PD Editorial: How to lend a hand to those who need it most

Joy Ryan, who evacuated her home in Oakmont, passes the time Tuesday by reading a book at the Red Cross shelter at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. (JOHN BURGESS / The Press Democrat)


Amid the many heart-breaking stories of homes and property reduced to ash are the many uplifting stories of heroic efforts by individuals, neighbors and emergency crews who have saved homes — and lives.

There’s the remarkable and clear-headed effort of medical personnel at Sutter and Kaiser Permanente hospitals — and all the firefighters and law enforcement officers who assisted them — to evacuate patients early Monday as the firestorm swept down off of Fountain Grove Parkway. About 160 patients were moved out of harm’s way by 6 a.m. in the dark and chaotic frenzy of the moment.

Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital took in many of these patients, including expectant mothers in active labor and some newly born infants. Meanwhile, Memorial’s emergency room treated more than 60 people, including two with extensive burns, by noon on Monday.

The night before, California Highway Patrol helicopters crews took part in a dramatic rescue of some two dozen people trapped in two high-elevation wineries in Napa County. A total of 42 people between the ages of 5 and 91 reportedly were rescued by helicopter crews.

Kudos also go out to officials at the Sonoma Development Center who were able to relocate most of the 240 residents there to the Sonoma Veterans Memorial Building in Sonoma. In addition, residents from a number of retirement communities and nursing facilities from Spring Lake Village on Montgomery Drive to Brookdale Paulin Creek off of Fountain Grove Parkway were able to safely evacuate residents.

The many laudable efforts of firefighters, too many to name here, include the work of Santa Rosa and San Francisco fire crews who teamed up to halt the spread of the Coffey Park firestorm at Sansone Drive just north of Piner Road.

Credit also goes to the police and fire crews who have come here from other areas to provide support in evacuations and patrols to prevent looting.

Not to be overlooked are the efforts of all of those who have provided aid for the nearly 4,000 people housed in the 36 shelters around Sonoma County. Praise also goes to the many who have contributed food and clothing for these shelters.

Still, many others are looking for ways to lend a hand. Here’s how. The Press Democrat has teamed up with Redwood Credit Union to create the North Bay Fire Relief fund. Like the communitywide effort that raised some $2.9 million for victims of the Valley Fire in Lake County two years ago, 100 percent of the money raised will go directly to aid relief efforts and to help victims of these fires.

Contributions can be made at any Redwood Credit Union bank or by going to Checks to the RCU Community Fund also can be mailed to Redwood Credit Union, P.O. Box 6104, Santa Rosa 95406.

As Steve Falk, chief executive officer of Sonoma Media Investments, the parent company of The Press Democrat, said during a Santa Rosa town hall meeting Tuesday on the fire, “We just want to make sure the money gets in the hands of those who need it most.”

At this point, all we know for sure is the hands are many.