A previous version of this article stated that two sources–– Kyle Guerrero and Michael Gies–– both said that they were helping put out the fire “simply because they liked to put out fires.” While this was true for Gies, Guerrero later made it clear that he was putting out fires “until the firefighters could get the time to get to the location [where] we and other people [were] that [were] helping out.” This change has been made to better reflect the source’s voice.
NAPA, Calif. — The Atlas fire in Sonoma County began late in the evening Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017, and forced residents in its path to evacuate throughout the night and into the following day.
One place of refuge is Napa Valley College, where classes were canceled and the gym was turned into a shelter. The shelter is sponsored by Red Cross, for which April Salvadori was volunteering.
“We get a phone call. It says ‘we need help,’ and that is what happened today,” Salvadori said. “We set the first [shelter] up at Community Cross Roads Church and I checked with my lead, and they said ‘Yup we need help over here.’ So the county set up this, and we’re just here supporting them.”
The gym at Napa Valley College was stocked with water, snacks and catered food as local restaurants stepped up to feed those in need.
“We have packaged foods that we have as well as food that was donated from commercial kitchens,” Salvadori said. “We’ve also had a couple of different restaurants donate food and the Salvation Army has also brought food; they served breakfast and lunch.”
One of the many volunteers was Elizabeth Harris, who is a caterer for weddings. Since she was off and currently unaffected, she came down to help serve those in need.
“I live in Browns Valley and, just as a part of this community, wanted to help,” Harris said. “I wasn’t personally affected by the fire, but I wanted to be here to give support and help with feeding these people and making sure they have everything they need.”
While she wasn’t affected, her family was, but she soon discovered they were okay via Facebook.
“I have some family members that I’m pretty sure they’ve lost their house,” Harris said. “We can’t call, because of the phones [being down], but I talked to them a couple times last night, and today through social media. Facebook is amazing right now because you’re able to keep up with all your friends and see what’s happening.”
The Napa Valley College gym had taken in an estimated 120 evacuees as of 1:30 p.m., said Salvatore.
One man at the shelter, Jim Gentry, had not yet been evacuated, but was there to get his wife farther away from the fire because she had breathing issues. While his home was safe, the house he was working at on Wild Horse Valley Road was in the direct line of fire and he was sure he lost all of his tools.
Up on Wild Horse Valley Road, an officer from neighboring American Canyon Police Department was positioned next to a “road closed” sign where it intersects with Green Valley Road, stopping residents and onlookers from entering.
Rancher Ron Stevens is also positioned there— waiting for updates on his property after evacuating as much livestock as he could in the middle of the night.
“At 3:30 this morning, we were told to evacuate the stock,” Stevens said. “We got the stock out by 6:30 a.m. and the roads had been closed. I’ve got three houses up there and I understand one of them burned down. It was just a perfect storm, we couldn’t get a fire truck. They just didn’t have anything available.”
Stevens said he got most of his livestock out, but a couple cows and pigs still remain on the property and he cannot get them. He said he did talk to one of the firefighters on their way down and was told they were safe at that time.
Stevens got his livestock out, while Sabrina Clark came from Pleasant Hill with her trailer to rescue her horses from where they were boarded and has not been able to access the property on Wild Horse Road.
“I’ve been here for about six hours,” Clark said. “They’ve told me the road is blocked and my horses are all the way at the top of Wild Horse Valley Road. I just want to bring them to a hopefully new boarding place away from the fire.”
It doesn’t appear that Stevens or Clark will be able to access the properties, though, as the fire continued to spread through the area. It eventually reached Green Valley Road around 4 p.m. where volunteers from out of town in street clothes, Kyle Guerrero and Michael Gies, were putting out flames and saving homes.
Guerrero’s goals were to assist those who needed help and to slow down fires, while Gies said he simply liked to put out fires.