volunteer Ken Wells, executive director of the Sonoma County Trails Council, watched from the roof of his two-story home near Spring Lake Regional Park as Cal Fire tankers and supertankers bombarded the ridgelines across the valley with red fire retardant, surrounded by billowing smoke.

“Whoa,” Wells said during a phone interview, as he watched flames explode on a hillside between Sugarloaf and Hood Mountain. “I just saw a flame that must have been 100 feet high.”

Fire officials said the absence of strong winds caused smoke to rise in well-developed plumes on Sunday, in contrast to the layers of smoke spreading in thick layers across the region during higher winds.

Jack London State Park, so far, has reportedly been spared, though park personnel removed some historical objects as a precaution, said Sarah Reid, volunteer coordinator and senior park aide for Annadel state park.

Gossner said the majority of Annadel “was burned over” but park personnel have not been permitted to enter yet and make assessments.

One firefighter Sunday said the fire only burned underbrush and grass in some areas of Annadel.

“I think I’m cautiously optimistic,” Wells said. “The Annadel fire moved pretty slowly. It was just creeping along the bottom.”

Reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 707-521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com.