Kala and Sonoma County Wildfire Update
Kala Brand Music is located in Petaluma in the middle of beautiful Sonoma County, about 25 miles south of Santa Rosa. A place full of booming agriculture, rolling hills of vineyards, incredible restaurants and breweries, and beautiful parks with hiking and biking trails. It’s also home to 483,878 people. Sunday evening, October 8th, 2017, wildfires began moving through Sonoma County and much of the North Bay Area. By Monday morning, much of Santa Rosa was burning, thousands of families were evacuating the city, and firefighters from as far as Berkley and San Francisco were streaming in to help.
As the days went on, the numbers of missing persons, lost homes, and deaths kept rising. Thousands of people had been evacuated from their homes, not knowing if they would still be standing when they returned. No one slept much, full of adrenaline and worry, waiting for Nixle texts. The community of Sonoma County was shaken to its core.
Through week two, containment percentages went up and the adrenaline started to slow. The realization of how hurt the community was started to set in. It hit that though the fires were almost out, the work was far from over. It is estimated that there is around $3.3 billion in damage, and that number is expected to increase. The fires scorched 245,000 acres, taking down 8,889 structures with it. It will take years for the area to rebuild.
Our hearts go out to the families who lost loved ones in this tragedy. It is estimated at least 43 people died. As of Friday, October 20, 19 people are still missing.
Employees at Kala were affected as well. Kala employees live all throughout Sonoma County, many near areas affected by the fires in Santa Rosa, Sonoma, and Windsor. Roughly 80% of Kala employees in California were evacuated and left wondering when or if they’d see their home again. Those who weren't evacuated were packed up and ready to go in case their neighborhood got the notice. The day the fires started, a few employees from Santa Rosa took refuge at Kala HQ with their families, pets, and the few bags packed with clothes and important possessions. Many employees have family members that were affected, and many friends who lost everything. Miraculously, not one Kala employee lost their home.
The silver lining through this tragedy is the incredible camaraderie that has happened within Sonoma County. Driving North or South on Hwy 101, you’ll see signs hung from overpasses thanking the thousands of firefighters, police, and first responders who came from all over the country to help. People are opening their homes to strangers, offering warm meals, hot showers, and spare bedrooms to those who have been displaced. Donation centers were filled to the brim within a few days. The phrases “Sonoma Strong” and “The Love in the Air is Thicker Than the Smoke” are seen not only on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, but on T-shirts and signs posted on the streets. This tragedy is far from over, but Sonoma County is stronger than ever. We at Kala are proud to be a part of such a generous and loving community.
If you’re interested in helping the thousands of people who lost everything, check out the Redwood Credit Union North Bay Fire Relief Community Fund. 100% of every donation through this fund will go directly to the victims, helping them feed their children, clothe themselves, find temporary or permanent housing, and help them start to rebuild their lives.
Photos used with permission by Paul Gullixson.