A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

Two fires in one night, constantly on the run


It started out as any other normal Sunday. On Oct. 8, I woke up at a reasonable time, ran my normal errands and started my scheduled shift at Hooters in Rohnert Park. Little did I know this would be the last normal Sunday I’d have for quite some time.

As another stressful football Sunday shift came to an end, I went to Graton to relax and invited a coworker to join me for a drink while I interviewed her for a story.

Later, when we exited, a strong smell of smoke slapped us in the face and the windy night felt hotter than any I’ve ever experienced in Santa Rosa. I caught a glimpse of the mountain ridge in an intense amber glow. I will never forget how deep and bright it was at the same time this image will haunt my nightmares.

I knew this was fire and frantically called friends and loved ones. My boyfriend convinced me everything was going to be fine and that we were safe.

Shortly after, I reunited with my boyfriend and we headed home at around 2:45 a.m. The smoke had thickened, making it harder to breathe. As we turned down Fulton Road toward Piner Road, we were blinded by evacuating headlights going in the opposite direction.

When we reached our neighborhood it was calm and appeared as if our entire neighborhood was still asleep. My boyfriend climbed onto the roof and could see the flames.

He shouted down, “It looks as if it’s only down about two streets.” We frantically packed up our life and tried to gather the most important things first.

In the chaos we left the backdoor open, and my dog Hondo escaped in the fence line and disappeared. This evacuation had become a rescue mission.

Cars whizzed by furiously and our dog was nowhere to be found. As the smoke grew thicker and the flames grew closer, our neighborhood suddenly sprung to life. Residents quickly packed up their lives before everything went up in smoke.

The neighborhood filed out like ants. We were the second to last group to evacuate our street and with still no sign of Hondo, we decided to stop packing and split up to find our rogue dog. At that moment he came galloping through the smoke to the sound of my boyfriend’s voice.

Suddenly, explosions began firing off rapidly as we fled.

By 4 a.m. I attempted to turn off our street and escape the war zone only to be forced to turn the opposite direction because of the evacuating traffic, and after two minutes of driving, the Tubbs fire flames were dead ahead. I flipped a U-turn as fast as traffic would allow, but it didn’t feel fast enough.

A grueling 35 minutes later I successfully made it across town to the Todd Road exit. As I turned onto Mountain View Avenue, I could see the flames of the Nuns Fire, burning over the mountainside, heading directly towards my mother’s home.

I felt trapped and cornered with nowhere to turn. I arrived at my mother’s to pack everything I could fit, and decided to check on the neighbors’ plan for evacuating. One of my neighbors had a back-hoe and planned to dig a trench around their parents’ house in hopes of saving it, and two neighbors were hosing down their yards and roof.

Another brave neighbor took it upon himself to get his water-truck from work and arrived with the truck at around 5:30 a.m., just in time for us to get the news about G and H sections of Rohnert Park also evacuating. We were all awake in our yards ready to fight for our neighborhood and our lives.

As the flames cleared the Crane Canyon Road, embers licked the edge of the dry fields behind my house. My family gathered together awaiting our seemingly bleak fate. Then the wind continually slowed and seemed to change direction in our favor. All we could do now was wait.

At this point, we were unsure if my boyfriend’s house was still standing and whether my mother’s house would see another sunrise. I was forced to come to terms with the fact I might actually lose my childhood home. The house I’d grown up in since age 4 could go up in a puff of smoke.

As the night faded to morning, we patiently waited for the smoke to clear.

The fire changed direction numerous times and several new wildfire scares kept us vigilant throughout the entire week, but fortunately our house survived.

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