California fire check-in October 9, 2017 6:44 PM   Subscribe

Overnight in Northern California, a 200 acre fire became a 57,000 acre fire and people are desperately trying to evacuate. There are at least 10 dead and 1,500 structures have been destroyed. The L.A. Times has live coverage, Mercury News has the local story. Meanwhile in SoCal, Canyon Fire No. 2 in the Anaheim Hills area of Orange County is up to 5,000 acres. A mandatory evacuation order is in place; 1000+ people have been evacuated so far, and six structures have been destroyed. Wildfire Today has updates on fires across the state. I hope all our MeFite friends and family are okay. Please let us know if you need help.
posted by Room 641-A to MetaFilter-Related at 6:44 PM (92 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

A dear friend’s new sister in law lost her house in the middle of the night up in Santa Rosa. The Anaheim Hills fire has a lot of people trapped because of the toll roads closures. Very nervous for old classmates and teachers — I went to school in the area and am no longer in touch with anyone so I don’t know who’s where and who’s gone.

Seeing Disneyland covered in ash and against an orange sky has been nightmare fuel for me on so many levels, though. I know Park protocol for closing up shop is super particular, but surely a severe drop in air quality warrants some kind of evacuation/public safety situation?
posted by Hermione Granger at 8:18 PM on October 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

I lived in Sonoma county until I moved overseas and most of my family is still there. My sister lives in Santa Rosa (she’s safe) and we talked earlier today - the sky is smokey and orange. Whole neighborhoods look like a bomb have gone off. Two of the three hospitals were evacuated and staff were evacuating patients in their own cars. Sutter had to evac pregnant women in labor. I’m afraid the loss of life may grow because the fire moved so fast. So many people have lost their homes and jobs and businesses. There’s lots of activity on social media but the usual caveats apply and not everything is accurate. Press democrat online and Sf Gate are good resources for the north bay. Fyi there’s a mandatory curfew in place in a lot of areas.

I’m glad I made a trip home last year cause I don’t know whats going to be left.
posted by supercrayon at 8:30 PM on October 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

We were up in Napa over the weekend, enjoying some great wine (truly; the folks at Smith-Madrone pulled some 3 and 6 liter magnums from deep in their library: 92, 88, and 79, the oldest wine I’ve ever tasted, somehow still fruity and bright, but also velvety and smooth). Sunday wasn’t quite as grand, but around 1am I was awakened by the sound of the wind and decided I should close up the umbrella on the patio of the Airbnb we had rented in Downtown Napa. The wind was something else, warm and cutting and hard and tinged with acrid smoke. I got the umbrella sorted and didn’t think anything more about it and returned inside and drifted back to sleep.

In the morning, of course, it was apparent I had misjudged the night’s smoke. The sky was overcast, beiges and browns, the sun a deep orange beyond. The TV news was just catching up with what had happened overnight, too. Santa Rosa. Calistoga. Carneros. Atlas Peak Marin. The whole North Bay on fire. We’d planned to hit one more winery on our way back to the airport in Sacramento, but that was not going to happen. We packed up quickly, cleaned up a bit, and left before more fires could sprout and more roads could be closed.

The ride to the airport was uneventful. The approach to John Wayne in Orange County was through wildfire smoke, too, from another dry wind driven California fire in the Anaheim Hills.

We visited several wineries in Stag’s Leap, which was right in the path of the Atlas fire north east of Napa. My wife commented on the plane how strange it was that we were just there, free and easy, sipping wine and everyone happy with the world and feeling fortunate and privileged and less than a day later it’s all gone. Whoosh.

Things can change fast.
posted by notyou at 8:57 PM on October 9, 2017 [14 favorites]

Things are shockingly quiet in Lassen County. Usually wildfires are what northeastern California
posted by elsietheeel at 9:58 PM on October 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

I live close enough to the OC fire that the smoke has intermittently made it hard to breathe, but no imminent danger to my home. Still, it is incredibly scary, and I'm so sad for the people who have been affected.
posted by primethyme at 10:09 PM on October 9, 2017 [4 favorites]

I'm reeling with the news that, along with so many homes and communities, Camp Newman, the Santa Rosa summer camp I went to as a kid, has been pretty much destroyed.
posted by zachlipton at 10:55 PM on October 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

The smoke and ash in San Francisco was so heavy last night that people were sure something was burning on their street and 911 got a lot of calls, particularly from the western part of the city. The city finally had to ask people not to call unless they saw actual flames.
posted by janey47 at 11:12 PM on October 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

Been trying for twelve hours to get in touch with friends in Napa, but no word. I'm trying to stay calm by telling myself that cell service and wifi are apparently borked.
posted by the return of the thin white sock at 11:23 PM on October 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

The Charles M. Schultz Museum in Santa Rosa is within the evacuation zone, but according to a tweet posted seven hours ago, at that time it was still intact.

Thanks for posting this thread. I've been worried about mudpuppie. Hope she checks in.

On twitter, pic of cat with singed whiskers found at Sutter SR Hospital lot, now at Sonoma Humane Society.

I finally updated our bug-out bags with new clif bars, jerky, Pringles, medications, and kibble for the cats. Hope we won't have to use them (northern Marin).
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 11:41 PM on October 9, 2017 [4 favorites]

Thank you for this post. I’ve been up all night following the news, especially the live MODIS map (linked in the post). It shows a fire hotspot smack dab on the property of the house I grew up in on Partrick Road.

Been trying to contact friends to check in on everyone but I’m in England so I’ll have to wait until it’s morning in Napa. I’m currently travelling across the country to go to an all hands company meeting. That should be both a distraction and a waking personal nightmare; just want to hide. And refresh internet pages.

So far everyone I know is ok, but the power is out and it’s too soon to tell. The destruction is absolutely devastating, too much to comprehend and I’m in shock. All the places of my youth, either gone or permanently disfigured. The recovery will be long and the beautiful wine country will never be the same again.

For the lives lost,
posted by iamkimiam at 12:46 AM on October 10, 2017 [4 favorites]

My mother in law was near the evac zone in OC. Ugh, this is awful.
posted by dismas at 5:54 AM on October 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

Hermione Granger: Seeing Disneyland covered in ash and against an orange sky has been nightmare fuel for me on so many levels, though. I know Park protocol for closing up shop is super particular, but surely a severe drop in air quality warrants some kind of evacuation/public safety situation?

LAisThet has some pretty shocking photos.
posted by Room 641-A at 7:10 AM on October 10, 2017

One disaster after another--heartbreaking.

The pictures are so surreal. I'm glad everyone who has checked in so far is okay, everything considered, and I hope that continues to be the case for mefites in the affected areas.
posted by PearlRose at 8:30 AM on October 10, 2017

So hurricanes, flooding, earthquakes, wildfires--what's next?
posted by Melismata at 9:15 AM on October 10, 2017

So hurricanes, flooding, earthquakes, wildfires--what's next?

well with antibiotic resistance on the rise we're getting to be overdue for a plague.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 9:56 AM on October 10, 2017 [5 favorites]

can i gently suggest that a thread where people are checking in re: an extant threat to their physical safety and that of their loved ones is, like, not a great place to bring up other existential threats to worry about
posted by dismas at 10:29 AM on October 10, 2017 [46 favorites]

The Washington Post has a map of the fires, and it looks like grids all over northern california, It looks like a targeting device made fires in a grid. I was going to put up the article, but it is pay walled, it talks about mapping the fires. Is the graphic misleading?
posted by Oyéah at 10:32 AM on October 10, 2017

a friend's parents have almost certainly lost their home, and my bf's friend's farm is threatened right now. i'm sitting in my office in berkeley and i can smell the fire even in here.

for any folks in the east bay, 1-2-3-4 go! records is a drop-off point for relief supplies, and i know that bay area DSA chapters are working on organizing some direct relief stuff so keep an eye out for that. idle hand tattoo in the city is also a drop-off point for donations.
posted by burgerrr at 10:38 AM on October 10, 2017 [3 favorites]

My apologies, the impulse to answer the "what's next" question was a poor one.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:43 AM on October 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

I live in northern Marin near Hwy 37 which was closed for a time east of here. The air is thick with smoke and ash, but my house is safe--the Petaluma River is a natural barrier. A lot of my friends and co-workers where I work in Oakland are having flashbacks to the Oakland Hills firestorm.

Fortunately the wind has died down--but the amount of devastation is unbelievable--whole neighborhoods just burned to the ground. As I was driving to work yesterday, I tried to stop for gas but the station was full of folks fleeing the fire--some in just PJs/robes.

A friend had to evacuate from the Atlas fire. I've heard through a mutual friend that she and her husband made it out and are staying with her sister--but no word on their home.

I'm going to be stopping by an evacuation center at the Marin Civic Center on my way home and see what is needed. I don't want to drop off stuff until I confirm they want it. I'll pick up some gift cards to take there as well.

The whole situation is horrifying.
posted by agatha_magatha at 10:45 AM on October 10, 2017

I exchanged emails about bug-out bag contents with a friend, and her response made me laugh (I'd added that maybe I'll include a flask with some single malt Scotch): "i need to up my game i can see that. and i’ll be adding a couple of rolled joints since i don’t drink anymore. tipsy old ladies not good."

Also, "i recommend a funky looking backpack that no thief would want or touch for that matter."

@KQEDForum says that @CAL_FIRE gives containment updates 2x/day, usually between 7-9 a.m. and 6-8 p.m. @CAL_FIRE says that the Highway 37 fire by Skaggs Island is 40% contained.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 11:22 AM on October 10, 2017

We are agonizing over the devastation wrought by fire in our former neck of the woods, Sonoma County and the greater North Bay Area. Watching everyone's posts on Facebook gives us another view, besides the established news reports, of what people we know are doing to help all the victims, be they human, equine, canine, feline, etc. Our prayers are with you all as you recover from this catastrophe. Thanks to all the firefighters and law enforcement folks who are working without sleep, in hard-to-breathe conditions, while even some of them have lost their own homes.
posted by Lynsey at 11:24 AM on October 10, 2017 [3 favorites]

I think you can access WaPo from incognito mode. I'm logged with my account but it's worth a try. Maps
posted by Room 641-A at 11:31 AM on October 10, 2017

On a different note, so far the animals and staff at Safari West in Santa Rosa are ok.
posted by agatha_magatha at 11:58 AM on October 10, 2017 [5 favorites]

That WaPo map with the dots for fires places Mendocino County in the wrong place. (The arrow's in Yolo County and it's pointing NE toward Sutter County; Mendocino is NW of Santa Rosa.)
posted by notyou at 11:59 AM on October 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

It looks like a targeting device made fires in a grid.

It was insanely windy the night the fires started, and it's super dry this time of year. There couldn't have been better conditions for what ended up happening. This is most likely a situation in which nature didn't need the helping hand of foul play, and the random placement of the fires looks grid-like and intentional just because they're so widespread.
posted by mudpuppie at 12:28 PM on October 10, 2017 [5 favorites]

It may also have to do with the sensing and display tech used -- that map is derived NASA's fire map -- those dots represent hot spots detected by satellite. From the ground, a fire on the hillside might appear as continuous wall of flame. From way above, it may well appear as a field of hot spots.
posted by notyou at 12:41 PM on October 10, 2017

I think I have answered my own question in that the maps are satellite looks over an area, their looks are like little spotlights, side by side by side, then in a larger grid. They don't blend the edges.
posted by Oyéah at 12:42 PM on October 10, 2017

Well it is so regular, it has to be the satellite, or an obsessive compulsive pyromaniac . I'll go with grid of satellite views.
posted by Oyéah at 12:43 PM on October 10, 2017

My in-laws are in lower Lake County about twenty miles north of Calistoga and are currently not in danger but there's a lot of smoke up there so they can't go out much. This is the third time in the last few years that fire has gotten close to them, it's really nerve wracking since they're getting quite old and shouldn't drive at night.
posted by octothorpe at 12:56 PM on October 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

This is so tragic. Prayers for everyone affected. I'm gutted that Paradise Ridge winery burned down. My favorite winery in the region, hell, my favorite winery period. Small, women-owned, unique approach, and top-notch, magical wines. Lovely, friendly, and ambitious people. It was more like walking into a friend's cozy home than a winery. It will be missed, and I hope they find a way to rebuild and carry on.
posted by naju at 12:56 PM on October 10, 2017 [6 favorites]

My parents evacuated their home NW of Santa Rosa two nights ago. Third-hand reports from neighbors suggest that it's probably burned.

My mom had been up late with their guests, a couple of other educators, preparing for a presentation they were scheduled to give at a school the next day. They left with almost nothing - no clothes, no toothbrushes - but a couple bags of children's books for the presentation that were already in the trunk. After finding a hotel in Petaluma that seemed like a safe place to wait, they unloaded all the books on a table in the lobby with a "take one, read it , bring it back" sign. When I talked to her yesterday, she said the lobby was full of kids reading.

Now they're at a friend's place, apparently settled and looking for stores that haven't been cleaned out.
posted by sibilatorix at 1:00 PM on October 10, 2017 [46 favorites]

Friends checked in a little while ago after they finally found a signal... they're safe, but not sure about their house. Best hopes and warm hugs to everyone else who needs them.
posted by the return of the thin white sock at 1:41 PM on October 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

For those concerned about the Canyon Fire 2 (in Orange County) this map marks the mandatory evacuation zones and lets you search by address. (It also has road closures, etc). my MIL is to the west of it - not as far west as I would like, but not in the evacuation zone, which I'm taking some small comfort in.

sibilatorix, that's a wonderful story. What a comfort that must have been to those kids and their families. I'm sorry about your parents' house.
posted by dismas at 2:42 PM on October 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

I am having a really, really hard time with this. The photos and videos are impossible to avoid, the stories about animals hurt or in danger and the people trapped in their houses, all of it is bringing back my own experiences with nearly being evacuated during two horrible fires in San Diego. I’m so embarrassed to be close to tears in my office right now.
posted by Hermione Granger at 3:31 PM on October 10, 2017 [3 favorites]

Safe in Napa, my home in St Helena is safe from fire threat. All we have had to deal with is no power since Sunday night and smoke, we know we are fortunate. There is almost zero cell reception anywhere in Napa County, so it has been quite hard to stay in touch with people. We realized early Monday that our parents and grandparents still had landlines so we could use their phones and touch base with some other landline people. Some people with Verizon have spotty service.

My family is all ok. Worried about our friends on Atlas Peak. Worried about our friends in Sonoma/Glen Elen/Santa Rosa and inbetween. Seems like the Napa County shelters are well stocked with supplies and volunteers, but we know that can change quickly.

Ugh, the smoke is painful. We have heard that our home has power now but the air in St Helena was thick white when we left this morning. So far south Napa is a bit better so we are staying at my mom’s for now. Working on helping our 4.5 year old feel better (sore throat) and safe. He’s a sweet kid and definitely feeling stressed, we happen to be dog sitting our favorite pup who is providing comfort, especially to our son.
posted by Swisstine at 3:36 PM on October 10, 2017 [6 favorites]

I have family in Sebastopol who are thankfully unaffected (and unlikely to be affected, given the direction of the winds), but I also know family friends and friend's families in Santa Rosa and Napa. No word yet on how those folks are doing, but I'll find out when I see my friends later this week.

The air quality in the Bay Area is just horrible. I keep getting faint any time I have to walk anywhere.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 4:29 PM on October 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

This is all just awful. We were up on Hawk Hill in the Marin Headlands on Sunday, and as we were leaving we could see a plume of black smoke rising from a salvage yard fire in American Canyon, and we could smell it when we got home to the Mission. But we didn't watch the news or anything on Sunday night, so when I got up on Monday morning and stepped out the backdoor to see what the day would be like I was stunned to find the air heavy with smoke. Came back inside and flipped on the TV and then spent the next few minutes trying to understand how so many fires in so many places blew up basically all at once, and how the city of Santa Rosa was burning down.

Today was another hawkwatch day, or would have been. Today's hawkwatch and banding teams all got called together (usually we have separate morning meetings) and were told that the Park Service was shutting us down for the day because the air quality was so terrible. And it was - as we were driving across the Golden Gate Bridge, the East Bay Hills were invisible, and even Alcatraz was no more than a dim outline. I wasn't outside long, but all my clothes smell like I spent the day tending a campfire.

My friend Ingrid, who lives downstairs, grew up in Napa. Her childhood home might still be there, but possibly not.

Please stay safe, everyone.
posted by rtha at 5:50 PM on October 10, 2017 [12 favorites]

(rtha, from one bird nerd to another, if you ever want/need a friendly place to stay in Lassen County, MeMail me; I have a three bedroom house to myself and there are more hawks than I can count around here.)
posted by elsietheeel at 6:05 PM on October 10, 2017 [7 favorites]

Evacuated in Sonoma County. I thought I was under mandatory evacuation and it turns out I'm not -- yet -- but there's no power or water at my place. I woke up at 2am on Sunday night/Monday morning to the smell of smoke and saw a text from a friend saying they were evacuating my neighborhood. Stuck my head outside and saw ridges with fires in two different directions. (And they did look like multiple small fires, rather than one huge wall of flame, but I'm not sure if that was an optical illusion.) Spent several dazed minutes looking around my bedroom, threw some clothes in a bag, threw the cats in their carriers, and drove down my driveway -- to find a tree had crashed across the driveway and taken what looked like power lines with it (turns out they were the cable lines, according to the owner). Had to drive across a bit of field to get to the neighbor's driveway to get out. Went to a parking lot at a nearby deli, where a bunch of people were all standing outside their cars staring at the hills. Called 911 about the downed line; the dispatcher was nice about telling me to call PG&E next time (though PG&E has since posted to call both them and 911 about downed lines). Spent a few minutes standing there dazed, finally realized maybe the friend who texted me would let me stay the night. I've been here, with the cats, for what's about to be three nights. Still no power or water at my place.

I'm considered emergency personnel for work, so I've been assigned to work at local emergency shelters the last two days (though only half a day today). I showed up at the public local shelter, in the high school, yesterday morning and there was just no one in charge. A community member who was an RN was kind of triaging people, and people were deferring to her, so she was kind of in charge. Teachers and PTA moms were all kind of drifting around pretending to help but looking for way more direction than people should really need. The RN asked if I could follow up with a couple who left their home without their medications. I spent two hours on the phone with their insurance companies, doctors' offices, and various pharmacies, while simultaneously texting my boss's boss who was trying to be helpful, trying to explain the extent of what was going on. "No, you can't call their doctor's office, I just tried and it's currently on fire." "No, I can't just transfer the prescription to the local branch of the chain, because I'm in a teeny town and we don't have many chains." "No, you can't transfer the prescription to that pharmacy, that pharmacy's pharmacist can't get into town because all the roads in and out of town are blocked off by fire right now." I finally found the one pharmacy with a pharmacist, and he said he was just too (understandably) overwhelmed to transfer anything to his pharmacy (which would have required that same gamut of phone calls), and that we needed to send people to the ER for new prescriptions for vital medications. I spent the rest of the day in weird limbo between "helper" and feeling like I needed help myself. Not having had any sleep since 3am wasn't helping. Talked to a lot of people with vacant stares talking about their houses having burned down.

That evening it looked like the friend with whom I was staying was also going to need to evacuate, and my brain basically shut down. They ended up cancelling that evacuation, though. Managed to get some sleep.

I got assigned this morning to a special shelter for the local facility for people with severe intellectual disabilities. I walked in at 7am to a gym full of people screaming, yelling, grunting; it so matched my internal screaming that I relaxed. Spent the morning sorting soiled linens and cots from clean, and hoisting linens and mattresses around to get them out of the way. They finally called me back into my normal office, where I kind of stared at my computer screen for a while and had a nice conversation with my boss about how she doesn't want any of us doing more than a week of emergency-shelter work, because we're all looking vacant and traumatized and she's worried about us. Upper management has decided that my boss and I are now responsible for 250+ of our team's regular clients -- who are people dealing with severe mental illness -- while the rest of the staff works at emergency shelters, for the rest of the week.

I'm tired. I can't really concentrate much. I have my phone set up for the Nixle official emergency alerts about evacuations, because they're still calling for new evacuations, so every hour or so (sometimes more often) my phone dings with news of a new area that's on fire. I feel like I should turn it off for my mental health but I can't for my physical safety. And I'm mad when they send non-emergency updates, like various "Here's a summary of every mandatory evacuation," because I feel like the panic it causes me is for no reason. And I love my friend for hosting me -- seriously, she's being awesome -- but it's a teeny apartment and I'm sleeping on a couch and I really just need my own space to process and decompress. But I also need to be near work, and I don't want to move the cats again if I can help it. And my family keeps asking for updates in a way that implies it should all be getting better each time they talk to me, but... zero percent. The fires are zero percent contained.

I was able to go back to my place today to grab some stuff I didn't take with me when I left, so I have my contact lenses now, which are helping keep my eyes from tearing up quite so badly from the smoke. And my scaredy-cat cat finally came out from under my friend's couch, though I suspect he's about to go right back under because I think she just got home. But those are something, I guess.
posted by lazuli at 6:15 PM on October 10, 2017 [71 favorites]

Yep, cat just dove back under the couch when my friend came home. But at least he was able to eat and use the litter box in the meantime, and maybe it'll give him enough courage to come out again later.
posted by lazuli at 6:31 PM on October 10, 2017 [10 favorites]

Lazuli, that's harrowing, and somehow heartwarming at the same time. Thank you for all you are doing under horrible circumstances.

Thank you all for all you are doing, and please stay safe.
posted by marguerite at 6:38 PM on October 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

Oh lazuli, I've been in that situation with a scaredy cat and a bad roommate (not quite an evac situation, but the cat didn't know that) and it stinks. Keep an eye on him...we ended up at the vet with a UTI due to him holding it and not drinking enough water while he was in hiding. It's been a year and we've since weathered another roommate and a 200 mile move to a new house, but jeez I was nearly as much as a wreck as he was. I wish you guys the best. <3
posted by elsietheeel at 6:42 PM on October 10, 2017

I really wish there was a secular equivalent for the phrase "you're doing the lord's work" for you, lazuli, as you are shouldering so much for yourself and others right now. I'd dearly wish to be able to support you emotionally through fervent prayer, however, absent any non-lordly colloquialism or other avenue to assist, I hope you find all possible peace, strength and succor as you do what needs to be done this week.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 6:51 PM on October 10, 2017 [8 favorites]

Thanks, all. This week is the closest I've come to praying in my life. Not sure what the humanist/therapist prayer exactly is, but something like, "Please, everyone, be ok. Find your way to healing and peace." So Cold Lurkey, that sounds about right.
posted by lazuli at 6:58 PM on October 10, 2017 [11 favorites]

Has anyone heard from prize bull octorok? I seem to recall he's from the North Bay.
posted by purpleclover at 7:20 PM on October 10, 2017

speak of the devil, etc

a few of my friends have lost their homes but I'm OK, I was just about to post to say I have been lucky enough to have avoided outages and evacuations so far so if any Santa Rosa mefites need some help right now, memail me
posted by prize bull octorok at 7:25 PM on October 10, 2017 [14 favorites]

I'm in Fairfield; the Napa/Atlas fire has been creeping SE towards us. Some outlying unincorporated areas are being evacuated. SO and I are officially nervous now and have packed up some go bags. No evacuations within city limits, yet, but I hear some rumors it's coming.

I am pretty I can put the nice fluffy cat (Burble) in her carrier first, then the jumpy slippery scaredy cat (Nickel) will come over to gloat over Burble's predicament and that's when I can strike.
posted by fleacircus at 11:03 PM on October 10, 2017 [3 favorites]

Which is also to say, unless we do get evacuated, we have a spare bedroom and can help displaced MeFites in the area.
posted by fleacircus at 12:08 AM on October 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

Hi, all,

I haven't even read this thread yet but I knew it would be here. I love you, MeFites.

We live(d) in Santa Rosa and have lost our home to the fire. My wife, son, dog, and two cats are all safe. We made it out with a greater number of irreplaceable belongings (photos, hard drives, mementoes) and essentials (clothing, toiletries, pet supplies, etc.) than most people, but we still could only fit what we could into a hastily packed car. The evacuation itself was well organized and emergency personnel have been incredible.

We were renting our house, which is, in this situation, somewhat preferable to having owned it, I suppose. But we lost 97% of our belongings. I visited the site with my father-in-law today, and everything is ash and rubble. This is in the Hidden Valley neighborhood of Santa Rosa, just down the ridge from the Fountaingrove area, which was absolutely devastated. Houses five doors down from us were spared, as was the church one lot away - we were that close to the fire-line.

We are staying with friends in Millbrae, about 2 hours south. On Thursday, we'll head to Healdsburg, where we'll set up semi-permanent residence at the vacation home of some old friends who have been incredibly generous. We do not know if/when we will be able to return to our jobs. We do not know how much longer we will be able to live in Sonoma County. Everything is up in the air.

A friend set up a GoFundMe page for my family and me but I feel weird linking to it here.
posted by Dr. Wu at 3:17 AM on October 11, 2017 [50 favorites]

Dr. Wu—I am so so sorry, but so so glad you are physically OK.
I’m sure it would be fine for you to link to your GoFundMe in your profile, and then add a post here letting us know you’ve done so—I’m quite sure others have done so on other occasions.
posted by bookmammal at 3:35 AM on October 11, 2017

Thanks, bookmammal, for your kind words. I hadn't thought of posting the link in my profile. Thanks.

In case anyone wishes to learn more about our status or to contribute, that GoFundMe link is now on my profile page. Thank you, everyone. I will send updates when I can.
posted by Dr. Wu at 4:07 AM on October 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

I think they're okay, but does anyone know how things are in Camp Pendleton, Oxnard or Eureka? Got family in all three.... thanks!
posted by easily confused at 5:23 AM on October 11, 2017

Here is the Cal Fire map of fires in California (see also the Wildfire Today link in the main post). There don't appear to be any active fires in or near Eureka or Oxnard or Camp Pendleton.
posted by rtha at 6:03 AM on October 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

Dr. Wu, it's totally fine to put your gofundme on your profile page. Thank you for checking in here, and I'm so sorry.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:31 AM on October 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

They've been evacuating closer and closer to my friend's house, moving south. We were protected, I think, by the easterly winds, but winds are going to change to be from the north in an hour or so. Making plans to evacuate, again. Scaredy cat had finally started making appearances.

So so so sorry to those of you who lost your homes.
posted by lazuli at 7:38 AM on October 11, 2017

I am so sorry for those who have lost their homes. I am in the East Bay and, while the air quality here is terrible and the sun is glowing red, I am in no danger. I hope everyone in northern CA, their families, friends, and pets, are safe.

A tip from a friend of mine who volunteers at the San Francisco SPCA and works with cats there: Feed your cats in their carriers. This will help them associate the carrier with good things and will make it easier to get skitty kitties in their carriers quickly if you have to evacuate. I haven't tried this, but I am going to now, with my tuxedo cat Jack, who was born a feral and still knows instinctively when I'm even thinking about bringing out his carrier to take him to the vet's.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 8:39 AM on October 11, 2017 [7 favorites]

Another good hint about getting 'em into their cat carriers is to set the carrier upright, on its back end and with the door on top --- lowering your kitty into it vertically will be easier than pushing that same cat into the carrier horizontally. (Not saying it's going to ever be totally easy, just easier!)
posted by easily confused at 8:50 AM on October 11, 2017 [9 favorites]

Also if you're lowering them into a carrier, be sure to have one hand holding their hind legs together with the other under their front armpits (legpits?) so they can't spider-man outward on the sides of the carrier door.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:09 AM on October 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

Now in evacuation location number 2. (Well, actually, I'm now at work, but cats and my stuff are in evacuation location number 2.) For someone who hates accepting help, this is stunningly hard.
posted by lazuli at 11:31 AM on October 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

Dr. Wu, I am so sorry to hear you've lost your home, and I'm glad you've let us know about the GoFundMe. You shouldn't have to rebuild your life alone.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 11:35 AM on October 11, 2017

Dr. Wu, while I'm sorry that you've lost so much, I'm glad to hear that you and your human and non-human loved ones are safe.

