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Gratitude: See our special coverage of heartwarming stories following the Sonoma County fires here.

Read all of the PD's fire coverage here

With 400 feet of fire hose and hydrant tools in the trunk of his Honda, off-duty Rincon Valley Fire Engineer Sid Andreis put on his brown turnouts and went looking for a fire fight.

He found it one block from the Larkfield fire station — an inferno fanning out in three directions consuming Pacific Heights and Mark West Estates neighborhoods as well as Cricklewood restaurant. Flames also burned along a wooden fence edging the Larkfield shopping center and Andreis — a lifelong Larkfield resident — made that his first stand of the night.

“The heart of Larkfield is the shopping center,” said Andreis.

Andreis, 37, lives with his wife and two young children on the street where he grew up, blocks from the firehouse where he’s worked for 17 years.

In those early hours of Oct. 9, after his family and the rest of Larkfield were evacuated, Andreis returned to find his community burning. It was personal and it was painful.

“This is my town and it’s gone. It’s so sad,” he said on a recent destruction tour, which starts at Larkfield’s crossroads entrance where fire wiped out whole neighborhoods and continues miles along the area’s rural roadways for a staggering loss of 1,500 homes.

“You couldn’t stop it all,” he said. “There was nothing we could do but pick and choose what we could save.”

He first chose to save the shopping center, anchored for decades by Molsberry Market. Andreis hooked the hose to a hydrant, extinguished the flames and soaked the area.

It was about 2 a.m. and he was alone — one of the night’s many unprecedented situations as hundreds of off‑duty firefighters countywide rushed in and often found fire before they found firefighters. Rincon Valley’s two engines and water truck from Larkfield were scattered to the immense firefight, evacuating people and making their own stands.

Next, Andreis moved to the west side of Old Redwood Highway where flying embers sparked landscaping fires threatening businesses. He set up the hose, put out the fires and moved into the adjacent Ramsgate Court neighborhood, which was catching fire.

Joined by a Rincon Capt. Rob Bisordi and two firefighters, they dug in. “Everybody took a section to do what they could,” Andreis said.

Burning homes were ignored for those still ahead of the fire’s path. The most anguishing part of the night, he said, was “what house to choose and where to make a stand.”

The effort halted that finger of fire pressing west toward more homes and Highway 101.

When the hydrants failed Andreis returned to the station for hand tools and met up with Vic Acosta, a Cal Fire veteran and Larkfield resident, wanting to help. They headed for the next challenge: a burning ridge of homes in Wikiup, above Larkfield. Most of Carriage Lane’s homes were afire or gone and they picked a threatened but unsinged house on nearby Greenview Court. With a firefighting shovel and rake, and just enough pressure from a garden hose they saved the house and slowed the fire’s progress.

Back on Carriage Lane, in a strange case of timing, Andreis got a call from a friend whose parents live there. Was the home standing?

“Everything was on fire except for one house,” Andreis said. “It was her house.”

Gratitude: See our special coverage of heartwarming stories following the Sonoma County fires here.

Read all of the PD's fire coverage here

He and Acosta started again, except with no water. Acosta cut and cleared and Andreis climbed a ladder and peeled steaming roof shingles away. “I was ripping the shingles off the roof, trying to put it out with my hands at this point,” he said.

It wasn’t enough. Then, through the thick smoke appeared two Gold Ridge firefighters in a water truck. They saved the house. Additional resources followed and firefighters halted the fire’s push further into Wikiup and to hundreds of homes in subdivisions beyond.

Catie Klein, who’d called Andreis, credited the two with stalling the fire from taking her family home. “It’s definitely burned on the side but it’s still standing,” said Klein, who now lives in Austin, Texas. “Sid’s kind of a hero to our family.”

Andreis, who by Monday’s end suffered from a bulging back disc, found another way to serve. He posted online that he’d take people into evacuation areas to retrieve medicine, pets, or learn if their homes remained.

For the next 10 days he ferried dozens of people inside the fire zone.

“They called me the ‘fire Uber,’” Andreis said.

It was often emotional, he said, as residents shared their escapes, terror, gratitude and grief. “I met all these people and heard their stories.”

Larkfield resident Eldon Henry, whose home survived, said he’s grateful for Andreis’ efforts. “Without him part of our neighborhood would have gone up. Our neighborhood market would have gone,” Henry said. “Not only did he go and fight the fire, he helped us get in and out.”

Also appreciative was Jayne Slayton, a Santa Rosa resident whose family owns Larkfield Shopping Center. Slayton expressed “utter disbelief” at the devastation to homes in the community, which showed her what might have happened without multiple efforts to protect the center.

Andreis says he was doing what all of his colleagues countywide were doing that night and many in much tougher situations. In his district all Rincon’s off duty firefighters responded, including new recruits on their first firefight as well as 20 volunteers, joined by Windsor and Santa Rosa firefighters. Many risked their lives saving people along the Mark West Springs Road corridor. Others, with too few people, tackled difficult situations and successfully saved St. Rose School, Larkfield Maples Court, Montebello subdivision and much of the Luther Burbank Center, as well as many other small and larges saves that slowed the fire and stopped the spread.

But the losses were tremendous and along with all the homes, the fire took Cloverleaf Ranch, La Mancha apartments, part of Cardinal Newman High School and most of Redwood Adventist Academy, a longstanding private school on Mark West Springs Road.

“Every time we turn right” from the Larkfield fire station onto Old Redwood Highway, Andreis said, the crews face what wasn’t saved.

Andreis comes from a firefighting household. His father, Steve, is a retired Rincon Valley battalion chief and his older brother Spencer, who also lives with his wife and children on the street where the brothers grew up, is a volunteer Rincon Valley fire lieutenant and a Sonoma Valley fire battalion chief. Spencer Andreis led a Rincon Valley engine crew that night and fought fire in Glen Ellen and Larkfield.

Sid Andreis said the night changed him, giving him a keener sense of loss and a closer sense of community.

“After watching a quarter of our whole district burn it has definitely changed my whole perspective,” he said. “It’s more than just putting fires out and helping people on medical aids.”

“Now I really feel the community is all banded together,” Andreis said. “I’m grateful to everybody.”

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