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Crosscurrents

Fire and destruction in Santa Rosa as communities struggle to respond

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Ninna Gaensler-Debs
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KALW News
A staging area for emergency-response vehicles in Santa Rosa during the devastating October wildfires.

Since late Sunday night, an estimated 17 different fires have been devastating several counties in Northern California, including Sonoma, Napa, and Mendocino.

At least 15 people have died, 1,500 structures have been destroyed, and approximately 115,000 acres have burned — more than three times the size of San Francisco.

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Credit Ninna Gaensler-Debs / KALW News
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KALW News
Orientation materials at a Santa Rosa fire shelter.

One area that’s suffered a lot of damage is the city of Santa Rosa. Two hospitals were evacuated, and entire neighborhoods like Fountaingrove, or Coffey Park have been totally destroyed.

KALW’sNinnaGaensler-Debs is up in Santa Rosa with the latest.

"I'm starting to feel it in my throat when I breathe, and lots of people are walking around with surgical masks or bandanas around their faces. You can see ashes drifting through the air almost everywhere you go ... most businesses are closed, the power is out, and roads are blocked off preventing people from going to some of the badly damaged neighborhoods."
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Credit Ninna Gaensler-Debs / KALW News
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KALW News
CDCR inmates take a break to get food. They’re fighting fires alongside emergency responders.

"There was an avenue of flame several yards long with fires of both sides of the road, burning quite high, 50, 60 feet high. With the fires behind me I didn't feel I could really stop, so I drove along through the flames and made it out OK." —Charles Thompson, Santa Rosa

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Credit Ninna Gaensler-Debs / KALW News
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KALW News
Fire engines in Santa Rosa.

"Yesterday we ramped up the shelter, and we had 700 people for breakfast, and we had, oh, about 250 people spend the night with us." —Roy Pitts, shelter manager

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Credit Ninna Gaensler-Debs / KALW News
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KALW News
Livestock and larger animals take shelter in the Sonoma County Fairgrounds stables.

Ninna Gaensler-Debs is a reporter and editor for Crosscurrents. Since 2012, Ninna has worn a variety of hats at KALW - she was both a producer and event planner for Localore project Hear Here. Ninna also programmed and organized the Sights and Sounds live events - two in Bayview, and most recently, one in East Oakland.
Ben handles daily operations in the news department, overseeing the editorial and sound engineering teams, delivering daily newscasts, producing the nightly news and culture show Crosscurrents, and supervising special projects including KALW's Audio Academy training program.