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Open for Guests  –  Starting August 30th

During the recent Walbridge Fire in Sonoma County we evacuated on Tuesday, August 18th and returned 10 days later. Our staff evacuated and they, their families and their homes are safe. We used this post like a diary with the most recent entry on the top. Although we are now home we thought we would leave this post up for a couple weeks as some guests might find it of interest..

Final Post – August 29th @ 12:30pm: Guerneville is opening back up. The Walbridge Fire is now 40% contained and the weather is cooperating. It is expected that all of the evacuation orders will be lifted this weekend and that everyone will be able to return home. We are so incredibly grateful for everyone’s support during this time. The firefighters, law enforcement and many, many local residents helping to fight the fires and save our communities have our thanks and appreciation. We are also grateful to a very special friend who let us take over his home for our evacuation while he was out of town.

Although the signs of the fire are visible from Guerneville, you need to know where to look. The beauty of the area is undiminished – a blessing for everyone who has ever been to this wonderful area.

August 28 @ 8pm: After 10 days of evacuation living, we drove back to the resort today (after collecting our mail at the regional USPS center in Petaluma). Driving home we had to take Highway 116 as River Road was still closed from Korbel through Rio Nido (about a mile east of town). The resort looks great and it is lovely to be home. About an hour after we got here we were surprised to see our friend, Mario drive in. He has taken care of our grounds and plants for nearly 20 years and he was here to help us clean up. Mostly we were cleaning up the redwood duff that had blown out of the trees and a small amount of ash from the fire. Within 3 hours the resort was looking clean and tidy.  Looking forward to sleeping in our own bed tonight!

August 27 @5:50pm: The evacuation order for our portion of Guerneville has been lifted! Hurrah! There are still areas that are closed, but it is looking good for now. The community of Rio Nido is still evacuated as the fire in the hills to their north is slowly being contained, but not just quite yet. It’s nice that things are moving forward. We’ll update tomorrow with what’s going on at the resort.

August 26 @ 5:22pm: We are so happy that some (ok, ONE of our staff) has been able to return home. We, however, are still evacuated. The fire containment has creeped up to 19%. There are several active areas on the fire’s perimeter and one portion of the fire is close to Guerneville and Rio Nido. Today they are continuing to get the fire under control. One problem is that the air support cannot fly when it’s foggy or smoky as they need to be able to see the ground and this has limited their opportunities to fight this fire by air. Our area has super steep hills, a thick tree canopy and LOTS of fuel for the fire – which is making it extra difficult. The authorities are still confident that we’ll be allowed back in in the next 1-3 days, but aren’t giving us any definite time frame. Today’s air quality was great this morning and not great this afternoon. We’re seeing this as a pattern. Hopefully as the fire gets more contained, the smoke will clear up as well. Armstrong Woods State Park has fire in the bottom of the park, but they are keeping the older trees safe. This afternoon’s briefing described the flames in the park as 4″ tall, creeping along the ground where it’s burning up fuel and apparently, improving the forest’s eco system. From photos (see our Facebook page) it looks like a controlled burn in the park. We still hope to be back and re-re-opened soon.

August 25 @ 3:45pm: It’s a good news/bad news day.  The best news is that Highlands Resort and Guerneville will survive the Walbridge Fire. The fire is now (as of this morning) 17% contained and the weather is cooperating so we expect more containment each day. The evacuation orders have not been lifted for Guerneville since the fire is still burning in Armstrong Woods (mostly creeping along the ground) and in the hills to the Northeast of Guerneville. We don’t expect to be able to get into Guerneville until these fires are contained. It’s possible that our evacuation will be lifted Thursday, but it’s really hard to say. The air today in most of Sonoma County is clear and fresh. Much improved over yesterday when it was so smoky.

August 24 @ 9:50am:  We just finished listening to the Fire Update (County gov. update) and it’s all good news. The storm that was to come through last night fizzled out and there were no lightning strikes or new fires. The winds cooperated as well and the ‘High Fire Weather Alert’ has been cancelled. So Hurrah!  Basically, although the fire is still spreading, it is moving slowly. Containment is only at 5% so we have a ways to go before we can relax or be allowed back to the Resort. Air quality in the eastern part of Santa Rosa is lousy and apparently that’s a good sign that the fires are slowing to a smolder rather than the high heat that lifts the smoke into the upper atmosphere. Kinda a good news/bad news situation. Nobody is saying anything about when it will be safe to return other than they will need to make certain roadways are clear and safe and that utilities are ok (power, water, phone, cable, etc). We are still optimistic that we will be allowed back later this week.

August 23 @ 1:35pm: This morning’s fire news was positive. The cool air from the ocean came in overnight and the fire did not move a lot. Air crews were out this morning dropping water and fire retardant and the ground crews have been working non-stop since Tuesday. We are continuing to get assistance from other parts of California as well as from out of state and from other countries. The big question for today is what will the weather bring? We have a storm moving in this afternoon that is expected to bring more dry (no rain) lightning. This storm is not expected to be as big or as dangerous as the one that started this mess. However gusty winds will do damage and any new fires will require crews be pulled off of ‘our’ fire. From the evacuation areas it appears that the fire is no longer expected to move into Guerneville but to move more to the east and south east on our side. Air quality in the morning was wonderful and since then the breeze has brought smoke into Santa Rosa. Looking at the fire cameras the wind is blowing towards the SE and the air at the ocean looks great!

August 19 – 22: One big blur. I’m writing this a week later trying to think what we spent our time on… We set up a remote office, shopped for groceries (while reflecting on our full refrigerator at home) and started calling and canceling reservations for the remainder of the week. It’s exhausting and depressing canceling reservations. Especially not knowing when the fire would be contained and we could return to the resort. Everyone we spoke with was understanding andsupportive.

August 18, 2020: We received an evacuation warning this morning about 11 and decided to evacuate all of our guests as a precaution. It was a very low stress situation as the fire was quite far away. Everyone packed up and the last guests left the resort by about 3pm. By early evening we were worrying that we’d over reacted. However, the evacuation became mandatory by 7pm and as we were packing our personal belongings the patrol cars began driving through our neighborhood calling for the evacuation. We evacuated to a friend’s home near Santa Rosa off of Hwy 12 – lucky for us he was housesitting in San Francisco.

For information geeks:

For views from the Fire Cameras (this covers fire cameras all over California) http://www.alertwildfire.org/northbay/?camera=Axis-Jackson

For a good map of ‘our’ fire and all the other fires. The yellow and the yellow line is the ‘old’ fire area and anything in red is today. You can zoom in and see streets and towns and add wind direction and temperature. Very detailed information. https://caltopo.com/map.html#ll=38.56226,-122.95006&z=12&b=mbt&a=modis_mp