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Santa Rosa under siege as huge fire carves path of destruction

Santa Rosa was under siege Monday from a wildfire that quickly burned 20,000 acres and had residents running for their lives.

The Tubbs fire broke out near the northern end of the city, forcing the evacuations of hundreds of homes as well as two hospitals. Witnesses said homes and businesses had burned but it was not clear how many.

The area of Fountaingrove appeared to be particularly hard hit, with photos showing numerous homes as well as the landmark inn on fire. Officials said homes were also lost in the community of Kenwood and at a mobile home park off the 101 Freeway.

Firefighters were also battling flames that had badly damaged a Hilton resort in the Fountaingrove area.

While many evacuation centers were set up, some were filled to capacity due to the large number of people fleeing.

Dramatic video shows the scene as workers wheeled patients in beds out of one hospital as flames approached.

Residents said the fire jumped U.S. 101 north of downtown Santa Rosa, burning a mobile home park and a hotel. Highway 101 and Highway 12 were closed.

Late Sunday night, Ken Moholt-Siebert noticed the smell of the smoke from his Santa Rosa vineyard just off Highway 101.

It was not until midnight that he spotted the flames: a small red glow growing a couple of ridges to the east, off Fountaingrove Parkway.

He ran up the hill on his property to turn on a water pump to protect the ranch his family has had been raising sheep and growing grapes on for four generations.

Before the pump could get the water fully flowing a small ember from the Tubbs Fire landed nearby. With the wind picking up, the ember sparked a spot fire about 50 feet in diameter. Then it was 100 feet in diameter.

"There was no wind, then there would be a rush of wind and it would stop. Then there would be another gust from a different direction," Moholt-Siebert, 51, said. "The flames wrapped around us."

He ran for cover.

"I was just being pelted with all this smoke and embers," he said. "It was just really fast."

Moholt-Siebert retreated through a 150 year old redwood barn on his property -- where his son's wedding reception had been held in June. He jumped a fence back toward his house and fell to the ground to catch gulps of less smoke-contaminated air before reaching his home.

As he fled with his wife Melissa in their Ford sedans the flames reached their vineyard full of Pinor Noir grapes and crept toward a 200 year old oak tree on the property -- the namesake for the family winery, Ancient Oak Cellars.

As he drove through falling embers and smoke he thought about what he left behind. The sheep on his ranch, he thought, would be safe since they were on shortly cut wet grass. He left behind family mementos and furniture from his grandparents.

The property was dotted with old Valley and Black Oak trees as well as some California ash trees.

"That is probably all gone," Moholt-Siebert said. "I have a feeling there is not going to be much left."

Other witnesses described the drive through devastated landscapes.

“It was an inferno like you’ve never seen before,” Marian Williams, who caravanned with neighbors through flames before dawn near the town of Kenwood, told the Associated Press. “Trees were on fire like torches.”

A huge swath of Santa Rosa was under evacuation orders Monday, north of Steele Lane on both sides of the 101.

The Santa Rosa Press-Democrat said homes were lost in the Sky Farm subdivision, the Fountaingrove neighborhood as well as at the Journey’s End mobile home park.

Here are the latest evacuation and shelter details from the city of Santa Rosa:

Evacuation orders have been issued for residents of the following Santa Rosa neighborhoods due to approaching fires:

  • Cross Creek Road
  • Sky Farm Drive
  • Saint Andrews Drive
  • All residences north of Fountaingrove Parkway
  • Montecito Heights
  • The Hopper Avenue Area west of Coffey Lane (Between Dennis Lane and Hopper Avenue to the north and south and Coffey Lane and Barnes Road to the east and west)
  • All residences east of Fulton Road, between Piner Road and Guerneville Road
  • Kaiser Permanente Hospital and Sutter Hospital are being evacuated

Shelters:

  • Sonoma County Fairgrounds at 1350 Bennet Valley Road, Santa Rosa
  • Finley Community Center at 2060 West College Ave., Santa Rosa (this shelter is at capacity)
  • Santa Rosa Veterans Building at 1351 Maple Ave., Santa Rosa (this shelter is at capacity)
  • Petaluma Community Center at 320 N. McDowell Blvd., Petaluma (this shelter is at capacity)
  • Sebastopol Community Center at 390 Morris St., Sebastopol
  • Cloverdale Citrus Fair at 1 Citrus Fair Drive, Cloverdale
  • Sonoma Valley High School at 20000 Broadway, Sonoma
  • Analy High School Gym at 6950 Analy Ave., Sebastopol
  • Elsie Allen High School, 599 Bellevue Ave., Santa Rosa
  • Healdsburg Community Center at 1157 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg
  • Church of Christ at 370 Sonoma Mountain Parkway, Petaluma
  • New Life Church at 1310 Clegg St., Petaluma
  • Cook Middle School at 2480 Sebastopol Road, Santa Rosa
  • Guerneville Veterans Hall at 16255 1st St., Guerneville
  • Monte Rio School at 20700 Foothill Drive, Monte Rio
  • Windsor High School at 8695 Windsor Road, Windsor
  • Casa Grande High School at 3333 Casa Grande Road, Petaluma

ALSO

Smoke from Wine Country fires billows into Bay Area, prompting air quality warnings

Santa Rosa Hilton Hotel, Kmart engulfed in flames

At least 1,500 structures destroyed by rampaging Northern California wildfires


UPDATES:

11:25 a.m.: Updated with scenes from Santa Rosa.

9:30 p.m.: Updated with more damage in Santa Rosa.

8:30 a.m.: Updated with details on homes lost.

Originally posted at 7:30 a.m.

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