MARIN (KPIX 5) — Thousands of evacuees from the Kincade Fire are flooding south into Marin County and are struggling to find shelter amid massive power shutoffs.
The Red Cross opened up the Marin County Emergency Shelter around 10 a.m. Sunday morning after they finally got their backup power system up and running. People arrived before dawn and have been waiting ever since for a place to rest and get something to eat.
For most of the people waiting to get inside the shelter, the order to evacuate came in the pre-dawn darkness.
“It is detrimental to the firefighters trying to do something about this to be in their way. So, we hopped on the road–for four hours–with three cats,” said Renee Carriere, an evacuee.
The decision to leave was the easy part, but getting someplace safe proved harder than many imagined. The roads were clogged with cars and the hotels outside the evacuation zone were full.
“There’s probably 200,000 people who evacuated from Sonoma County. And where do you put 200,000 people? There’s not that many hotels,” said Bill Lembcke.
Lembcke booked a room in two different hotels online only to find there was no room when he arrived in person. He and his wife ended up sleeping in their car in a hospital parking lot.
“We kind of freaked out because we had the fires in 2017. We could see that fire coming over the ridge line toward our house,” Lembcke said.
Evacuees fleeing the Kincade Fire often ended up in communities struggling with PG&E’s widespread public safety power outages.
“It’s a big inconvenience. It’s very frustrating. We just had a three day outage and here’s another one,” said Yanea Armstead after losing power.
Armstead was shopping at Target, one of very few stores in Marin County with a back up generator. She says she plans to get a hotel room if the power doesn’t come back on soon, but could be competing with thousands of others fleeing a combination of wind and wildfires.
“I’m mostly concerned for everyone else. It is a mild inconvenience. But we’re pretty well set up take care of ourselves. And then you just worry about what else is going on,” said Carol Morganstern.
The Red Cross estimates as many as 10,000 people may need to stay in an emergency shelter. The Marin emergency shelter has room for 300. So, they will have to rely on this and others to meet the need.
Airbnb is offering free temporary housing to Kincade Fire evacuees, Sonoma County officials said on social media.
San Francisco mayor London Breed issued a proclamation Sunday evening declaring a local emergency to provide shelter for Kincade Fire evacuees. The city will open a temporary disaster shelter to help those displaced by the fire at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption at 1111 Gough Street.
“San Francisco stands with our neighbors to the north and is ready to help in every way we can,” said Mayor Breed. “Our City departments are working in unison to provide shelter and care to those who have been displaced, while first responders continue to fight the fire in Sonoma County.”