SANTA ROSA, Calif. – Robert Hayden and his wife, Alla, have lived in the Spring Lake Village retirement community of Santa Rosa for 10 years and love its beautiful grounds almost as much as the plethora of interesting people they’ve met there – retired doctors, musicians, pilots, writers and executives.
On Sunday, the Haydens were among the approximately 450 Village residents forced to leave their homes as the fast-moving Glass Fire approached. It was the second time in recent years they’d gone through that drill, after fleeing the October 2017 wine country fires that killed 22 people and destroyed 5,600 structures. Though Hayden said the residents were better-prepared this time, the evacuation was still stressful.
“We went outside, the sky was all orange and the air was filled with ash,’’ Hayden said as he sat in his motorized scooter outside the Petaluma Community Center, about 20 miles south of his cottage. “It accumulated on my jacket. I think I still have remnants.’’
At 98, the longtime San Francisco Bay Area resident has no plans to relocate, but he senses a growing frustration among fellow members of the community who are fed up with living under the constant threat of wildfires this time of year.
Last month, some of the same 70,000 people under evacuation orders Tuesday in Napa and Sonoma counties were displaced by a lightning-sparked blaze that became the fourth-largest fire in state history.
The thought of leaving the picturesque wine country, with its abundant top-notch restaurants and pleasant weather, is not typically tempting for those who can afford to live in the area. But the notion may become inevitable for many if the quick-striking wildfires continue to ignite regularly in a region that has grown increasingly dry with climate change.
“I see it in Spring Lakers. They’re beginning to move out,’’ Hayden said. “I think there’s going to be an increased trend of Northern Californians moving to less fire-prone areas.’’
It would be hard to blame them after watching the region bear the brunt of the more than 8,100 wildfires in the state this year, which have charred a record 3.8 million acres. Two years ago, the Butte County town of Paradise farther northeast was virtually wiped out by the Camp Fire, which killed 85 people.
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Source: USA Today