Two Stockton angles on the NorCal fires


Kathryn Clickner and her fiancé embrace in the front of their home in Fountaingrove, Santa Rosa, Calif., Tuesday. (Kent Porter/The Press Democrat via AP)

• Jerry and Jane Butterfield, perhaps best known for owning the Twin Towers, Stockton’s new City Hall, kept a second house in Sonoma County. The fires erased it.

The picture Jane Butterfield posted on Facebook is of a completely flat lot fire-scrubbed of even debris.

“This is our driveway and what used to be a house behind it,” Butterfield posted. “Hard to get my head around it.”

• Another Stockton-Sonoma tie is Bob Deis. Stockton’s city manager 2010-13 semi-retired to Santa Rosa with wife Linda. They live in a 1928 bungalow on the edge of the McDonald neighborhood.

“We were about a mile and half from the apocalypse,” Deis said. “About three blocks from the evacuation area.”
On Sunday towering flames named (wait for this) the Tubbs Fire reared over hills to the northeast. The wall of flame advanced down the slope towards Santa Rosa.

Deis said it was a mesmerizing spectacle.

“The flames coming down the hills in the dark at 2 a.m., it was kind of an eerie but mystical thing,” Deis said. “It was just really weird.”
High winds flung firebrands all over, sparking new fires which swelled into fast-moving infernos.

“There’s so much debris that came down,” Deis said. “Leaves caught on fire. Winds came up and carried leaves into area.”
As residents ran for their lives, the fire bounded over Hwy. 101 and chewed its way through suburbs.

“We had all- night watches, people looking for floating embers,” Deis said.
Deis drove into the evacuation zone in the wee hours to get his daughter and grandson out. Other media described fire trucks rumbling through residential streets, public address systems ordering people to evacuate, a tangle of panicked motorists, many of whom ended up in evacuation centers, fire ruining entire subdivisions.

Many people made harrowing escapes.

“My step-grandson has 20 friends that lost their homes,” Deis said. I’ve got a close friend, he’s a rock ‘n’ roller, he lost his cars, his house, his guitars.”

Whole neighborhoods are charred ruins.

Countywide, “There are schools gone, hotels gone, wineries gone,” Deis said. As well as farmhouses and barns. Nine people are known dead in Sonoma County, 17 in the region. The count may rise.

“We haven’t seen the sun since Sunday,” Deis said. “It’s weird. Since the smoke is covering the sun, it’s cooler,” with a heat-lamp warmth emanating from the sun’s place in the sky.

“We ended up being OK,” Deis said. But it’s not over.

“There are fires starting up all around us. Out in the country. There are sirens popping up all around us. We don’t understand why they can’t get their arms around this thing.”

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    Michael Fitzgerald

    Mike Fitzgerald is The Record’s award-winning metro columnist. His column runs in the paper three times a week. Born in San Francisco, he was raised in Stockton. His column covers diverse beats including, sometimes, the offbeat. Read Full
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