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.”