In a newly built duplex near the Fountaingrove neighborhood where her home burned in the 2017 wine country infernos, Sharon Bowne was visibly anxious as she loaded her SUV to evacuate.
The order had come down about an hour earlier, after darkness had fallen, and with the threat that the power would be cut any moment.
“I’ve already had my meltdown today,“ she said. “They’re shutting it off and we only have two little flashlights.“
The 2017 fires burned into Santa Rosa, consuming thousands of homes in Fountaingate, Coffey Park and other communities. Dozens who could not outrun the flames died.
The Kincade fire started quite a bit north near Geyserville. On Thursday night when it broke out, Santa Rosa residents worried but were told it was far away. But Saturday, authorities ordered the evacuation of more than 90,000 people in a large swath that stretched from the northern reaches of Santa Rosa and as far south as Bodega Bay on the coast.
Fire officials said the greatest danger will come if the fire jumps Highway 101 as flames did in 2017 in some spots. They said this is a special concern around Healdsburg, where there has not been a significant fire incident since the 1940s, leaving heavy brush in the area.
Other areas under mandatory evacuation orders include Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport and Guerneville, stretching to the Pacific Ocean.
Evacuation warnings were issued to communities north and west of Santa Rosa and areas close to Napa County.
“It is truly a selfish act to stay home,” said Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick. “You can’t fight fire.”
The worst winds are expected to begin at midnight and continue through Monday.
The last time fire came through Santa Rosa, Bowne had no warning. She woke up in the middle of the night to use the restroom and smelled smoke.
Her husband told her not to worry, but her son in New York texted that fire was nearby. They barely got out, she said.
At her feet Saturday were boxes of neatly folded linens and an antique waffle maker that she didn’t want to part with. A bench with a needlepoint top wasn’t going to fit.
Every inch of space was packed. “I am so sorry I collected stuff again,” she said.