Thousands Evacuate Santa Rosa as Glass Fire Incident Expands

Shelter capacity limited by Covid-19 health restrictions

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Public officials speak at a press conference on Monday, Sept. 28.

At 8:00pm last night, a rapidly-growing fire first dubbed the Shady Fire began threatening Santa Rosa, the North Bay’s largest city.

As of Monday morning, an estimated 48,500 Sonoma County residents had been impacted by evacuation orders—33,870—and warnings—14,624—from local authorities, Sonoma County Emergency Manager Chris Godley said at a Sonoma County press conference Monday morning.

The Shady fire is now part of the Glass Fire incident, which currently covers 11,000 acres in Sonoma and Napa counties. Santa Rosa Fire Chief Tony Gossner said that the Shady Fire is thought to have been started by flying embers from the Glass Fire, which has been burning in Napa County since Sunday morning.

A fire team fighting the Glass Fire on Sunday night spotted a new glow across a canyon and alerted their commanders, Gossner said. That glow turned into a new wildfire. Sonoma County emergency managers sent out the first public alert related to the new fire at 8:30pm on Sunday.

Despite the high number of evacuees, Sonoma County currently only has space for 350 people in five evacuation centers around the county because Covid-19 health precautions have severely restricted the safe capacity of shelters, Godley, the county emergency manager, explained.

For instance, the Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial Building, a large building which has been used to shelter hundreds of evacuees in pre-Covid wildfires, can currently only safely hold 86 people, Godley said Monday. And, because the building is already at capacity, it is not listed as an open shelter on the county’s website, Godley added.

The county is working to provide additional shelter options for people who may be particularly at risk of contracting Covid-19. Those additional offerings will include hotel rooms and dormitory rooms at Sonoma State University. As of Monday morning, those additional resources were not yet available, but Godley promised more information as the county knows more.

Public officials repeatedly urged residents to follow law enforcement and emergency management agencies’ orders.

“This isn’t our first rodeo and I think everyone now understands that we must work together to get through this safely and effectively,” Santa Rosa Mayor Tom Schwedhelm said.

Evacuation resources are open to all, regardless of immigration status, Schewdhelm said.

Sonoma County Supervisor Susan Gorin, who lost her home in the 2017 Tubbs Fire, urged evacuated residents to remain patient and not return to their homes prematurely.

“The county is experienced, sadly, and we will help you through this,” Gorin said before asking evacuated residents to stay patient.

More information about the wildfire, evacuation orders and open shelters is available here: socoemergency.org/emergency/wildfire/

Sonoma County’s map of the fire is available here.

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