Brad Sherwood stepped out of his Santa Rosa office shortly after noon Thursday and was stopped cold. Smoke from a faraway wildfire had blown into Sonoma County, reviving the horror he experienced 13 months ago — to the very day.
The foul odor of burned trees, homes and possessions more than 100 miles away packed a visceral punch.
“It wasn’t the smoke, it was the smell,” Sherwood said. “It sent chills through my body.”
His Larkfield home, destroyed by the Tubbs fire — the most destructive blaze in California history — is under reconstruction, but the fire’s overall toll will take much longer to repair.
“Those emotions are still raw,” said Sherwood, a Sonoma Water employee. “It doesn’t take much to trigger them.”
An unwelcome sense of deja vu blanketed the area devastated by the North Bay wildfires on Oct. 8, 2017, and Sherwood’s angst was shared by other fire survivors and people whose sense of well-being was shaken to its core.
“No, no, no it can’t happen again,” Sue Decker said, recalling her thoughts as she spied the smoke pouring in from the east while driving up from Cotati to Santa Rosa. Her Fountaingrove home, heavily damaged by the Tubbs fire, was among the more than 5,300 Sonoma County homes ruined in last fall’s conflagration.
“In the back of your mind you can’t feel 100 percent safe,” she said. “It was scary.”
By chance, Thursday was Decker’s birthday, and she and her husband Jim had booked a getaway to Las Vegas, where they found comfort in the distance from the flames in California.
“We’re relieved,” she said. “We can just clear our heads.”
A sunny morning suddenly went sour Thursday as smoke from the Camp fire, burning more than 100 miles northeast of Sonoma County near Chico in Butte County, turned the skies ominously brown.
Emergency dispatchers fielded calls from worried residents and local fire agencies dispatched 10 engines to Paradise, carrying about 40 crew members drawn from departments throughout the county.
Butte County firefighters helped battle last October’s firestorm in Sonoma County, Santa Rosa Assistant Fire Marshal Paul Lowenthal said.
“That’s what we’re all here for,” he said. “Not only to help our own community, but to help to help other communities.”
Sherwood, who is on the Mark West Union School District board, said he was glad to learn that students at Riebli Elementary School — including his two children — were eating lunch inside and that counselors had been called to the school.
“I kind of wish I was with them now,” he said.
Santa Rosa Junior College and Sonoma State University on Thursday afternoon canceled classes and activities for the rest of the day. Both colleges subsequently canceled all classes and activities Friday.
Local school officials called off athletic activities Thursday and said they would evaluate events scheduled for Friday. Santa Rosa city officials planned to do the same after closing its facilities Thursday
The smoke cast a pall over the streets in downtown Santa Rosa, dampening spirits of people who witnessed the three-week siege of fire a year ago.
Smoke Health Advisory from Sonoma County
Children, the elderly and those with respiratory conditions such as asthma, lung disease and heart disease are most at risk for harmful impacts.
To decrease your exposure to wildfire smoke and to limit harmful effects from smoke follow these healthy habits:
Limit your time outside and stay indoors as much as possible.
See this link for more: