Santa Rosa’s Coffey Park neighborhood is completely gone after raging wildfires
At least 10 people are dead and more than 1,500 homes, businesses and other buildings were destroyed Monday, when more than 14 fires hit eight different counties in the northern part of the state. One area of Santa Rosa, California, the Coffey Park neighborhood, was utterly destroyed by one of the fires, as a before-and-after photo posted by the Los Angeles Times, obtained by the California Highway Patrol shows.
Much of Santa Rosa was evacuated Monday morning as the fire swept through the city.
Cal Fire director Ken Pimlott told the LA Times that high winds and dry conditions as California recovers from years of drought made the firestorm possible, though the causes for the fires have not yet been determined.
“Late last night starting around 10 o’clock you had 50 to 60 mph winds that surfaced — really across the whole northern half of the state,” he said. “Every spark is going to ignite… This is exactly what you would expect in the Southern California fall fire season.”
— Jackie Ward (@jackie_ward) October 9, 2017
Families fleeing the Coffey Park neighborhood described driving for safety with trees and buildings burning around them, including Jen Ancic, a 31-year-old mom of two who left Santa Rosa with her two sons and her boyfriend.
“The whole town was on fire,” she told the Times, adding that although wildfires aren’t uncommon in California, “nothing like this has happened in Santa Rosa.”
“It was crazy,” she said, describing the neighborhood’s namesake Coffey Park, where she had played at as a child, and where she had just held one of her sons’ birthday parties, now destroyed by the fire. “There’s nothing left.”
— Justine Waldman (@JustineWaldman) October 9, 2017
Also destroyed in the fires was the Santa Rosa campus of Anova Center for Education, a specialized school for students with autism. The school was attended by 120 high-functioning students ranging in age from five to 22. It was the only nonprofit school for people with autism in the area. To make matters worse, the school had just finished two years of fundraising for a $75,000 new playground structure, which was burned in the boxes in which it was delivered to the school.
“There’s no other options because what we do is so specialized,” Andrew Bailey, the school’s CEO and founder, told SFGate Monday. “It felt like we lost our home and we’re out of a place to live.”
— SFChronicle (@sfchronicle) October 10, 2017
All told, the fires burned around 73,000 acres in Northern California, and the New York Times reported more than 200,000 people were forced to evacuate their homes. According to local officials, seven people were reported dead in Sonoma County. At least two died in Napa, and an additional person was reported dead in the Redwood Valley fire in Mendocino County. The 14 fires were part of a firestorm that ravaged 73,000 acres in just a few short hours, and authorities expect the death toll to rise as first responders and rescue teams continue searching for the missing.
Undoubtedly, more tragic information will come to light as time passes and we learn more about the fires. Reading the news feels helpless and crushingly sad, but we still have to pull together to do what we can to help the communities that are now faced with rebuilding.
To help, local news sources recommend giving to the Red Cross, which helps distribute disaster relief aid. You can donate online, call 1-800 RED CROSS or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a one-time, $10 donation.