GRANDFATHER ROSE, Calif. – Robert Hayden and his wife Alla have lived in the Santa Rosa Retirement Community in Spring Lake Village for 10 years and love its beautiful territories almost as much as the many interesting people they have met there – retired doctors, musicians, pilots. , writers and leaders.

On Sunday, the Haydans were among approximately 450 villagers forced to flee their homes as the fast-approaching Glass Fire. For the second time in recent years, they went through this training after fleeing wildfires in October 201

7, which killed 22 people and destroyed 5,600 structures. Although Hayden said residents were better prepared this time, the evacuation was still stressful.

“We went outside, the sky was completely orange and the air was filled with ashes,” Hayden said as he sat in his motorized scooter in front of the Petaluma community center, about 20 miles south of his villa. “It piled up on my jacket. I think I still have remains. “

At the age of 98, the longtime San Francisco Bay resident has no plans to relocate, but feels growing frustration among community colleagues who are tired of living under the constant threat of wildfires at this time of year.

Last month, some of the same 70,000 people were evacuated on Tuesday in Napa and Sonoma counties by a lightning blast that turned into the fourth largest fire in state history.

The thought of leaving the picturesque wine country, with its abundance of first-class restaurants and pleasant weather, is usually not tempting for those who can afford to live in the area. But the idea could become inevitable for many if the devastating forest fires continue to flare up regularly in a region that is becoming drier with climate change.

“I see him in the Spring Lakers. They’re starting to emigrate, “Hayden said. “I think there will be an increasing tendency for Northern Californians to move to less fire-prone areas.”

“As God has no compassion”: Crews battling deadly wildfires racing through Northern California, province

It would be difficult to blame them as we watch the region bear the brunt of more than 8,100 fires in the state this year, which have charred a record 3.8 million acres. Two years ago, the town of Butt County, Paradise, further northeast, was virtually destroyed by a campfire that killed 85 people.

Even infines with significantly less tragic consequences, such as the hitherto non-lethal Glass Fire, lead to enormous disturbances. Cal Fire said the fire destroyed 97 homes and businesses and burned 46,600 acres, leaving only 2 percent as of Wednesday morning.

The glass fire was one of two flames racing through California since Sunday. The other, Zogg Fire, burned 50,102 acres near Redding, leaving three dead.

Luis Garcia Ochoa and his sister Margarita Garcia live three blocks from each other in Callistoga, a town in Napa County, which was evacuated on Monday night. They received cell phone alerts at 5 a.m. and said it was a closer conversation than the 2017 fires that caused more damage in Santa Rosa.

“It was scary,” said Margarita, a winery worker who, along with four other family members, is living in her daughter’s two-bedroom apartment. “Besides, my mother is 89 years old and we had to collect her oxygen and medicine. We couldn’t stay any longer because of the smoke and flames that were already nearby. “

Heartbreaking images: The photos show the devastating impact of Glass Fire on the Chateau Boswell winery in the Napa Valley in California

Martha McAllister, also a Spring Lake Village resident, received a warning late Sunday night and had only a few minutes to prepare to leave. The 90-year-old McAllister was stopped by bus at the shelter in Petaluma.

“She’s usually the personification of someone assembled, and she came out here in an ash-covered robe,” said her daughter, Stephanie McAllister, who had run away to buy her mother’s clothes. It had been all night.

Like Haydance, Martha McAllister said she knew about villagers planning to move away, but had invested too much money in her community entrance fee to attract bets. In addition, her daughter and granddaughter live nearby.

James Weathers, a shelter at the Finley Community Center in Santa Rosa with his wife Linda and 3-year-old boxer Cocoa, said he refused to believe that this was the new normal. As with the rest of the locals, this is their second evacuation since 2017, although the last time was only for one day and their house was not damaged.

This time they had to run faster and forget their computer – with family photos, insurance information and financial records.

“At this stage we do not know if our house is still there. I don’t know if we would recover here. Probably not, “said Weathers, 79, who managed to keep his sense of humor intact.

“People, including me, keep joking, ‘Where are the locusts?’ They are coming. “

Shortly after registering with his wife at Finley’s well-kept facility, Luis Villanueva recalled the 2017 fires as a “blow to the face” for residents who felt relatively safe from the flames. This year’s fire hit closer to home: A friend from work burned down his house.

Fires rage: At least 35 people have died while nearly 100 fires continue to rage in 12 western states

An electrical engineer by profession, Villanueva takes an analytical approach to the threat of fires, monitoring them and realizing that encroachments on wild lands are part of the reason they are spreading in populated areas.

But his wife, Anna Maria, who uses a walker, doesn’t think so, and he admits he was “scared to death” after they had to leave their 18-year-old house in Santa Rosa on an evacuation order. She knows of many others who feel the same way.

“All my wife’s friends tell me how it is, they will move out, but most of them don’t,” Villanueva said. “It’s human nature. A week later, two weeks later, I think you value life better and then they forget. Until the next warning. “

Contribution: Associated Press

Automatic execution

Show thumbnails

Show captions

Last slide Next slide

Read or share this story: