north bay fires

Local residents by the hundreds showed up at a town hall Saturday for updates on fire recovery and rebuilding. Local politicians were there, as well as representatives from FEMA, California Office of Emergency Services and the Army Corps of Engineers. KRCB News Director Steve Mencher has more. 

Sonoma County and the City of Santa Rosa run a joint website on fire recovery. Visit SonomaCountyRecovers.org for regular updates.

Rep. Jared Huffman
Congress.gov

At a town hall meeting tomorrow about fire recovery and rebuilding in Sonoma County, officials will present updates and listen to citizens’ concerns. Among elected officials scheduled to attend are members of the Santa Rosa City Council and the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, State Senators Mike McGuire and Bill Dodd, and Assembly Members Jim Wood, Cecilia Aguiar-Curry and Marc Levine.

Representatives Mike Thompson and Jared Huffman will be there – and KRCB News Director Steve Mencher talked with Huffman about the meeting.

Decorations in Santa Rosa neighborhood of Coffey Park
Diane Askew

Yesterday, KRCB News Director Steve Mencher brought us some excerpts from a conversation about rebuilding the North Bay first broadcast on KQED’s Forum program. Today, part two.

One of the callers to the show asked whether unions would play a big part in the rebuilding effort. Keith Woods, CEO of the North Coast Builders Exchange, responded:

Participants in the discussion included:

Coffey Park
U.S. Army/Edward Coffee

Rains will slow construction activities that have started in areas destroyed by the fall fires. But the real slowdown will come from lack of materials and workers as building gears up. A recent episode of KQED’s Forum program hosted by Michael Krasny addressed those concerns, and our News Director Steve Mencher has some excerpts.

  Here's a link to the original program at KQED.

Rains Bring Relief, Worry

Jan 8, 2018
Rain
Stacey Dennick

This winter’s first major rainstorm is expected to bring 1 1/2 to 4 inches of necessary rain to Sonoma County, along with gusting winds. Local rivers are predicted to remain below critical stages, but areas affected by October’s wildfires are at high risk for flash flooding, mudslides and debris flow.

Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, director of CAL OES Mark Ghilarducci, and FEMA Regional Administrator Bob Fenton
KRCB/Steve Mencher

A day after visiting fire-ravaged areas of Southern California, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen toured Santa Rosa's Coffey Park and other affected neighborhoods, and met with local government officials, workers and fire survivors.

In her prepared remarks, Nielsen promised help from the federal government for fire recovery and noted that her department "will be here, arms locked, with state and local officials, to help California recover from the fires."

Spending Christmas in a FEMA Trailer

Dec 27, 2017
Woman with dog
Stacey Dennick

The holiday season can be a difficult time. That's been especially true for the dozens of people living in FEMA trailers at the Sonoma Fairgrounds RV Park.  

Brenda Cappel lived on Willowview Court in Santa Rosa for 10 years until last October’s firestorms. She’s been in a FEMA trailer since the day after Thanksgiving.

“I loved my home; it was my Xanadu,” Cappel said.  “I had a really hard time getting myself out of my house, because you know in the back of your mind, if you have to leave like that, you’re not coming back.”

Trucks unloading at Mecham Road landfill
Sarah Tan

About two months ago the North Bay wildfires were contained. Most of the toxic debris has been carted away -- like asbestos, burned plastic, and car batteries. Material like ash and everything else left behind is still being cleared. Independent producer Sarah Tan reports on progress at the main county landfill.

Smokestack
NASA JPL

KRCB News Director Steve Mencher began a conversation earlier this week with Assemblyman Marc Levine, who represents Marin and Southern Sonoma Counties. Today they touch on lessons learned from the North Bay fires, and the Assemblyman’s view of what the California legislature accomplished this year, including extension of the Cap and Trade Program. 

Christmas tree, Coffey Park, Santa Rosa
Diane Askew

Ready or not Christmas is coming. After October’s fires in the North Bay, this will be a holiday like no other. April Dembosky of The California Report visited Coffey Park to find out how some fire survivors are marking Christmas this year.

Find April Dembosky's original report here.

More information on free grief counseling at the International Institute for Humanistic Studies.

Marc Levine
Office of Marc Levine

With the year coming to an end, we check in with one of our state officeholders about what was accomplished in 2017 – and what’s on the horizon in Sacramento for 2018.

Woman in red amid Fountaingrove fire damage
Diane Askew

Friday evening at 6:30 join KRCB for our second post-fire TV news special. We’re calling this one “The New Normal” – partly because we’ve heard the phrase so many times as it applies to wildfire danger here in California.

(We'll be simulcasting the program on Radio 91)

Burned patio furniture
KRCB/Steve Mencher

We have two stories today from our partners at The California Report. In a moment we’ll hear about whether there’s a direct link between climate change and the fires raging in Southern California and our own North Bay fires.

First, though we have a story about insurance.

Cynthia Shirley, MSW, from Portraits of Professional Caregivers
Production still

Monday at 9 p.m. KRCB TV 22 will present the documentary "Portraits of Professional Caregivers: Their Passion, Their Pain," about the stresses caregivers and first responders suffer as part of their jobs. News Director Steve Mencher spoke with producer Rodney Whittenberg who started off by describing the background of his filmmaking partner Vic Compher.

Watch the trailer below:

Undocufund slide
KRCB/Steve Mencher

We’re going to make one more visit to the meeting last week where nonprofits heard from groups raising money after the North Bay fires. Susan Shaw of the North Bay Organizing Project realized early on that help from insurance companies and government agencies would likely bypass undocumented community members. What resulted was the UnDocuFund. Shaw began her talk last week with evidence of why the UnDocuFund is needed.