Another good way to quickly cage your cat is to pop a pillow case over them (generally pretty easy, in my experience), gently lift , and gather them up and gently slide them into the carrier. Pull the pillowcase open and quickly get your arm out before they realize they have an opening. Kitty won't be happy, but kitty will be safely caged.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 12:19 PM on October 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

Simon's Cat: Off to the Vet
posted by Melismata at 12:25 PM on October 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

We have received some generous contributions on our GoFundMe page from people whose names I don't know. Maybe some of them are from you, dear MeFites. Regardless, my family and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts for keeping us in your thoughts. We remain safe with friends, and have a couple possible options for medium-term residence. I'll post an update when I can; the GoFundMe page will also likely be updated.

Thank you all so much.
posted by Dr. Wu at 2:57 PM on October 11, 2017 [17 favorites]

I know it's gotta be bittersweet that your campaign on GoFundMe is trending. Glad you are all safe and well-supported.
posted by jessamyn (temp) at 3:12 PM on October 11, 2017 [6 favorites]

So sorry to read of your loss, Dr. Wu but I'm so glad to read that you and yours are safe. Good luck to you and to all our North Bay peoples!
posted by Lynsey at 5:57 PM on October 11, 2017

I have family in Napa (niece, nephew) but so far they're okay. I have friends in the East Bay up in Hercules. They say the sky is ominous and the air quality is bad, but they're okay. I've spent a fair amount of time in SF and north and am stunned at the destruction, and feel so sorry for all those who've lost homes and friends and family. The videos of people rushing out through fire remind me of the Gatlinburg TN fire recently and all the fires we had circling us here in the Smoky Mtns., waiting to see whether we'd have to flee. I feel such empathy for all of you in the midst of this apocalypse. Be safe.
posted by MovableBookLady at 6:42 PM on October 11, 2017

We got some very very good people on this here website. Of this I am certain.

My sincerest thanks to you all.
posted by Dr. Wu at 7:12 PM on October 11, 2017 [2 favorites] just came across my twitter feed and is blowing my mind with its visuals. (I'm obsessively checking wind direction and speed.)
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 8:50 PM on October 11, 2017

Thinking of you, MeFites in and near the fire zones. I'm pretty broke but I have a lot of stuff. Stuff that I need to get rid of as I'm moving out of the country at the end of the year. Some of the stuff is baby related (portable crib with sheets, a couple of strollers, a couple of baby car seats, etc.) because my grandkids were recently visiting. Other things include adult gal clothes, bedding, kitchen stuff, etc. I was going to have a moving sale on behalf of Food Not Bombs in honour of jessamyn. But I'm happy to figure out a way to deliver useful stuff to MeFites in need as a result of the fire. I live in the East Bay near Berkeley. Drop me a line over the next few weeks if I may have something you need.
posted by Bella Donna at 9:17 PM on October 11, 2017 [4 favorites]

We are still staying with my mom in Napa because smoke in St Helena was making us sick, especially my 4.5 year old. So we left for Napa even though we weren’t evacuated. Now Calistoga (next town north of St Helena) is entirely mandated to evacuate. And the south end of Napa (where my mom’s house is) is starting to advise evacuation. I can’t even explain how this feels. My family is safe, we are fortunate. Our house in St Helena still is not in any fire danger. My mom’s house should be safe.... but we just don’t know. The fires are creeping closer, and closer from almost all directions. We are all ready to evacuate if we need to. So there is nothing to do right now but wait and worry.
posted by Swisstine at 9:31 PM on October 11, 2017 [4 favorites]

Oh Swisstine, what a nightmare. So sorry to hear it. I'm worried on your behalf.
posted by Bella Donna at 9:42 PM on October 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

Swisstine, if at all possible, head south. The South Bay is the safest place right now. We're in Millbrae and have friends who have evacuated to San Jose. Please get your family out of harm's way - don't hesitate.
posted by Dr. Wu at 10:13 PM on October 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

I live in SF and work in West Menlo. This is what the air was like at work today. This is what it should look like. It was so bad that our building management people turned off the intake for our HVAC, because it was smelling like a campfire inside. Which is wrong.

I just stepped outside, here in the Mission, and the air smells like smoke. It didn't, a couple of hours ago, so the winds must have shifted (though it's not windy at all here right now). It's going to be bad all over the Bay Area for the next several days at least, and because of microclimates, it's going to be worse/better in weirdly unpredictable places. I have had a low-grade headache and scratchy throat and weepy eyes for days. When I blow my nose, it's (sorry) all grody and black. And we're ~60 miles from the fires.

For some reason, finding out that the entire town of Calistoga was being evacuated made me lose it today. I've only been there once - I sat in a mud bath, it was awesome, everyone should do this - so it's not like I have great personal attachment to it. But still. The whole town.

