Former Santa Rosa Junior College dean and adjunct instructor Ty Benoit, 68, returned to her home in the Wikiup area after a night at the Mill Valley Film Festival. She was still buzzing from seeing Sean Penn and Holly Hunter in person. Benoit was scheduled to moderate an SRJC panel for the play ‘It Can’t Happen Here’ on Wednesday. A call at 10:30 p.m. would change her plans for that week and beyond.
“We looked at Calistoga and we could see the smoke. We packed our cat and a few things and headed towards Molsberry Market,” Benoit said. “When I left my home, I was pretty certain I wasn’t coming back to it.”
It didn’t take long for Benoit and her husband to realize they had to abandon their initial escape route to Molsberry Market. “We were driving right into it. Everyone else was driving the other way,” Benoit said. The couple eventually made it to Windsor, where Benoit said, “We were literally breathing our house with all the ash in the air.”
A few days later, a neighbor of Benoit’s showed her a photo, taken from a phone, that confirmed her fears: her house burned to the ground. “It was like the Kennedy assassination or 9/11. I will always remember where I was at that moment when I got that news,” she said.