Darius Anderson
KRCB/Steve Mencher

We reported last week on a meeting here in Rohnert Park that brought together funders, government representatives and nonprofits working to coordinate fire recovery dollars.

A Fires Story by Brian Fies
Brian Fies

"Drawing Strength: Building Community Through Creativity" is a fire relief fundraiser scheduled for Dec. 9 at the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center. Dave Eggers, Brian Fies, Christopher Moore, Stephan Pastis, Raina Telgemeier and Judd Winnick will talk about how humor and creativity can help the North Bay recover from the recent firestorms. They'll make sketches, sign books and share wine.

Adrienne Lauby
KRCB/Steve Mencher

Today, we’re returning to a meeting held November 27 that focused on two issues: rental housing and homelessness. At Christ Church United Methodist on Monday, several dozen people, including elected officials and housing advocates, sought solutions to elements of the housing crisis that were made worse by the North Bay fires.

Fire Relief meeting slide
KRCB/Steve Mencher

At a "Resilience Convening" this week, more than 150 community nonprofits gathered in Rohnert Park. They heard from some of the organizations that have sprung up since the North Bay fires to collect and distribute funds for the recovery.

Elizabeth Brown, CEO of Community Foundation, Sonoma County welcomed the attendees– including KRCB news director Steve Mencher–with an insight into what everyone in the room has been grappling with for nearly two months.

The funders represented included:

Kendall Jarvis
KRCB/Steve Mencher

Before the North Bay fires, Sonoma County was in a housing crisis. After the fires – the crisis has become an ongoing catastrophe. Several dozen people met Monday evening at Christ Church United Methodist in Santa Rosa to talk about the fire’s effects on renters and the homeless.

Senior Airman Martin Baglien in Santa Rosa
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel Phelps

As trucks continue to haul away the remains of homes burned in the North Bay fires, homeowners are beginning to deal with the next big step in recovery – claiming their insurance. KQED’s Sukey Lewis talked with homeowners, insurers and state officials. She started in Lake County, where the Valley Fire destroyed homes in 2015 and some residents are still fighting to get their payouts.

See the original story at The California Report.

Wine label
Frey Vineyards

Four generations of the Frey family live and work at their winery in Redwood Valley. It was the first organic and biodynamic winery to open in the U.S. The October wildfires destroyed many structures on the site, while sparing most of the vineyards and the main house on the property. From KQED’s The California Report, April Dembosky takes us to the vineyard where the family is trying to figure out how to rebuild its business.

Redwood Valley North Bay fires
Bob Dass, Flickr

Today the Espinoza family plans to sit down to Thanksgiving dinner in the one bedroom apartment they’ve been sharing since the North Bay fires. Between the parents and kids, the family lost two homes as flames rushed through Redwood Valley in Mendocino.

Like them, many families are living in tight quarters this holiday season – some in hotel rooms, others in the first FEMA trailers, still others staying with friends and relatives.

The Espinozas are grateful to have a place to stay at all. But six weeks after the wildfires, the uncertainty is working on some nerves.

Jared Huffman
Wikimedia

Is the Trump administration playing politics with disaster relief? That’s the implication of a statement released on Friday by Representatives Jared Huffman and Mike Thompson. Representative Huffman spoke with KRCB news director Steve Mencher about the strongly-worded complaint.

Rapid Response Network Poster
KRCB/Steve Mencher

Yesterday, we heard about a new hotline that helps protect local immigrants who may be swept up in raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers.

At the rally announcing the new "Rapid Response" phone line, news director Steve Mencher spoke with immigrant rights activist Anna Salgado. He asked  whether her neighbors’ fears of deportation have been heightened by the North Bay fires and how the hotline will help.

FEMA trailer in Santa Rosa
Stacey Dennick

As of Monday, November 13,  FEMA has set up 11 trailers in the Sonoma Fairgrounds RV Park to help uninsured and underinsured victims of last month’s firestorms. Designed to house up to four people in about 200 square feet, each unit is connected to water, electricity and sewer lines.

Fifteen more RVs, some suitable for more than four people, are coming Tuesday, November 14. “These units are already full,” said Paul Corah, media relations specialist at FEMA. “More are on order. We’re trying to accommodate as many people as possible.”

Sonoma County Fire Poster
KRCB/Steve Mencher

The recent fire crisis has prompted an outpouring of support from Sonoma County and beyond. But with fire cost estimates in the billions, more is needed. An infusion of cash is the highest priority for most fire victims, and for the organizations that serve them.

With overwhelming need comes an almost equally overwhelming number of worthy groups seeking donations, from small businesses with GoFundMe pages to large organizations. There are alliances for every sector of the population from undocumented immigrants, to firefighters to animals. Here are a few noteworthy organizations.

We wanted to end the week of fire-related news with a look back at last Saturday’s Day of Remembrance at Santa Rosa Junior College. Earlier in the week we heard from Sheriff Rob Giordano – but now let’s listen to the music and poetry that brought the audience of several hundred to tears… and to their feet repeatedly on a crystal clear and warm fall day. You’ll hear MC Pat Kerrigan of KSRO and young poet Vicente Reyes of Mark West Charter School.

Bill Gittins

Painter Bill Gittins, a KRCB board member, is featured online today at the KQED website, talking about his experience during the Tubbs fire that burned so many homes in his Fountaingrove neighborhood.

“I had completed about 35 new paintings for ArtTrails over the last several months, and that was while I was doing some commission pieces at the same time,” he told KQED reporter Joshua Bote.

Firefighters
Sonoma County

The record-breaking destruction of the North Bay fires has many experts questioning the way California determines fire risk.  It seems clear that stricter building codes will be required in high risk areas, but some say the current risk designations are outdated and need re-mapping. Penny Nelson, a host of KQED’s The California Report recently discussed the issue with KQED science reporter Lauren Sommer.

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