Fires

Senator, other officials brave fire to save mementos from Sonoma County supervisor’s house

State Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, center, and three officials raced into Sonoma County Supervisor Susan Gorin’s house Tuesday night to save priceless items while flames roared outside.
State Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, center, and three officials raced into Sonoma County Supervisor Susan Gorin’s house Tuesday night to save priceless items while flames roared outside. AP

State Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, and three others raced into Sonoma County Supervisor Susan Gorin’s house Tuesday night on a mad dash to save priceless items while flames roared outside.

Following a joint town hall with U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, at Santa Rosa High School, McGuire said he was approached by a tearful Gorin. Neighbors had seen her and her husband Joe’s home burning down, she told her former colleague on the Board of Supervisors, along with others in Santa Rosa’s Oakmont neighborhood.

The news came as a shock for McGuire, who said he had heard the majority of Oakmont homes were undamaged despite the Nuns Fire reaching 5,000 acres by Tuesday morning.

He rounded up chief of staff Jason Liles, Santa Rosa City Councilman Chris Rogers and California Highway Patrol Capt. Michael Palacio and headed out to the senior living community.

McGuire, Liles, Rogers and Palacio drove through the neighborhood spraying down rogue flames with a garden hose until they reached the Gorins’ house. Flames lapped at the back deck as they punched in a door code and walked inside, McGuire said.

The men ran through the house as Gorin instructed them of what to take through McGuire’s cellphone speakerphone. Palacio shined a flashlight around the darkened home as they scooped up family photos, jewelry and electronics, then loaded them into Gorin’s Toyota Prius. A first responder later rolled her family’s other vehicle to safety.

“We had a mission and we had to complete it,” McGuire said.

About five minutes after they got in, though, McGuire looked out the window to see flames soaring above Gorin’s rooftop in the backyard. He and the others scrambled out of the front door to safety, with Liles riding Gorin’s husband’s bicycle down the steep driveway.

Firefighters arrived a few minutes later but were unable to save the house. The dried-out juniper bushes surrounding the Gorins’ house “exploded,” she wrote on Facebook, torching it from the rear forward.

Wildfires have killed 21 people in Northern California, including 11 in Sonoma County, since Sunday, and hundreds of people remain missing.

“I’m a third-generation Sonoma County resident, and this is probably the worst experience of my life,” McGuire said. “We’ve had a rough few days. But we’ll get through it.”

Her house destroyed, Gorin’s night was not without joy. As flames engulfed her house, a new granddaughter was being born some 1,330 miles away in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Benjy Egel: 916-321-1052; @BenjyEgel

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