Fires burn across Sonoma and Napa counties as thousands flee devastating flames
Two massive fires burned more than 50,000 acres across Sonoma and Napa counties, leveling neighborhoods and businesses from north Santa Rosa to the Sonoma Valley and Calistoga early Monday, forcing massive overnight evacuations of homes and hospitals as firefighters battled to gain an upper hand against the flames. The firestorms were among an estimated 10 blazes burning uncontrolled across the North Bay and into Lake and Mendocino counties.
Here are the latest dispatches from the region:
Santa Rosa has imposed a curfew in the mandatory evacuation areas from 6:45 p.m. until sunrise, said acting Police Chief Craig Schwartz. Anyone found outside in those areas during the curfew will be stopped by authorities and possibly arrested if they refuse to leave, Schwartz said at a news conference.
“It has been a horrific and terrifying night for a great many people,” Schwartz said. “Stay out of the mandatory evacuation areas for your own safety.”
The Tubbs fire has claimed the lives of 7 people so far but officials expect that number to rise.
“It’s just too early - we can’t even get into a lot of the spots, “ said Sheriff Rob Giordano at the news conference. “So I don’t expect that to stay that way very long.” ?Additionally, authorities said two people died in Mendocino County and two died in Napa County as a result of fires there.
Officials have urged patience as authorities focus on life-saving efforts until further details emerge. ?“I’m as frustrated as a lot of you at the scarcity of information that we have at this point,” said Santa Rosa Mayor Chris Coursey. “I want to know how many people have died, how many people have been injured, how many people are in shelters, how many people have been evacuated, how many structures have been lost. It’s frustrating. On the other hand ... our personnel have been out there doing the job of saving lives and that’s gotta come first.”
From his vantage point in a subdivision on Faught Road south of Shiloh Ranch Regional Park, Cal Fire Battalion Chief Marshall Tuberville said multiple factors were helping firefighters to begin gaining ground on the blaze.
Strong winds had begun to lessen, and Sonoma County firefighters were now joined by crews from other regions.
“The chaos and the weather, the wind, we were way behind the curve, and nature was in control,” Tuberville said. “Now that the fire has slowed down, we are able to start putting the wildland fire out, which stops forward progress, and really start saving homes.”
Tuberville said there were no damaged homes near him. Still, he could see flames backing down from the parkland hills in the woodland’s understory.
Emergency personnel were in the area checking on residents in the rural area.
Highway 101, closed from Steele Lane to Shiloh Road earlier in the day, was reopened around 4:30 p.m., officials said.
Sonoma Supervisor James Gore, whose north county district has been heavily impacted by the fires, said he had relatives who lost their homes who would need to stay to stay with his family.
“It’s horrible,” Gore said. “The other thing is that it’s a frenzy out here. I’m trying to remind people, like on social media and other things, to watch their own actions and be careful about themselves. I’ve seen two accidents out here in the last couple of hours. … People are on their phones, they’re trying to get signals. There’s a lot of traffic. Everyone’s stressed out.”
Gore said he heard of a couple who were at one point stuck in the mountains outside Geyserville trapped on a boat in the middle of a pond with fire all around them. The couple’s daughter contacted Gore through Facebook pleading for help and a helicopter to rescue them, after which Gore helped reach out to emergency dispatchers, he said.
“I just got word that they’re safe,” he said. “Small victories. Small reassurances.”
1: 45 p.m.
The toll of injuries and fatalities in Santa Rosa was still taking shape Monday afternoon, as emergency responders continued to fight the fire and ensure residents had left neighborhoods threatened by fires.
By noon, Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital’s emergency room staff had treated more than 60 people, including two with extensive burns listed in critical condition, spokeswoman Vanessa deGier said. The injuries were moderate for 15 people, and another 43 were listed as having minor injuries.
Memorial Hospital took in evacuated patients from neighboring hospitals, including Kaiser and Sutter Medical Center on the north side of town. Patients included expectant mothers in active labor and newly born infants, deGier said.