In light of recent stories about seniors being abandoned by their caregivers during the North Bay fires, Lynn H. wrote in with a tale of caregiver courage.

Lynn’s 87-year-old sister suffers from Alzheimer’s and lives at the Bella Vista Village senior care home on Sonoma Highway, one of four such facilities owned and operated by Mercedes and Julius Vegvary. When the fires first erupted, Bella Vista residents were evacuated, first to Sonoma Valley High School, and later to an evacuation center in Santa Rosa. But when family members arrived to collect Lynn’s sister, she “started losing it and regressing.”

Says Lynn: “That’s when Mercedes was called. She said, ‘Bring her back, we will take care of her.’ She was returned and happy.”

“Mercedes and Julius are heroes,” says Lynn. “They did not abandon their residents.”

When the North Bay fires first broke out, many flame-frightened folks began frequenting the Wildfire Viewer maps on a website hosted by the company Enplan – which provided free, regularly updated and easy-to-read maps of active fires in the Sonoma Valley. On Day 4 of the fires, however, the I-T received an angry email from reader Tony G. alerting us to Wildfire Viewer’s new “pricing plan” for the non-media, non-first-responder public: $10 per day, or $29 per month.

“The people running this Wildfire Viewer map should really be called out for being so shameless,” wrote Tony. “They saw an opportunity to profit off worried people in a time of crisis.”

The night before, Tony says his mom had called him at 4 a.m. to say she was packing up family photos and fleeing her house; when he went to see what kind of danger she was in at Wildfire Viewer, he ran into the new paywall.

“It’s no different than the people who sell $100 packs of water during a hurricane,” said Tony. “Disgusting.”

Jason Walsh