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Kincade Aftermath: Community Leaders Speak Out

Author: Karen Hart
January, 2020 Issue

The Kincade fire ignited on October 23 and raged for two weeks. During that time, nearly 78,000 acres were destroyed and roughly 187,000 people were evacuated. The fire was contained on Nov. 6, and this time, no lives were lost, but it’s the second major firestorm to strike the area in the last two years. NorthBay biz asked community leaders to share their thoughts as Sonoma County recovers and takes steps to rebuild, once again.

Ame & Doug Van Dyke

Proprietors

E.R. Sawyer Jewelers

Santa Rosa—Saint Helena

We cleaned and repaired more than 1,000 pieces of jewelry from the Tubbs Fire. Much of it for free. Our goldsmiths just finished the last bit of it right before the Kincade Fire. It has been a rolling two years of hard work, struggle and lack of business. People were buying couches and dining tables over jewelry. We totally get it! Many are under insured, and many have no insurance. There are priorities. Everyone was so scarred and our team became therapists, instead of jewelry professionals. It was hard. Then came the Kincade fire. We have not seen any fire jewelry from the Kincade fire, which is so great that more people did not experience that kind of loss again, but people are again scared and retracting from buying things that aren’t a necessity. We just really hope that everyone decides to support their neighbors and buy local—whether it’s jewelry, wine, soap, cheese, etc… Our community can heal itself, if we all come together and support each other.

Brian Ling

CEO & Executive Director

Sonoma County Alliance

Now more than ever it’s time to Shop Sonoma! Small, personally-owned businesses are the lifeblood of our communities’ culture and economy. The adverse impacts on these businesses are staggering to employees and customers in addition to the owners. So many of these business owners, our friends and neighbors, have a high percentage of their lifelong savings (and dreams) at risk. The success of these vulnerable businesses depends on our support every day, regardless of the immediate challenges that they face.

Every city and town in Sonoma County has a wide variety of independent businesses, ready with a plethora of opportunities to enhance our economy. Whether looking for that special gift or just taking care of basic personal needs, you can find them at your favorite downtown and retail areas. While you’re out shopping, don’t miss the chance to enjoy a unique meal, or simply a homemade breakfast treat and coffee. We all know the restaurateurs need our business more than ever.

Take some time for yourself, away from all devices, and see what’s out there. You’ll find some old friends and probably meet a few new ones. Who knows, running around downtown might make you feel young again, too!

Sonu Chandi

President/Founder

Chandi Hospitality Group

Santa Rosa

The Kincade fire was very challenging for my company. We have seen many impacts on our business during and after fires, [and] we had 10 locations closed at one point due to PSPSs or evacuations. I am thankful to our team who worked tirelessly to get all of our sites opened, and we took a leadership role to serve many families and first responders free meals at Mountain Mike's Pizza in a partnership with Redwood Credit Union. It was great to see resilience in our community, and I am looking forward to playing a key role in continued efforts to rebuild a stronger community!

Gary Hartwick

President/CEO

Exchange Bank

The Kincade fire was a reminder that we live in uncertain times and can’t take our safety for granted. As a local bank, Exchange Bank walks side by side with the community—we share the same fears and worries for the safety of our families and friends, our neighbors and the possibility of losing all that we hold dear. As a member of the community, we also share in the feelings of gratitude for the first responders, the members of law enforcement and the medical personnel who worked to aid our community.

Challenging times galvanize the true, resilient spirit of our community—the generous spirit that puts the well-being of others first. Actions that help to enhance our community and that build-up and provide support for others in time of need.

Sonoma County is our home. Our history of community service dates back to 1890—we helped rebuild Sonoma County after the 1906 earthquake and we’ve been helping to rebuilding homes and businesses since the 2017 North Bay fires.

More than ever, we are dedicated to solving challenges that can often seem insurmountable. Our hearts are with the community, committed to doing everything possible to help.

Dan Christensen, Jr.

Vice President, Business Affairs/Controller

Geyserville Inn & Geyserville Grille

The last fire and power outage really harmed our business and our employees because of the mandatory evacuation in Geyserville. It is easy to focus on the present and past; however, the affected community needs to have one common positive, pictorial message that we are still the best destination around. In my 20-plus years of having a hotel in Geyserville, I can tell you that no one knows where it is, or they think it is Guerneville, or Garberville. I hope that even with all the press about the fire, that people will know where Geyserville is, and come visit our town. We need the press to focus that we are all here still waiting for tourists with open arms. The best thing about Sonoma countians is that we are a friendly, welcoming community.

Brett Martinez

President & CEO

Redwood Credit Union

As a local organization that cares deeply about our neighbors’ emotional and financial well-being, we understand how people in our community have been affected by the Kincade fire and power outages. We’re all grateful for the incredible effort put forth by first responders from near and far, and we’re proud of our community’s resilience.

What’s become increasingly clear is that loss comes in many forms. It’s not just homes and structures—it’s also the broader impact of power outages and evacuations. Whatever the challenge, Redwood Credit Union is here for our community in good times and bad.

We knew we had to take care of our employees first, so they could take care of our members and communities. We had a strong disaster plan in place, and with generators we maintained branch and ATM availability. In some communities, we were the only financial institution available. We offered financial assistance in the form of 0 percent loans, payment deferral, reversed fees, and advanced direct deposit to help members with immediate needs.

Moving forward, we’ll continue to support our communities through local nonprofits and events to help our friends and neighbors connect and heal. We are here to help, always.

Shirlee Zane

Supervisor, Third District

County of Sonoma

In October 2017, I was awakened abruptly by my neighbor pounding on the door at 3:30 a.m. She wanted me to evacuate with her because Santa Rosa was burning down. What followed was an apocalyptic nightmare beyond my wildest dreams. 

In contrast, the Kincade fire was like being in a bad nightmare that slowly unfolds, but at some point you get that you can change the ending when your conscience takes hold. We were prepared this time. We had spent a little over two years preparing for another disastrous wildfire. The warning system had been duplicated many times. We had the high low sirens on all the Sheriff cars and we did not hesitate to evacuate, at the onset, what appeared to be an excessive amount of the population. Sunday night we gathered at the fairgrounds incident command. Upon driving in, I gasped as the hundreds of fire trucks, tents, lights and trucks that had quickly appeared overnight. It was like 2017 all over again. We huddled with our colleagues on the Windsor Town Council as they all faced the same grim possibility that they would never go back to their homes again. 

The next few days were spent running back and forth between incident command, press conferences and our major evacuation centers at the Fair and Veterans Hall. We rallied our health-care partners to send supplies, nurses and doctors to the sites that were filled with sick, elderly and disabled people. Sutter, Kaiser, Saint Josephs and the Community Healthcare Centers all stepped up rapidly to meet the needs of our most vulnerable residents.

It was nothing short of a miracle, and the dedication of our first responders saved thousands of homes and lives. On Wednesday night, I stood shoulder to shoulder with Esther Lemus from the Windsor Town Council when the CalFire Commander reported that evacuations had been lifted and people could go home. There were hugs and tears and sighs of relief.

It is no doubt that the fires took a toll on us, emotionally and economically. But we remain hopefulthat the same people who battled and lived through the 2017 fires, and now the Kincade fire, would survive and become a better community even with our many wounds and tragic losses.

 

      

 

In this Issue

The Heroes Next Door

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