Glass fire survivors in Santa Rosa area tell their stories

Two days after Eric Worden lost his home of 60 years, he was still referring to it in the present tense.

“It’s a very unusual house,” said Worden of the building razed Sunday night when a rogue arm of the Glass fire roared down a flank of the Mayacamas Mountains, destroying that structure and four other houses on his family’s 45-acre property.

That estate is on Los Alamos Road, directly across from Eagle Rock, a formation so arresting it rates a mention in Jack London’s “Valley of the Moon,” noted Worden, with pride. After buying the property in the 1930s, his grandfather, Al Nicholson, added a 1,600-square-foot main room with a curved window, 13 feet high and 40 feet long, looking out on the valley below.

In the middle of the room was a boulder that would not budge. “So they built around it,” Worden said. That rock provided a wall for a koi pond that came later. “There were some big fish in there,” he said. “Course they’re all boiled today.”

Worden, who owns Redwood Empire Concrete Pumping Equipment, discussed his lost house with a detachment and stoicism that lasted seven minutes into the interview. That’s when he mentioned his Monday lunch with his insurance adjuster at Mary’s Pizza Shack in Rohnert Park.

A woman sitting nearby overheard them, and insisted on paying for their lunch. Before he could finish the story, Worden became choked with emotion.

“It was a pretty tough day,” he said, after a pause.

The Glass fire has destroyed at least 80 houses — 28 of them in Sonoma County, according to Cal Fire on Tuesday. This story offers accounts of three residents who lost their homes on Los Alamos Road.

While the the Glass fire’s damage is dwarfed by the devastation of the firestorm that torched over 5,000 houses in Sonoma County three years ago, that’s meager consolation to those left homeless in the Santa Rosa area by the latest inferno.

For families that lost multiple houses in both the Tubbs and Glass fires, the situation is bleaker still.

Twice burned

Meet the Crozats.

The Tubbs fire was particularly rough on the family of Gene Crozat, the late, larger-than-life founder of Santa Rosa-based G&C Auto Body.

That blaze claimed the homes of his widow, Teri — and the houses of four of their children. Their trials, it turned out, were just beginning.

While those homes were being rebuilt, Teri Crozat and her four children, and their families, moved back to the property where they’d grown up, on Los Alamos Road, a half mile up the road from the Worden’s.

Unfortunately, Jamie Crozat said Tuesday, “the homes that my mom, my siblings and our families have been living in burned in the Glass fire, leaving three of the original five families homeless again.”

Homeless and pregnant

To further complicate matters for Crozat, a regional office manager for G&C Auto Body, she is 39 weeks pregnant. While her due date is Oct. 5, she experienced contractions Monday, after being awake for 30 hours during the chaos of her hasty evacuation.

While those contractions proved a false alarm, she was informed by two hospitals she called that, because of the fires, they were diverting women in labor.

“I just lost my house, I have a 2-year-old and a 3-year-old, and they’re telling me I can’t go there. What am I supposed to do?” Crozat said.

On Tuesday morning, Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital told her she could have her baby there.

Just after 8 p.m. on Sunday, the landline phone rang in Crozat’s house on Los Alamos Road. She assumed it was a telemarketer, and didn’t pick up. “No one who knows me would call during that time” — the witching hour when she puts her toddlers to bed.

It rang again. This time, she picked up. It was her mother, Teri. “She was hysterical. She said: ‘You guys need to get out, there’s a fire headed for Los Alamos! I got a Nixle!’ ”

Jamie Crozat was skeptical. She’d gotten no such alert. “Then, while I was on the phone with her, the Nixle came through.” Los Alamos was under mandatory evacuation.

She alerted her husband, Shane, who dashed outside to look at the sky, marked by an orange glow.

“How much time do we have?” she asked him.

“We have no time,” he replied.

Veterans of evacuations, they had an emergency pack list, and followed it. They were in the car with the kids in 20 minutes. Based on reports from neighbors, and video from cameras on the property, she estimated their house was gone between one hour and 90 minutes later.

With her due date in mind, she and her husband had recently stopped by their storage unit, retrieving an array of baby items: clothes, a crib and other heirlooms that had somehow survived the Tubbs fire.

They spent the weekend “washing baby stuff and getting everything set up,” she said.

But the Glass fire was upon them much more suddenly than the Tubbs. None of those baby items made it out of the house.

Ten acres, five sons, countless memories

Andy and Liz Adams live farther east on Los Alamos Road, in “a little pocket” of land, as she described it, in the lee of the Mayacamas.

It was a one-story house with five bedrooms on 10 acres. They needed every square foot to diffuse the energy of their five rambunctious sons. The house was “kind of junky” when they bought it 20 years ago, Liz Adams said, differentiating hers from some of the more palatial abodes lost in the Glass fire, “because that’s all we could afford.”

Since then, they’ve been fixing it up, “making it a home.”

Just this year, her husband had put a roof on the back deck, which was festooned with cheerful lights for barbecues. For future weddings, they built a 60-by-60-foot wooden structure with a sunshade, where guests could dance and dine.

“It was a fun house,” she said on Tuesday. “And it will be again.”

“It took us 15 years to get there, though,” Andy Adams said.

They’d been keeping an eye on the fire for hours Sunday, and felt reasonably safe. But a new fire popped up at the intersection of St. Helena Road and Tarwater Road, 4 miles north.

“It was just a little glow,” he recalled, “but then by 8:30,” she said, finishing for him, “it was just covering the hillside and coming towards our house.”

’I’m here for you’

Fifty minutes later, they were in the car. They were still on Los Alamos — fire engines coming the other way — when Liz Adams got a text from her State Farm insurance agent.

“I’m here for you when you need me,” it said. She recalled thinking: “I was like wow, this is like a commercial.”

In May, they’d been dropped by Allied Insurance, their carrier for 20 years, because of the wildfire risk.

The knowledge that they were fully insured took some of the sting out of their Tuesday visit to their leveled home.

A neighbor had told them the night before that the place was gone.

They went up there to look for the cat, she said. They’d gotten out with their two dogs but not with Cleopatra, their black, jade-eyed rescue feline. Cleopatra emerged from a culvert, “a little singed on the whiskers,” she said, but otherwise fine.

That was one silver lining. There was another.

In the back, the new structure with the dance floor and sunshade had somehow been spared. Upon seeing that, Liz Adams said to her husband, “Well, at least we can still have a party.”

You can reach Staff Writer Austin Murphy at 707-521-5214 or or on Twitter @ausmurph88.

Editor’s Note: This story has been revised to correct a reference to the Mayacamas Mountains.

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