The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

    Fire season raises anxiety for residents across Sonoma County


    Fall has begun to roll in, marking the beginning of what many local Rohnert Park residents and Sonoma State University students have come to recognize as ‘fire season’. Returning SSU students know that the next few months will likely be a challenge as the community braces itself for evacuations, poor air quality, and various other fire-related anxieties.

    Rohnert Park, Petaluma, Cotati, and Petaluma experienced a close fire scare last week on Tuesday, Sept. 21, when a fire, now known as the Ormsby Fire, broke out on Ormsby Lane Petaluma.

    The fire began around 1 p.m. at the home of Petaluma resident Heidi Marks and quickly spread to the surrounding vegetation of eucalyptus, cypress, and juniper trees.

    Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office sent out an evacuation order for zone SON-5K1 Penngrove at 2 p.m. 900 homes were evacuated as residents were encouraged to remain calm and evacuate as quickly as possible while California Highway Patrol could be heard driving through the streets blasting hi-lo sirens to alert residents of the evacuation order.

    With temperatures that day reaching over 90 degrees and the threat the surrounding vegetation posed with the rapid spread of the fire, over 150 firefighters were called in while CalFire aircrafts were seen making water drops and providing aerial support.

    Luckily, by 2:40 p.m., forward progression of the fire had ceased, and ground crews were able to begin cleanup. By 3:30, the evacuation order had been lifted and residents were allowed to return to their homes.

    The fire had spread across 15 acres, damaging Marks’ home along with several other outbuildings. Marks and her family were not harmed and only one firefighter was reported to have experienced minor burn-related injuries.  

    A second fire, called the Fremont Fire, was reported the next day, the first day of Autumn, Wednesday, Sept. 22, near Sonoma and Napa County lines.

    The vegetation fire, which started around 2 p.m., burned over 116 acres and was not fully contained until the following morning.

    Fortunately, the fire was not close enough to be a threat to any homes or buildings so no evacuation was needed.

    The causes of both fires are currently under investigation by CalFire.

    For many returning SSU students, fires like these bring back negative memories of all the damage caused by fires in the area over the last few years. 

    “The fires last week made me super stressed.” said Abby Reitman, a fourth-year creative writing major at SSU, “I smelled the smoke before my roommates did and I immediately started Googling ‘fires near me’. I had the worst flashbacks to the fires two years ago where we were evacuated for over two weeks; and I started thinking about where I’d go if we got evacuated. It was really freaky and I’m not looking forward to fire season this year.”

    The uncertainty each day possesses this time of year has students constantly on high alert.

    Maddie Green, a fourth-year political science and Spanish double major at SSU, explained that a lot of the stress comes from trying to figure out where to go in the case of an evacuation. 

    “I mean for me, my hometown is only two hours away so I know I have somewhere to go if a nearby fire does cause us to evacuate.” said Green, “However, with the scare last week I got out of class and saw my roommates had texted about getting their stuff together to possibly evacuate, so it is definitely stressful around this time of year knowing we could need to grab our stuff and go on very short notice. For instance, I went home this weekend and because we are at that time of year, part of me was a little concerned that we’d be given an evacuation notice while I’m out of town and I wouldn’t be able to grab my stuff. Things like that–the fires–are definitely on people’s minds this Fall semester.”  

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