SANTA ROSA (KPIX 5) — The National Guard is scaling back its patrols in wine country, raising fears of more looting in the fire zones.
The National Guard checkpoints have played a critical role policing the entrances to burned out neighborhoods.
For the last three weeks, the devastation of David Coronado’s heartache has been a private matter, thanks to the National Guard, and the checkpoints they man, keeping out the public.
Coronado lost his home in Fountain Grove in the fire.
“I don’t want to go see anyone else’s tragedy and I don’t want anybody else to see ours,” Coronado said.
But the National Guard’s presence is now being phased out.
At one point, there were 900 National Guard soldiers staffing 50 checkpoints in unincorporated Sonoma County and Santa Rosa.
Now, there are 80 soldiers and seven checkpoints left in the city of Santa Rosa.
The county doesn’t have any checkpoints, the sheriff says, but Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano doesn’t think his deputies will have a problem patrolling.
Giordano said, “We’re always worried about looting, but frankly that’s going to happen in the areas where the houses are and we’re putting the people back into the houses to stop that. But it’s really easy to drive around at night as a deputy sheriff to see people in an area where there’s no people and stop them.”
So far, his deputies have arrested about 17 people they believe were up to no good in areas closed to them.
And the National Guard says they turn around at least one suspicious person a day from checkpoints.
Coronado said he wasn’t able to save anything out of the ashes.
Even though the lots are burned, it’s still a crime to trespass on people’s property.
But it’s not a crime to rubberneck, and the National Guard says they’ve already had to turn around tourist buses wanting to see the damage in areas with controlled access.
“I don’t know why they’d want to come. There’s nothing to see, Coronado said. “I mean this is destruction and you know, it’s a personal kind of tragedy and I guess this would kind of be like stopping to look at a body on the freeway in a wreck.”
The National Guard also still has a presence at the two remain shelters.