With you all in horror and sorrow.
posted by rtha at 11:21 PM on October 11, 2017 [9 favorites]

I'm in the south part of SF. You wouldn't think the air quality would be too bad, but because we're in a small valley we have the worst little microclimate where all the bad air is getting trapped. It was weird on Sunday, just sort of smelled like a neighbor was BBQing, but yesterday it smelled like burning insulation. Today was milder thank god. The real problem is my mom has very bad asthma and she is stuck in the house for the foreseeable future- she took the dog out Monday and had one of the worst asthma attacks she's had in years. Sfstate keeps emailing me with campus air quality alerts. I mean, we are so fucking far south and there's enough particulates here that they're telling people like my mom to stay indoors and close all the windows. It's nuts.

A friend of ours lost her house. All we know at this time is that her family is safe- but the house in Napa was lost. But we haven't gotten any more info. My thoughts are with all of you. Please be safe.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 12:18 AM on October 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

Air quality index for most of the bay area is Unhealthy today. I suspect that aside from the obvious dangers, there will be a rash of respiratory illnesses in the next months as an indirect effect of the fires.

It smells worse in my office than my house, but then my house doesn't have an HVAC system...
posted by suelac at 8:29 AM on October 12, 2017

I'm not the only one compulsively checking the news, etc. about the Northern California fires, right? So hard to focus on work. Woke up to a report from KQED (SF NPR radio station) talking about the collections that many had lost in the fire and heard the name of Bernie Krause. He is a friend of a friend, a musician as well as a pioneer in wild soundscapes. Turns out he had an enormous collection of musical instruments and recordings at his Glen Ellen home and studio., which burned to the ground. I believe all of the musical instruments and perhaps some of the recordings were lost. I am glad he survived of course. Mostly stuff is stuff. But the photos and important documents and health records and collections that fire victims have lost, including our own Dr. Wu ... so tragic! Not as tragic as the lost lives but really hard nonetheless.
posted by Bella Donna at 12:16 PM on October 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

They've cancelled classes at sfstate through Sunday. The air is that bad. I'm just... really hoping my Mom's going to be okay, because even with all the windows closed this morning my room smelled like smoke. She's got her little air purifier and air con- but they cancelled classes. They don't do that unless it's really bad.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 2:15 PM on October 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

We've been following along at home here in Portland, where we had smoke and ash in the air from the Eagle Creek fire for a while.

Sibilatorix's parents' house is burnt to the ground. A friend of theirs works at PG&E or something and was able to take a couple photos for them. It looks like a scene from some sort of apocalypse movie. There's nothing left but a few bits of metal, and, amazingly, there are plants still green in their planters?!

I was just reading a 2015 Mother Jones article about California's prisoner firefighters. (via)
Prison reform advocates have raised concerns that the state is so reliant on the cheap labor of inmate firefighters that policymakers may be slow to adopt prison reforms as a result. The concern was magnified last fall, when lawyers for state Attorney General Kamala Harris argued that extending an early prison-release program to “all minimum custody inmates at this time would severely impact fire camp participation—a dangerous outcome while California is in the middle of a difficult fire season and severe drought.” Harris has since said she was “troubled” by the argument, and the state has ruled that minimum custody inmates, including firefighters, are eligible for the program so long as it proves not to deplete the numbers of inmate firefighters.

These fires are being fought in part by prisoners, some of whom may only still be prisoners so California can have cheap firefighters. I don't even. Here is a list of organizations working for prisoners' rights in California.
posted by aniola at 5:35 PM on October 12, 2017 [16 favorites]

Thank you aniola! I went looking for prisoners' rights organizations this morning (I was specifically looking for inmate firefighter-related orgs, which might be why I came up short).

A quick Google search for inmate firefighter or CDCR fire camps will provide a ton of background. These people are putting their lives on the line for pennies a day and they often can't get jobs as firefighters once they're released because most fire departments won't hire convicted felons.

IM firefighters either need to be paid a decent wage and be assured of a job once they're released, or the fire program needs to cease.
posted by elsietheeel at 5:47 PM on October 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'm deeply troubled by the fact that, apart from the one official statement/thoughtsandprayers, I don't think Trump has mentioned the fires. 30 people died. Thousands and thousands of homes and buildings, gone. And nothing.
posted by Room 641-A at 5:59 PM on October 12, 2017 [4 favorites]

Homo neanderthalensis, I understand your concern about the air quality. It's not healthy. According to NPR, this week the air pollution in the 9 counties of the San Francisco Bay Area has been the worst since 1999 when officials began collecting data. That said, a fellow MeFite turned me on to how to make your own HEPA air filter for only 30 clams. Last night an East Bay Target had a crucial ingredient, 20-inch box fans, for 20 bucks. Best of luck to you and your mom!
posted by Bella Donna at 6:36 PM on October 12, 2017 [4 favorites]

(I feel like I should note that my mom retired after 20+ years in CDCR working directly with inmates, and my stepdad retired from CDCR after 35+ years working with inmates, specifically in the fire camps when he first started in state service. They both think that inmate firefighters are undercompensated and that it's a travesty that fire departments won't hire felons, despite extensive on-the-job experience and proven rehabilitation [CDCR stands for California Department of Corrections and REHABILITATION]. It's absolutely shameful the way prisoners are treated in the US, yes, even in California.)
posted by elsietheeel at 6:47 PM on October 12, 2017 [14 favorites]

We're staying in Millbrae for the time being - likely through the weekend. The winds are predicted to pick up again over the next few days, I understand, and that means we will stay away from Sonoma County.

We've had an incredible number of offers for places to live. Some from old friends, some from new friends, some from people we've never met. (And our renters' insurance can provide for short-to-medium-term residence, as well - that claim is in process.) Even with the world going to shit right now in so many ways, kindness like this truly does restore my faith in humanity. (I don't know if I've ever actually meant it when I've used that cliché.) We have been unable to accept any offer with 100% certainty because the fires, the winds, and the evacuations are making everything too unpredictable. Fortunately, our friends in Millbrae are very kind and welcoming, and insist that we stay as long as we need to.

