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California

Guerneville was evacuated and dark. But these die-hards drank Sierra Nevada beer and sang karaoke

Shopkeepers in Healdsburg, Calif.
Sodhi Singh, left, and Navneet Singh prepare to close down their gas station and convenience store after the lights went out in Healdsburg, Calif., about 8 p.m. Saturday ahead of expected high winds in the Kincade fire area.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

This wine country town was largely evacuated and the power was out.

But at 9 p.m., at Betty Spaghetti restaurant just off the main drag, about a dozen die-hards were performing karaoke as a generator hummed the background beat.

Alcohol was flowing freely.

“We are evacuating our brains,” said Cathie Shore, Sierra Nevada beer in hand.

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Within minutes, she would be singing “Margaritaville” with two friends.

“We have decided if the worst comes to worst, we’ll just run to Johnson’s Beach,“ she said of the nearby Russian River.

The crowd was going against the strong words of authorities, who urged more than 90,000 people in Sonoma County to get out as winds picked up and the Kincade fire kept growing.

Guerneville was among numerous communities evacuated Saturday, including Windsor and Healdsburg all the way south to the northern edges of Santa Rosa and out to Bodega Bay on the coast.

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The fire has burned more than 25,000 acres.

As the music slid into Billy Idol’s “White Wedding,” Stephen Gross and his poodle, Little Boots, decided to head home. They too were staying in town.

“I have roots here,” he said. “I have faith on many levels.”

A few blocks away, the mood was very different.

There, nine buses from the Sonoma Valley Unified School District were lined up as sheriff’s deputies went door to door trying to convince Guernville’s residents the threat was real.

“Right now they don’t think it’s serious,“ bus driver Matt Stranko said.

Two older women were waiting to get on and Stranko was helping them load their bicycles. One lived a few miles away in a trailer park and rode into town holding a flashlight on that bike. For many in this rugged town, the buses were the only way out.

They don’t have cars.


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