Officials preach patience as mandatory evacuations lift
Sonoma County officials preached patience Monday for residents still displaced by several wildfires that continue to burn in the North Bay.
At an afternoon briefing at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa, city, county and state officials provided an update on the deadly and destructive fires that sparked Oct. 8.
The county’s death toll from the fires remains at 22 but 88 other people remain missing, Sheriff Rob Giordano said.
Sheriff’s deputies and members of the National Guard are doing targeted searches for the missing people as well as general searches of burned-out neighborhoods, Giordano said:
“We don’t want to miss a person.”
Giordano said there is “a lot of pressure” from residents wanting to get back to check on their homes but he said it will be days or weeks before they can do so in many cases.
Santa Rosa Mayor Chris Coursey said 689 residents in the city are staying in shelters as of Monday. Coursey thanked people for bringing supplies to the shelters but said they are no longer accepting donations at any city shelters.
Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane said a local assistance center set up at the Santa Rosa Press Democrat building at 427 Mendocino Ave. served 236 people this morning alone and many more since opening Saturday.
The center provides a variety of services, including document replacement and help accessing federal aid, for people recovering from the fires.
Zane said the county’s hotline has received thousands of calls since Oct. 8, but the calls recently have changed from ones with questions about evacuations to ones about coping with the devastation wrought by the fires:
“The shock has worn off and the sadness and depression and overwhelming loss is beginning to set in.”
Zane encouraged anyone having problems coping with the fires to call the county’s mental health hotline at (707) 565-6900.
Among other updates in Sonoma County, Santa Rosa Fire Chief Tony Gossner said the pharmacy has reopened at Kaiser Permanente’s Santa Rosa Medical Center at 401 Bicentennial Way but the hospital itself remains closed.
Buses are taking residents at evacuation shelters to and from the local assistance center, and parking is also free for vehicles at a city lot off of B Street near the center.
Mandatory evacuations have been lifted in the Sonoma County communities of Bennett Valley in Santa Rosa, Kenwood, Glen Ellen, Boyes Hot Springs and the city of Sonoma, sheriff’s officials said.
Bennett Valley Road and the area east of Petaluma Hill Road is open. There is no access on Bennett Valley Road east of Holly Oak Way or west of Keiser Ranch Road.
Warm Springs Road is closed east of the Sonoma Mountain Road intersection. Bennett Valley Road between Holly Oak Way and Keiser Ranch Road is still closed. The closure includes Enterprise, Old Bennett Ridge, Bardy and Rolo roads, according to the sheriff’s office.
Bennett Valley Road is open at Yulupa Road, Petaluma Hill Road is open at Crane Canyon Road and Roberts Road is open at Lichau Road.
Kenwood residents outside of the burn area are allowed to return home. State Highway 12 is only open between Greene Street and Dunbar Road.
Two ways to access Kenwood are from Bennett Valley Road to Sonoma Mountain Road to Warm Springs Road, and from Petaluma Hill Road to Warm Springs Road into Kenwood. All residents must check in at the checkpoint at Warm Springs Road at Mound Avenue. Residents should bring paperwork that shows they live in Kenwood.
Advisory evacuations are lifted in Boyes Hot Springs including east of Highway 12 to the fire perimeter and south from Madrone Road to Verano Avenue.
Glen Ellen is open east of Arnold Drive to the fire perimeter and south from Martin Street.
The city of Sonoma is open from Seventh Street east from East Napa Street south to Denmark Street, and east of Highway 12 to Fourth Street East and south of East Verano Avenue to East and West Spain Street.