SANTA ROSA — Sonoma State University President Judy Sakaki and her husband, Patrick McCallum, are among those who lost their homes and all of their belongings in the wildfires that continue to ravage Napa, Sonoma, and seven other counties.
In a Facebook message to the SSU community on Tuesday, Sakaki wrote: “My heart goes out to everyone who has been affected by the destructive wildfires that have done so much damage in our region. Many faculty, staff and students have been evacuated from their homes, and some — tragically — have lost everything.
“Patrick and I lost our home, and this makes me think about what really matters and how important it is that we care for each other. I am grateful that our community is working together to support and help each other.
“Nothing is more important than personal safety and well-being. I urge everyone to be cautious and to stay out of harm’s way.
“It is still too early to assess all the damage our community has endured, but we know it is extensive and that it has taken a huge toll on many. We will continue to update you as events unfold and more information becomes available. If possible, please check our university website and Facebook page for updates and pay close attention to newscasts and directives from authorities.
“You are all in my thoughts.”
Sakaki became president of SSU, located in Rohnert Park, last year and her formal investiture was held earlier this year.
Sonoma State announced that classes will not be held until Oct. 16 due to fire concerns, but that the campus is not being evacuated at this time. Students remaining on campus were advised to pack a bag in case evacuation becomes necessary.
Sakaki and her husband, an educational consultant and lobbyist, lived on Hanover Place in the Fountaingrove neighborhood of Santa Rosa. Their ordeal began around 4 a.m. Monday when their smoke alarms went off. McCallum didn’t wake up, but luckily his wife did.
“She ran toward the alarms and comes back a second later screaming beyond any screaming she’d done in her life,” McCallum told The San Francisco Chronicle. “She said, ‘We have to get out this second!’”
Barefoot and barely clothed, the couple dashed out of the house, thinking that only their house was on fire. But when they got outside, “Our yard, our porch and every house was ablaze. It was an inferno all around us,” McCallum recalled. “… We’re running, breathing smoke. We’re stumbling, carrying, supporting each other, saying, ‘We’re going to get through this.’”
They ran for about 400 yards, and just when they began to wonder if they were going to survive, a firefighter taking a final pass through the neighborhood picked them up and drove them to safety.
While being treated for minor burns to their feet at an evacuation shelter, they learned that their neighbors had been told to evacuate hours earlier. McCallum said he didn’t know why he and Sakaki weren’t alerted.
According to The Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, the Fountaingrove Village community, at Stagecoach Road and Fountain Grove Parkway, was completely destroyed, including multiple homes behind Nature’s Grove Market and Sweet T’s restaurant, which were also claimed by the fire. Houses on nearby Vintage Circle also were destroyed.
As of Wednesday morning, the fires have claimed 21 lives and destroyed some 2,000 structures, including many wineries. Thousands have been evacuated and more than 500 have been reported missing, although in some cases those reports are due to lack of cell service and family members being sent to different shelters. More than 110 people have been treated at hospitals for smoke inhalation and burns. The fire has grown to 28,000 acres and is threatening 16,000 structures. The smoke, which is visible from space, is spreading throughout the Bay Area.