As It Happens

'I can't go through this every year': California woman describes fleeing wildfires yet again

Early Sunday morning, Cara DeLaRosa got the order to leave her home in Santa Rosa, along with the 200,000 other people whose homes in North California are threatened by the latest inferno.

Californians are fleeing their communities with their families, their pets, and a few valuables

A firefighter stops to look at a wall of fire while battling a grass fire on East Cypress Road in Knightsen, Calif., on Oct. 27, 2019. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group/San Jose Mercury News via AP)


When Cara DeLaRosa fled her California home during the 2017 wildfire season, she said the scene looked like something from a disaster movie.

"There were pieces of burned books flying around in the air, and huge pieces of ash everywhere, all over the cars. And there were flames in the sky," she told As It Happens host Carol Off.

"When we left, it was like the world was burning around us."

DeLaRosa never thought she'd be in the same situation again so soon. But early Sunday morning, she got the order to leave her home in Santa Rosa, along with the 200,000 other people whose homes in North California are threatened by the latest inferno.

She and her family left, packing up not only their belongings, but the animals they care for as part of their business.

She's now staying with friends in Petaluma, about a half-hour's drive away, waiting to see where the fire will go next.

"I don't know [if our house will be safe]," she said. "When you're in this situation, you have to let everything go."

It only takes one ember to ignite an entire neighbourhood.- Cara DeLaRosa

In 2017, DeLaRosa said many people, including emergency services, were caught off guard by the wildfire. But this year, her household was more prepared.

Their house was originally listed in the ninth zone away from the fires, so they had ample warning before the blaze encroached.

Cara Delarosa and her husband run an animal care business specializing in older and special-needs pets. (Submitted by Cara Delarosa)

Fire conditions statewide made California "a tinderbox," Jonathan Cox, a spokesperson for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, told The Associated Press.

The Kincade Fire in Sonoma County that started Wednesday grew to 220 square kilometres, destroyed 94 buildings and was threatening 80,000 buildings, state fire authorities said Sunday night.

"The thing that is scariest is the unpredictability of what the winds are going to do because it only takes one ember to ignite an entire neighbourhood," DeLaRosa said.

In 2017 flames skipped over a six-lane highway and burned down the neighbourhood of Coffey Park, near her home.

DeLaRosa and her husband's pet care business specializes in older and special-needs animals.

She, her husband and her stepdaughter all travelled, in three separate vehicles, to transport the animals, their supplies and their belongings.

"I can't risk my animals. I can't risk my clients' animals, so it's best to just stay away," said DeLaRosa.

"If our house burns down, we'll just have to take it a step at a time from there."

The wind-driven Kincade fire burns near the town of Healdsburg, Calif., on Oct. 27, 2019. (Stephen Lam/Reuters)

'We didn't have fires like this'

DeLaRosa estimates the fires are now about six to seven miles (10-11 kilometres) away from her house.

Now she's worried that the fires may have intensified to the point where she may have to rethink their business and living situation.

"I grew up in Sonoma County ... We didn't have to deal with this. We didn't have fires like this."

She's left wondering if she may have to close her business every fire season, or move to another city entirely.

"I can't go through this every year," she said. "It's extremely stressful."

Written by Jonathan Ore with files from The Associated Press. Interview with Cara DeLaRosa produced by Alison Masemann.


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