Like so many people Monday throughout the region, Sky Farm Drive resident Germain Hauprich wanted to know if her house was still standing near the top of the drive in east Santa Rosa.
She, her husband and 86-year-old mother who uses a walker, and their two Labrador dogs escaped the fast-approaching fire from their east Santa Rosa neighborhood about 1:30 a.m. after getting an automated call to evacuate immediately.
Hauprich already had been awake with worry, from the swirling winds and the thickening smoke. “I started to go to the car, open doors and throw things in. I could see the red glow coming from the hill across the street,” she said.
A firefighter came by and repeated the warnings to neighbors, she said, grateful for the presence and the warning.
The three adults and two dogs loaded up into two vehicles and headed down the hill, rendezvousing with numerous neighbors at Safeway on Mendocino Avenue.
“It looked like a tailgate party. Everybody was there,” she said. Except no one was having fun, and when the power went out at Safeway and a friend called from Fountaingrove to say they could hear explosions she and her family moved to a Rohnert Park Safeway parking lot, seeking distance, light, supplies and a restroom.
Unable to book a hotel or motel room, they went to family in Tracy. But Monday, far from home, she worried. Four Sky Farm neighbors were keeping in contact hoping for news about their homes and growing more fearful as unconfirmed social media reports included that the neighborhood had been “wiped out.”
For Hauprich, whose family has lived near the top of the drive off Highway 12 since 2003, hope was dwindling.
“We have the dogs. We have ourselves, our purses and our wallets and of course we have insurance. It’s not the end of the world,” she said, looking for some solace in the awful day. “We just want to know.”
Lori Barekman, who lives on Park Gardens Drive in the Fountaingrove neighborhood, said her 11-year-old daughter Mariana woke her and her husband Wade Eakle at about 1:45 a.m. alerting them to the smell of smoke.
“We could see so much smoke and all the reflections of the fire from our back deck,” Barekman said, adding that after conferring with other neighbors, she and her family decided to evacuate before a formal evacuation order was issued.
Barekman left with Mariana, her husband, her 16-year-old son Logan and a friend who was visiting. She said everyone she knows of in her neighborhood evacuated.
“No one that I know of stayed,” she said. “We were on the top and it was coming toward you. All of our neighbors are out.... The main thing is we’re all safe. We’re all good.”
Katy Masingale’s GMC Yukon was one of dozens of cars waiting in line for fuel at the Valero gas station on Redwood Highway North in Petaluma. The 25-year-old and her husband Justin Masingale had been watching the news all night from their Penngrove home, and finally decided to evacuate around 9 a.m.
They grabbed their four dogs and 2-year-old daughter Rylee, packed up a bunch of clothes, diapers, water and camping gear and were headed south to a family member’s home in Novato.