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Evacuating disabled people from Kincade fire with power out, winds howling

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Smoke from the Kincade fire partially obscures the sun as it rises above Chalk Hill Road near Healdsburg, Calif., on Sunday.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Heather Deghi oversees a care facility for disabled people in Windsor. When the Kincade fire broke out, she anticipated possible evacuations, similar to what she went through during the Tubbs fire just two years ago.

When she got the word to leave, one of her first priorities was to keep those in her care calm. Her clients live with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, among other mental illnesses.

Major major disruptions can be especially negative for those whose health relies on routine.

“I tried to take away from the severity and reality of it as much as I can,” she said. “Change and trauma is not easily tolerable.”

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Deghi and her 10-year-old daughter, Ava, said they could see the glow of the Kincade fire over the hills.

Their neighborhood had been pitch-black for hours following power outages, but their home didn’t lose electricity until shortly before they had to evacuate at 4 a.m. Sunday.

When the sheriff shouted for people to evacuate over a loudspeaker, Deghi and her family left the area with three clients whose families were not able to retrieve them. They’ve landed at the Petaluma Veterans Hall, alongside several other families and pets.

The Deghis hope that their neighborhood won’t be consumed by flames, but they understand the possibility of destruction. “The winds are so unpredictable.”

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Evacuating the frail and disabled during blackouts has become an issue since PG&E started the blackouts aimed at reducing wildfire risk.

Several youths who live at a treatment center were also hunkered down at the Petaluma Veterans Hall following evacuation orders.

Ximiya Jenkins, 18, said staff had told them to pack a go-bag in anticipation of evacuations. Jenkins said that although she felt calm during the process, stress was running high.

If the group leaves the evacuation center, Jenkins said they’ll first need to ensure that that their spots remain secured for a return.

Sunday morning, the giant banquet hall inside the center was packed with cots, and in an adjacent room, a home-style breakfast of pancakes, eggs and sausage links was served.

Some watched the local news in a nearby space, as others filed in and out of the hallways, unsure of their next move.

“I’m trying to figure out what’s going on,” one woman was overheard saying into a phone.


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