It was around 4 a.m. Monday when they opened up Pfeiffer Gym at Sonoma Valley High to start getting things ready for people fleeing the rash of wildfires that started only a few hours earlier.
Monday morning it was food and water, tables and chairs as evacuees milled around in and outside of the gym. But it wasn’t long before the call went out for cots because this wasn’t going to be a one-day event.
By Wednesday, volunteers had more than 150 cots set up in the gym and were setting up an additional 100 cots awaiting another influx of evacuees.
The gym more resembled a dormitory as people had their pets and belongings with them.
Along a section of the bleachers on the east side were stacks of clothing, sorted and marked for “men,” “women,” and “children” broken out into “girls” and “boys.” In a section of bleachers on the west side of the gym, were stacks of pillows, towels, blankets and sheets.
In the Pavilion, which was doing double-duty as a dormitory and a cafeteria, there was a huge stack of toys along one wall, while one of the corners contained boxes of personal goods – diapers, toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo and the like.
But people weren’t sleeping just in the gym. SVHS administrators had turned Golton Hall, the library and the Pavilion into makeshift dormitories.
The kitchen in the Pavilion was filled with food and more was coming in all the time while a food truck from Concord was outside serving up burgers and fries.
Loyal Carlon, the school district’s human resources director, was standing outside the gym with a radio in hand directing traffic, answering questions and giving directions.
“It’s been great to see the caring,” he said.
“There are 25 to 30 school district volunteers at the high school at any one time trying to keep things running smoothly for the people who had to flee the fires,” Carlon said. “We also have a number of nurses who are volunteering 24-hours-a-day for health needs.”
Cars were lined up outside the gym dropping off food or other needed items. One man from an animal rescue organization opened his trunk and unloaded three large bags of dog food.
“People just keep showing up with stuff,” Carlon said. “And people who have been here three days look comfortable.”
He said that a food truck showed up first thing Monday morning, another from Concord showed up Tuesday and Wednesday while a local taco truck set up shop in the parking lot Tuesday.
Tim Curley, a teacher at El Verano, was wandering the gym floor, answering questions. “People are in pretty good spirits,” he said. “And these are people who don’t know what they lost – and can’t find out.”
Sonoma Valley High teacher Peter Hansen was helping out in the Pavilion despite the fact that he watched his Henno Road house go up in flames early Monday morning. “I was watching the flames lap the back of the house and trying to decide whether or not to go in an save a few things, but I thought if the heat burst the tires on my car, I’d really be in trouble,” he said. He left empty-handed.
Sonoma Valley High grad Molly Curley O’Brien, who lives in Berkeley, brought 300 breakfast burritos to the school – and ended up sticking around volunteering.