The Kincade Fire caused CA’s largest evacuation in history. Here are some of those stories

By Corinne Smith and Ariel Boone

The Kincade Fire in Sonoma County has displaced roughly 200,000 people since evacuation orders began on October 24. There are over a dozen shelter locations, serving over 2,000 people, with even more evacuees sleeping in cars and RVs in parking lots. KPFA producers Corinne Smith and Ariel Boone went to the shelter at the Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial on Tuesday, October 29 to bring you their stories. 

The Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial at 1351 Maple Ave was converted into a shelter for Kincade Fire evacuees


Many of those displaced by the fires are workers in agriculture, landscaping and construction, who depend on a day’s wage. They not only had to leave their homes behind, but their income, too. We spoke with three workers named Victor, Mariano, and Antonio.


Morgan Weatherly left her home on Chalk Hill Road in Healdsburg on Saturday afternoon with three children and her dogs and cats. When we talked with her, she was debating returning to her house for a large bag of baby photos she had packed and left behind.


Weatherly bitterly criticized PG&E for the blackouts ahead of and during the Kincade Fire. For homeowners like her, power shut offs also mean no running water.


Weatherly also told KPFA that the power shutoffs cost her hundreds of dollars in spoiled groceries when her fridge lost power for days – and then, after she replenished the food, the blackout came again.

The Veterans Memorial is sheltering between 300 and 400 people in two large halls, operated by the Red Cross. There are cots, showers, medical aid and counseling, and volunteers preparing meals, handing out toiletries, cleaning facilities, and directing people to support services. 


Many came from a Healdsberg shelter that was evacuated last week, according to Barbara Wood is a volunteer spokesperson with the Red Cross. She said county shelters had to quickly expand to accept people and their pets. 


Roughly 30 of the shelter residents at the Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial were from skilled nursing facilities that were evacuated on Saturday. This is Allison Dunseth, who works at Healdsburg Senior Living.

Liddie is an unhoused Sonoma County resident who has lived in Forestville for over 25 years. She evacuated in the early hours of Sunday morning, and she had been staying at the shelter for two nights.

When KPFA caught up with her, Liddie had been sorting cans and bottles from the bins behind the shelter to recycle, when a private security guard told her what she was doing was illegal and a violation of private property. Minutes later, a man who identified himself as an off-duty sheriff’s officer came over to question her while she waited for the shower. Liddie told KPFA she’s one of few black women at the shelter. She feels profiled.


As of Thursday, several evacuation orders have been reduced from mandatory evacuations to evacuation warnings – including the town of Windsor. For all questions on evacuations and resources, call the Sonoma County hot line at 211 or visit their website.

Corinne Smith (@Cocoluces) and Ariel Boone (@arielboone) are producers with KPFA News and UpFront on KPFA Radio. 

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