Some stayed behind
Gallows humor? Steve Marshall, left, and a friend share a moment of levity as fires burn behind St. Francis Winery. Photo by John Campbell.
Not everybody left town on Sunday night, Oct. 8, when people were starting to flee the fires. Even though power was out and winds were howling at up to 80 miles an hour, and the power was soon extinguished, some people just weren’t going to leave their homes.
There’s no telling at this point every person who remained. Many village residents stayed and helped clean the school, guard against intruders, and volunteer at the fire house, cooking, cleaning and making life possible for the people who slept there.
Here is a brief look at how some people in Kenwood spent those frightening days and nights.
Steve Marshall, owner of Marshall’s garage, is a Kenwood native who now lives in Healdsburg. He came to Kenwood every day to help, fixing fire engines and equipment on the spot, putting brakes on a truck hauling large animals, and bringing gasoline, food, and supplies to residents staying behind.
As time passed, Steve went door to door in many neighborhoods, looking for pets and animals that needed tending. And with the help of Aspen Mayers and Mike Scheffer of Swede’s Feeds, most of Kenwood’s animals left behind had some care.
“Steve Marshall went door to door, looking for cats trapped in houses, chickens, even in Oakmont,” Aspen said. “Steve was working with Shelly Lewis who lost a home on Treehaven. She would tell him where to go.”
As soon as the fire broke out on Sunday night, Aspen and Mike came back to Kenwood to move the store cats and some bunnies back to their Santa Rosa home. But, after Sunday, they couldn’t get back into Kenwood. That’s when Aspen started calling volunteers.
Cats, chickens, goats, pigs, horses, cows and parrots are among the many animals who were cared for by volunteers who got their food from Swede’s Feeds thanks to Aspen and Mike, who made everything in their store available to anyone who needed it.
Alex Benward was all over Kenwood and Glen Ellen, hauling a water wagon, replenishing anyone who needed it. A Glen Ellen firefighter, Benward grew up at Beltane Ranch, near ground zero for the Nuns Fire.
Another helping hand was Doug Stoeker of Kenwood. “Doug Stoecker did so much for this town,” said neighbor Abby Peterson. “While we were evacuated, he helped the whole neighborhood, closing attic vents and putting out embers. He and a large group of villagers went to Kenwood School and made sure it was as safe as it could be, leaf blowing, raking and trimming to protect the building and grounds. These weren’t all parents, either, just people who know how important the school is.”
Rocky Vogler first moved his wife, daughter and two elderly neighbors down to Sonoma. He then returned to their home on Maple Street and began rousting neighbors by knocking on doors to make sure people got out. He spent Monday helping a Glen Ellen friend save his home, doing whatever needed to be done.
“After that, it was a lot of cleanup,” Vogler said. He was among the group that cleaned up and defended the grounds of Kenwood Elementary School.
“If we lost the school, we’d have a hard time recovering as a community,” Vogler said.
Vogler spent the rest of the time securing doors and windows, explaining to strangers why they weren’t welcome at the time, and feeding animals.
“The community spirit when faced with something like that was an amazing thing to me,” Vogler said. “I hope I have more of that mindset in normal times.”
Ken Uboldi and Gail Yee were on hand to keep their Los Guilicos neighborhood safe and help anyone who needed it.
John and Pam Graziano were among a handful of people who remained on Adobe Canyon Road for the duration. A powerful 17-kilowatt generator kept their water pumping, and they were able to save their house from the flying embers that decimated the neighborhood. As home after home torched, they ran from hose to hose around the property and kept the little fires from becoming big ones. The Graziano’s provided water at the curb to anyone who needed it until the power was restored.
The whole Sonoma Valley was closed off for over 14 days, with police shutting down one “shortcut” only to find determined people coming up with another within hours.
“You know, most people were really kind,” Graziano said. “They asked what we needed and brought it, no matter how difficult it was to get here.”
People brought in 50 gallons of gasoline in five-gallon cans that the Grazianos gave away to anyone who needed it as the days wore on and their home generators ran dry. A U.S. Marshal deputy twice tracked down John Graziano to relay a message to go feed some animals stranded by the fires. They took care of chickens, rabbits, goats, and a pair of parrots.
[Disclosure: the Grazianos housed and fed me for five days.]
Next door neighbors John and Debbie Cooper were also firmly planted. When the power failed and they had no water, they carried it in buckets from another neighbor’s pool until the Graziano’s hooked them up to their water system, which worked until they got an emergency pump working a couple of days later.
Across the street and a few houses down, Mike and Patti Duane hung in there, even though they lost most of their outbuildings and their neighbor’s home burned to the ground. Their son Geoffrey flew in from Colorado to join them for a few days.
A bit further into Adobe Canyon proper, Diane Trembly waited the fire out at home with her son Harry . Together, they made sure no embers got into the nearby homes, even though their next door neighbor’s garage burned and several houses across the street were lost.
So many people opened their hearts and homes to shelter our refugees, and those who remained looked out for the rest of us who couldn’t be here. We have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.