Experts in Santa Rosa to address recovery from October wildfires

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Read all of the PD's fire coverage here

Three experts in disaster recovery will discuss issues relating to Sonoma County’s rebound from the October wildfires at a public meeting sponsored by community group Sonoma County Rises.

Local leaders and the public are invited to the “Summit on Equity, Recovery and Resilience” from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday at the Glaser Center, 547 Mendocino Ave. in Santa Rosa.

The event is intended to address what the county can learn from other communities that have recovered from disaster, how Sonoma County’s recovery should proceed and how the county will address problems that existed before the fires.

The experts are Laurie Johnson, a San Rafael-based urban planner specializing in disaster recovery; Roberto Barrios, a Southern Illinois University academician who has studied how communities recover from traumatic events; and LaParry Howell, director of federal programs in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, who helped manage recovery from the 2011 Tuscaloosa tornado disaster.

Their comments will draw on experience with events such as Hurricane Harvey last year in Houston, Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast in 2005 and landslides in Chiapas, Mexico in 2007 and 2010.

Prior to the summit, the experts will meet with local elected officials and leaders who are dealing with recovery from the October wildfires that destroyed nearly 5,300 homes and killed 24 people in Sonoma County.

Johnson co-authored the book, “After Great Disasters,” an analysis of how six countries — the United States, New Zealand, Japan, China, India and Indonesia — managed recovery from calamities.

Recovery is a “collaborative action problem” that requires a “tipping in from many actors in the community,” she said in an interview.

Leadership must operate in a collaborative manner rather than a “top down” style, Johnson said. “That’s very hard for institutions to do.”

Recovery also involves said, referring to the need for decisions that were originally made over years or decades to be reached again with much greater urgency.

Sonoma County Rises was formed a week after the fires erupted and now involves about 40 people, said Jenni Klose, co-chairwoman of the organization who is also president of the Santa Rosa City Schools board. Members include government officials, educators, business people and representatives of social service, environmental and philanthropic nonprofits.

The organization’s primary goal is to see that fire recovery is “community voice-driven” and not determined entirely by public officials, Klose said.

Admission to the event is free, but since seating is limited, RSVPs are requested at or Childcare is available for ages 3 to12.

You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 707-521-5457 or

Read all of the PD's fire coverage here

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