Fire and destruction in Santa Rosa as communities struggle to respond

Oct 10, 2017

Since late Sunday night, an estimated 17 different fires have been devastating several counties in Northern California, including Sonoma, Napa, and Mendocino.

At least 15 people have died, 1,500 structures have been destroyed, and approximately 115,000 acres have burned — more than three times the size of San Francisco.

Orientation materials at a Santa Rosa fire shelter.
Credit Ninna Gaensler-Debs / KALW News

One area that’s suffered a lot of damage is the city of Santa Rosa. Two hospitals were evacuated, and entire neighborhoods like Fountaingrove, or Coffey Park have been totally destroyed.

KALW’s Ninna Gaensler-Debs is up in Santa Rosa with the latest.

"I'm starting to feel it in my throat when I breathe, and lots of people are walking around with surgical masks or bandanas around their faces. You can see ashes drifting through the air almost everywhere you go ... most businesses are closed, the power is out, and roads are blocked off preventing people from going to some of the badly damaged neighborhoods."
CDCR inmates take a break to get food. They’re fighting fires alongside emergency responders.
Credit Ninna Gaensler-Debs / KALW News

"There was an avenue of flame several yards long with fires of both sides of the road, burning quite high, 50, 60 feet high. With the fires behind me I didn't feel I could really stop, so I drove along through the flames and made it out OK." —Charles Thompson, Santa Rosa

Fire engines in Santa Rosa.
Credit Ninna Gaensler-Debs / KALW News

"Yesterday we ramped up the shelter, and we had 700 people for breakfast, and we had, oh, about 250 people spend the night with us." —Roy Pitts, shelter manager

Livestock and larger animals take shelter in the Sonoma County Fairgrounds stables.
Credit Ninna Gaensler-Debs / KALW News