SANTA ROSA (KPIX 5) — People in Santa Rosa turned out on Sunday to honor heroes from last fall’s devastating Wine Country wildfires.
The focus of the “Heroes of October” festival at Courthouse Park, hosted by Santa Rosa radio station KSRO, was on courageous individuals who many had not heard about before–the “unsung” heroes, everyday people who sprang into action.
The heroes were nominated by people in the community.
Honorees included citizens like Carlene Crocker, who is a special ed teacher who quickly turned her middle school into a shelter.
Another hero was Frankie Arroyo, who was working alone as a security guard at the Santa Rosa Hilton when he saw flames in the distance. Without waiting for orders, he began pounding on guests’ doors to get people out of the hotel.
“Started evacuating as many people as we can, saying, ‘Hey, get out!’ Some people didn’t believe me… they were like, ‘What do you mean we have to get out?’ I was like, ‘Hey man, look outside…we have to leave NOW,'” recalled Arroyo.
Arroyo said he would take big gulps of air from inside rooms and then run through the smoke to the next door. He saved about 150 people from the hotel that was eventually totally destroyed by the fires.
KSRO was also honored with two Marconi awards for its service and coverage on the night the wildfires began burning last October.
KSRO News Director Pat Kerrigan said the actions of people like Arroyo and the other unsung heroes have widened her view of heroism.
“It’s expanded to the point where I firmly believe that any human being I come across is capable of that,” she said.
The radio station said that they chose September 30th to honor the heroes instead of the actual October 8 anniversary of the wildfires so that people could commemorate the actual anniversary in their own ways.