California State University East Bay

The Pioneer

Returning home after the wildfires

Photo courtesy of Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times

Photo courtesy of Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times

Joshua Williams,
Contributor

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As wildfires began to rage through Napa and Sonoma Counties, many citizens were told to evacuate immediately. On Oct. 11, Amber Myers, mother of two, quickly gathered her children and a few belongings and evacuated their home in Rohnert Park within 20 minutes.

“I had never witnessed anything like this before,” Myers told The Pioneer.

Myers and her two children headed towards Alameda County. They were shocked to see how many cars were backed up on the streets, crowded with evacuees. After driving through all the traffic, they made it to the Marriott Hotel in Pleasanton.

The October North Bay fires have now been called the most destructive and deadliest in the state’s history. More than 200,000 acres burned and thousands of homes destroyed with insured losses estimated at $3.3 billion. By the end of October, the death toll was approximately 40 people, and roughly 200 people were considered missing, according to reports.

On Oct. 15, Rohnert Park residents were finally able to return home after being evacuated. Although it was safe for the Myers family and many others to return home, their lives had forever changed.

Wildfires had spread rapidly and destroyed properties, but the Myers residence had no physical damage. However, the area was affected by massive amounts of smoke and ash, which made it difficult to breathe. The polluted air made it difficult for the Myers to attend school and go to work.

“There’s a change in the atmosphere to where the sky looks pink and purple from the wildfire smoke,” said Meyers’ son, Raymond Gillespie. They found it extremely harsh to breathe in the air around the area.

Gillespie was stunned to find out that some of his friends and his employer had lost their houses in the fire. It was difficult to hear about friends becoming homeless or family members being badly injured.

Schools reopened but the faculty members did not take any chances in letting the students outside of class. When Meyer’s daughter finally went back to school, they did not go outside all week to avoid breathing the contaminated air.

Surveys were handed out to residents of Rohnert Park to gauge who needed assistance the most. Vouchers were given to the homeless, providing shelter at certain hotels. Counselors were there to support school communities, Myers said.

One of the main hotels where most victims of the fire took refuge was at the Oxford Suites Sonoma County in Rohnert Park, reports claim. The hotel was serving free breakfast and had movie night for the younger kids as well as for the adults.

“All of the hotels have been full for a long time and they still have a lot of volunteer work,” Myers said. The Red Cross and Sonoma County Volunteer Center were accepting anyone who are willing to help anyway they can by volunteering to serve food and construct fundraising.

Donations were being raised by Redwood Credit Union, State Senator Mike McGuire and numerous business leaders. Every dollar donated will go directly to the fire victims, that have lost their homes, jobs, things they cherished lost, claimed sources.

Amber Myers, along with her children, are now back on track with their daily routines. The fires are now contained, but the victims are currently fighting through this traumatizing experience. The community and volunteers, ordinary people, are trying to put the pieces back together as best as they can. Providing food, shelter and accepting any kind of donation for those who lost everything.

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Returning home after the wildfires