October 19, 2017
link to facebook link to twitter

RP city council votes to proclaim local emergency

By: Katherine Minkiewicz
October 13, 2017

Tuesday night the Rohnert Park City Council voted 5-0 to authorize Darrin Jenkins, city manager and director of emergency services to ratify a proclamation declaring a local emergency in response to the Sonoma Complex Fire devastating Santa Rosa and countless other Sonoma and Napa county cities.

The recommended action to vote on the proclamation was added to the meeting agenda Tuesday evening and according to City Attorney Michelle Marchetta Kenyon, after the director of emergency services proclaims a local emergency, city council must ratify that proclamation within a seven-day period. Jenkins had called a local state of emergency Sunday night, when the first fire broke out.

It was also important for the city to declare a local emergency so federal aid from Fema can be provided to the city to help reimburse the costs the city has incurred providing aid and setting up the shelters, according to Jenkins.

According to a Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety Nixle report, as of Tuesday, Oct. 10 around 4:47 p.m., Rohnert Park was not expected to be in imminent threat of the winds and fire. Yet due to shifting wind conditions, this status could change. 

However, regarding changing weather conditions, the advisory did state, “regarding fire conditions, we do expect winds to increase on Wednesday. Based on the best information we have on wind and fire conditions, we do not expect this to be an imminent threat to Rohnert Park. If there is any change this expectation due to unexpected changes in the wind or fire conditions we will notify the public as soon as possible.”

Jenkins also noted that the city feels stable, however the city will continue to monitor the weather forecast and that there are currently still fires burning to the east of RP.

City council members and Jenkins urged Rohnert Park residents to keep updated via Nixle reports or by the NextDoor App, a neighborhood app that allows community members to keep in contact with one another.

Jenkins said 10,000 people signed up for Nixle Tuesday and that Deputy City Clerk, Caitlin Saldanha has been working around the clock Monday night to update posts and information on the fire via NextDoor.

During the meeting, Jenkins also provided a staff report on the city’s involvement with fighting the fire and helping in evacuation centers.

“Rohnert Park’s emergency responders have been responding to the fires in Sonoma County… Our staff got involved late Sunday night, our responders got staffed up and two of them went to Santa Rosa to fight fires and we opened our emergency operations center on Monday morning and pretty quickly we realized the fire was coming towards Rohnert Park. We did order the mandatory evacuation early that morning of G and H sections,” Jenkins explained.

Mayor Jake Mackenzie, said he and his wife had a bag packed in their SUV and were evacuated and made sure to bring along important documents, such as passports.

Jenkins continued his report saying they have had their RP public safety officers and firefighters in Santa Rosa continuously fighting the fire, but that two of RP firefighters had lost their own homes in Santa Rosa.

“We’ve gone to an emergency schedule with our officers. They are working 12 hour days and we’ve also had staff from public works and community services staffing our shelters for the last day and a half,” Jenkins explained of the local city efforts.

RP’s shelters have closed however as of Tuesday and are sending evacuees of the fire to the Santa Rosa Fairgrounds, where more aid resources are available.

Jenkins also advised meeting attendees and the council that donations can best be made to the Red Cross in the form of monetary contributions as a lot of donation volunteers don’t have the time to sort through the piles and piles of clothing and supply donations from generous residents.

Vice Mayor Pam Stafford said she was pleased by the work city staff has done in helping to volunteer their time and respond to this disaster.

“I just want to compliment our staff on the great job they did yesterday, they were supposed to have the day off and they came and worked long hours,” she said.

Mackenzie said he and Stafford had stopped by the command center to thank all of the staff.

“We were extremely pleased to find out it was a hive of activity. Clearly everyone was actively employed in doing exactly what we hoped would happen, a plan in place and exercises, conducted,” Mackenzie said.