‘Fire is chasing me.’ Evacuees flee path of California’s rampaging Kincade Fire

As evacuation orders continue to expand in the path of the wind-driven Kincade Fire raging in Sonoma County, Calif., individual stories of survival, flight and stubborn determination to sit tight are beginning to emerge.

The Kincade Fire, which erupted Wednesday near Geyserville, has burned 30,000 acres as of Sunday morning and is 10 percent contained, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection reports.

Nearly 180,000 Sonoma County residents are under mandatory evacuation orders as a result of the wind-driven blaze, The Sacramento Bee reported.

Here are the stories of some of the evacuees and survivors.

‘Get out now!’

Healdsburg resident Tom Cardoza says authorities didn’t waste words when they told him and his neighbors to evacuate on Thursday, KGO reported.

“Here comes all the sheriffs, they were going door to door, house to house,” said Cardoza, according to the station. “They were really (saying) ‘get out now! Grab your keys and dogs and go.’”

Cardoza said he hoped his home survived the blaze, although he’d already learned that a friend’s had not, KGO reported.

‘A monster could be coming’

David Culley and his wife frantically packed up at KC’s American Kitchen restaurant in Windsor on Friday night, pulling photos and other mementos off the walls, The Washington Post reported.

“I’ve seen what a firestorm is, it’s catastrophic,” said Culley, whose home was destroyed by the 2017 Tubbs Fire, according to the publication. “To know that a monster could be coming this way, is really, really disturbing.”

‘The fire is chasing me’

Madonna Tavares fled Geyserville, where the fire broke out, after a firefighter knocked on her door at 5:30 a.m. Thursday, The Mercury News reported.

On Saturday, the Healdsburg shelter in which Tavares had been staying came under an evacuation order, according to the publication.

“It feels like the fire is chasing me,” Tavares said as she and her husband prepared to sleep in their vehicle in a Santa Rosa parking lot.

‘Definitely nerve-wracking’

Paige Sweet, 22, of Windsor packed some clothing, keepsakes and her two German Shepherds to flee in case she’s ordered to evacuate, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“I took things just in case we lose our home,” she said, according to the publication “It’s definitely nerve-racking if it does come this way. I don’t even know what would happen.”

‘One way in and one way out’

In Bodega Bay, Ginochio’s Kitchen owner Patty Ginochio says there aren’t a lot of options when it comes to getting out of town, The Sacramento Bee reported.

“There’s really not evacuation alternatives or options,” she said, according to the publication. “There’s one way in and one way out.”

‘I’m not going’

But some preferred to stay put and take their chances.

In Healdsburg, 66-year-old Loren Mead sat on his front porch, defying evacuation orders with loud rock and roll music, The Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported.

“I’m not going, not until the other side [of] town is burning,” Mead said, according to the publication. He said he planned to keep an eye on the fire and flee with his favorite guitar if necessary.

But Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick begged people to follow evacuation orders, KPIX reported.

“I’m seeing people reporting that they’re going to stay and fight this fire,” Essick said, according to the station. “You cannot fight this. Please evacuate.”

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Don Sweeney has been a newspaper reporter and editor in California for more than 25 years. He has been a real-time reporter based at The Sacramento Bee since 2016.