Safe harbors open for Valley evacuees

An estimated 400 to 500 people were already at Sonoma Valley High School by 10 a.m. Monday and more were coming in all the time.

The high school on Broadway and Ramekins Culinary School, on West Spain Street, were being used as evacuation centers for Valley residents escaping the flames.

Evacuees at the high school had plenty of room. Tables and chairs were set up in Golton Hall, Pfeiffer Gym and the multi-purpose room. There were large-screen TVs set up in both the gym and the multi-purpose room carrying the latest news on the conflagration.

The high school was also pet friendly as there were numerous leashed dogs wandering around the gym with their humans.

There was plenty of food and water, and sandwiches were being served in the multi-purpose room. Outside the gym, employees of Cochon Volant BBQ parked the company's food truck and were cooking up a storm, serving pulled pork to a long line of evacuees.

The high school was opened at about 4:30 a.m. Monday and was being staffed by at least 20 volunteers wearing yellow lanyards so they could be seen.

Nicole Ducarroz, who's also a school board member, was one of the volunteers. She and her family fled their Glen Ellen home at about 3 a.m.

“I started packing at about 1 a.m.,” she said. They first went to her late mother's condo, but ended up in the parking lot at Lucky before making her way to the high school.

Sonoma Planning Director David Goodison said the biggest need was cots, especially at the Sonoma Valley Veterans Memorial Building where he said they had evacuated some the residents of Sonoma Developmental Center.

Bonnie Alonso left her home on Warm Springs Road at about 1 a.m. with her pooch, Charley. She was sitting in the gymnasium, fearful, not knowing if she had a house to go back to.

Michael Brady and his 6-year-old son, Sean, are Springs residents. They evacuated when Brady's wife, who works at Hanna Boys Center, left to help with the Hanna evacuation.

Another Glen Ellen resident, David Bolling, said he drove out Warm Springs Road before he evacuated with his wife, daughter, car and hamster.

Bolling said that from Arnold Drive to around the Olea B&B – about three-quarters of a mile, there was nothing left on either side of the road.

“It was almost like a nuclear bomb – it just eliminated everything,” said Bolling.

At Ramekins, B.J. Blanchard, a Glen Ellen resident who evacuated at about 3 a.m. – along with what she figured was most of the town – said there was about 50 people at the facility.

“We collected our passports, birth certificates and dog,” she said. She and her husband fled toward Sonoma stopping at Madrone Road to see the orange sky in the Kenwood area. “We tried to go back to see what was left, but we couldn't get by the barriers on Highway 12 and Madrone,” she said.

As with the high school, there are plenty of dogs and cats with their owners.

Nick Brown, who lives off Dunbar Road was awakened at around 1:30 a.m. When he saw a dozer go by, he decided it was time to evacuate, and he managed to get out just as the wall of flames reached his house.

Marge Everedge, another Glen Ellen resident who has lived at the base of Warm Springs Road since the 1950s, knew that flames raced through her property. “I have the only thing I really need,” she said, gazing at Archie Horton.

And Renee, who declined to give her last name, lives at the top of High Road, and since there's only one way out, she decided to evacuate.

“Victoria Campbell, Ramekins manager, got in around 3 a.m. and we had a hot breakfast and a hot lunch,” Blanchard said. “They had signs on the door inviting people to come in,” a touch Blanchard appreciated when she showed up at 3 a.m.

“There are a few tears,” she said. “But everybody's calm.”

BJ Blanchard contributed to the story.

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