We are still safe, and were even able to meet up with one of our son's preschool friends today in San Jose. Tiny fragments of normalcy here and there.

Thank you all for your kind wishes and support. I'll update again when I can.
posted by Dr. Wu at 9:27 PM on October 12, 2017 [17 favorites]

Also I just flossed my teeth for the first time in 3 or 4 days, and that felt fantastic.
posted by Dr. Wu at 10:05 PM on October 12, 2017 [18 favorites]

This is so painful. I grew up in Sonoma County and watching all these familiar places being destroyed is breaking my heart.

My brother-in-law's sister and her husband had just started a cruise up here in the San Juan Islands, so they were not at home, which may have saved their lives. They lost everything except their identification and the clothes they had packed. Unfortunately, they are around 80, lived in Sonoma County all their lives and lost a lifetime of irreplaceable memories. The cruise line got them transportation from Friday Harbor so they were able to get back to the area and are staying with one of their daughters. The only thing left of their house is the fireplace and chimney. I am happy they are alive and they have far more resources than most people. Given their ages and that they'd lived in Santa Rosa all their lives they will never really recover from this.

I see that Penngrove is under advisory evacution now. That is so close to where I lived. One of my best friends went to one of the last one room schools in California in Penngrove.

This year has taken so much from so many of us that I am stunned.
posted by Altomentis at 10:48 PM on October 12, 2017 [4 favorites]

Careful on that Penngrove evacuation note, it was sent by accident and is just a reiteration of the same areas that were evacuated earlier in the week. I'd really describe that as east Rohnert Park. Also, if you're not on Nixle, get on Nixle.

I'm in Petaluma. I know a couple of folks who lost houses in the Coffey Park area, and a surprising number who thought they had but didn't. Getting texts about power coming back on now. Aside from being on edge and the awful smoke, I'm getting along fine down here in Petaluma.

Still on edge, both for myself and for folks up in Lake County who survived the fires of the last two years and are now seeing the Tubbs fire head their way, and for what's happening over in the Sonoma valley (from two sides). And, of course, the Atlas fire over on the east side of Napa valley that's also bothering Solano county.

And totally on edge about the winds forecast for this weekend. I think my house is pretty safe, but there's a lot of area at risk.

Aaaaand, beyond the personal tragedies, in an area where housing is already tight this is going to make the local economy of the next few years very interesting. For "may you live in ... times" values of "interesting".
posted by straw at 10:52 AM on October 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

Charles Schulz's home is destroyed. The museum is fine, though closed due to lack of power.
posted by Melismata at 1:58 PM on October 13, 2017

All the best for MeFi’s impacted and thank you for this thread. I’m in Terra Linda/Northern San Rafael. Far enough away from the fires for us to be more than safe (though some dipshit arsonist tried to light a scrub fire across the 101 earlier this week - fuck that guy) - but close enough that we have evacuation center near us, the smoke/ash has been a constant reminder, and the kids schools are closed.

Mrs Inflatablekiwi and I had our first date night in ages in Sonoma on Saturday night, and I was totally excited to find out last Sunday that there is a NZ bakery near Santa Rosa that I’d been planning to goto this weekend to try their meat pies, and now it’s a nightmare up that way. Unreal - such a beautiful part of Nothern California. Stay safe everyone.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 2:14 PM on October 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

I live and work in Downtown Santa Rosa. It feels much longer than six days have passed. I’ve heard so many stories; losing everything, near-misses, grace under pressure, worry, anger, escape. Places I visited just last weekend are in ruins. My parents still haven’t returned; their house is still ok but they live in a mandatory evacuation zone. I’m just hoping that the wind we are expecting for the weekend doesn’t make things worse.
posted by Eikonaut at 10:27 AM on October 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

My grandmother lives in a retirement facility up near the old round barn in Santa Rosa, off Fountaingrove. She was evacuated, along with everyone else, by firefighters in the middle of the night. She had gone down to hear what the noise was (there are no night staff) and didn't realize she'd be evacuating right at that moment, so she left in her nightgown and tennis shoes with no glasses, phone, meds, wallet. It took most of Monday for us to locate her at Finley. My uncle-by-marriage picked her up and took her to his home in Novato, where my aunt retrieved her and took her to Sacramento. The family has arranged for her to get her prescriptions, access Facebook/video poker, get some clothes, and new glasses.

The facility sustained minor damage, but is basically fine; they don't know when people will be able to return home. I'm grateful Grandma is safe, although I know the stress of displacement is nothing to sneeze at. Still fretting about other friends whose homes are threatened, or who are suffering from the smoke.
posted by linettasky at 12:32 PM on October 14, 2017 [3 favorites]

A friend of mine created a Facebook page, Homes For Sonoma/Napa Fire Evacuees, for connecting people who need rooms/homes with people who can offer that spaces like that. Particularly, now,
It's becoming increasingly clear that fire evacuees aren't just looking for short term housing, they are looking to the future, want stability, and want to find permanent solutions now. If you are in touch with a rental company anywhere in Marin, Sonoma, or Solano Counties, please let me know. Or, if you are someone that has a rental property that you are willing to rent, post or PM me. We are going to start a file (as soon as I figure out how to do that!), for all short term housing hosts, as well as long term rentals. Ask around if you can. Let's find people some stable apartments, homes, condos, RV's and town homes!
So please y'all, ask around to see who's got connections with rental companies or landlords who might be able to help this situation.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 5:05 PM on October 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

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