Residents of the bucolic Sonoma Valley found themselves bottled up in their narrow wine-growing region Monday between wildfires that raged across the parched southern hills of Sears Point and leveled lush estates and prized vineyards at the northern end of the valley near the quaint town of Kenwood.
And in the middle, in the heart of the Valley of the Moon, firefighters battled to save the landmark town of Glen Ellen, the historic home of Jack London, making a stand at key points in the village core as the hillsides around them erupted.
“We picked good spots we thought we could engage and make a stand,” said Bob Norrbom, battalion chief for Sonoma Valley Fire who helped manage the effort. “Glen Ellen is not out of the woods yet, but it’s looking pretty good.”
Sonoma Valley fire officials early Monday estimated a total of about 8,000 acres burned with the potential to spread to 20,000 acres. No update was available Monday night, by which time two smaller fires also had burned in the valley.
The Glen Ellen blaze, called the Nunn fire for its origin during the night near Nunns Canyon Road and Nelligan Road, spread down along Warm Springs Road to Sonoma Mountain Road and the Sonoma Developmental Center. By Monday evening, the most active arm of the fire was burning farther east, between Trinity and Cavedale roads in steep terrain.
“We just don’t have the resources. We have very, very limited resources because of the sheer volume of fires,” Norrbom said.
While firefighters tackled that front, another group battled flames in nearby Kenwood. That front moved west toward Bennett Valley and Monday night still was spurring evacuations on Santa Rosa’s eastern outskirts.
Large estate properties and beautifully manicured homes — along Highway 12, on Treehaven Lane and Court and parts of Greene Street — were reduced to rubble.
“This is the disaster we’ve all dreaded,” said Jay Gamel, who has lived in the Sonoma Valley for more than 35 years, and whose own home up Adobe Canyon Road — on the road to Sugarloaf Ridge State Park — remained under threat.
Kenwood was like a ghost town under slate skies, with most of the 1,200 residents evacuated and businesses closed down. A handful of people with dazed looks moved among the silent smoky streets in cars and pickups, checking on neighbors and searching for stray pets.
Caregivers helped safely evacuate six frail residents from a board and care home on Treehaven.
Homeowners on the east side of Greene Street saw the wildfire halted within a 100 yards of their homes.
Doug Clemo said he spent early Monday hosing down embers that touched his roof, while his neighbor, Ron Folla, fought off blazes that torched his trees. Both of their residences were intact in the morning.
“We were just up all night, running around yard to yard,” Clemo said.
The night’s mayhem was punctuated by exploding propane tanks.
“You could hear them blowing,” Clemo said.
Bijan Kazemi said he called in friends from Marin County and other places and pulled together a team that spent the night saving his home on the east side of Highway 12.