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Saturday, October 21st, 2017

Flames force area native to flee

Evacuates as California wildfires threaten

By Sydney Albert

Flowers sit among the burned-out ruins of a home in the Coffey Park area on Tues. . .

ROHNERT PARK, CALIF - Coldwater native Marie Ebbing lives in northern California and is trying to draw attention to the fires that have been ravaging her state and community.
Ebbing has lived in California for 13 years, but this year marks the first time she and her family had been forced to evacuate due to fires. Ebbing and her husband, Jonathon Stevens, normally turn off their cellphones at night. One night, however, Ebbing forgot to turn off hers, and she received a call from a neighbor at 4:30 a.m. The neighbor's brother-in-law, a firefighter, had called to warn them of the danger. The neighbor, in turn, called to warn Ebbing.
"We looked out, we opened up the blinds, and we could see the glow from a distance. We checked on it a few moments later, and it was changing, so at that point we had not received any evacuation order, but it did give us about an hour and a half to pack," she said.
They received the order to evacuate at about 6:30 a.m. As they tried to leave, they found the freeway was packed with others also trying to evacuate. They used back roads through areas free of flames to reach a friend's house, where they were able to stay until the order was lifted.
"Our home was fine. And then later that night, we felt a tremor from a quake that was centered around the area the fires were happening, just a jolt to the house. You're on edge as it is … so yeah, we're done," Ebbing said, laughing.
While Ebbing, Stevens and their children were able to return home safely and soundly, others in their community have not been so lucky. Rohnert Park is just 15 minutes from Santa Rosa, a city that has lost an estimated 5 percent of its homes, according to the Sacramento Bee. Locals now fear a mass exodus of people who can't afford to start over in a place where a housing shortage had already driven up the cost of living, even before the fires.
"Many firefighters, police officers, teachers and small-business owners lost their homes in the fires. Our communities rely on people in these professions to remain here," Ebbing said in an email.
Community members are coming together to try to help those affected by the fires in whatever way they can, she said. Someone put together a list of the owners of businesses that are still open but whose homes were lost in the fires. Residents have been trying to patronize those businesses to make rebuilding a little easier.
A good way for more distant people to contribute would be through Redwood Credit Union, a regional credit union headquartered in Santa Rosa that has started a fund to help those affected by the fires. RCU is footing the bill for all administrative costs for managing the funds. Donors can even specify which county they wish to support - Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino or Lake County - or make a general donation, which would be split evenly among the four.
"If anybody wanted to make a donation or a contribution, I don't know how much of the proceeds of Red Cross goes to victims, but we do know that 100 percent of Redwood Credit Union, every penny is going to go where it needs to go," Ebbing said.
Donations are being accepted online at rcd-community-fund.squarespace.com/donate. People also can mail checks to P.O. Box 6104, Santa Rosa, CA 95406. Checks should be made payable to RCU Community Fund and include "2017 North Bay Fire Relief" in the memo field, along with which county the donor would like to support or "all." For more information, visit redwood.org/northbayfirerelief.
Despite the fires that still rage around the state, the blazes are finally calming down in her area, Ebbing said. Though many schools won't open for at least another week, others have already reopened. Ebbing has been able to take her kids to school again. She encourages people to thank their law enforcement and firefighters, because times like these prove how much they're needed.
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