San Francisco man's family, friends evacuate homes in Santa Rosa, CA, after devastating fires

Personal stories, videos show raging fire destruction in Santa Rosa

SANTA ROSA, Calif. – California fire officials have reported 8,000 firefighters are battling the fires that have killed at least 21 people. The containment of the different wildfires vary. Some are only 2 or 3 percent contained while others are 40 to 70 percent contained.

The personal stories coming out of the California fires are devastating. KSAT 12's Courtney Friedman is from California and knows a San Francisco man whose family and friends have evacuated the Santa Rosa area. Some have even lost their homes.

Nick Purchio told a story of determination involving two of his family friends who had already evacuated their Santa Rosa home. When the winds died down, they went back, armed with only buckets and fire extinguishers. They found it wasn't enough to battle the large hot spot on their property. 

The mother is ill and Purchio said, "If she loses her home, it's very difficult for her, so that's why they went back there to try and save it."

Right as their video showed their buckets empty, they began cheering with relief as a helicopter swooped in, trying to put out the quickly approaching fire.

Those men are two of at least 15 friends and family members Purchio has in the Santa Rosa area. Several used to live in Texas. 

"One of my friends, his parents lost their house. Belongings they've had, heirlooms that have been passed down, all just incinerated, gone. Two other people were in a neighborhood of 200 homes. Their home is OK, but it's only one of like 40 out of the 200 that are still there," he said.

Purchio said the fire started Sunday at 1 a.m. 

"People were asleep. It just happened so fast. People were leaving with just the clothes on their back. Some guy left without his shirt. You just wake up and you gotta go," he said.

Many don't know if their homes are still standing. Most areas near the fire are barricaded so people can't get through. Purchio said there is little to no phone service, but people can text.

"They can't look up things. They don't know what's going on around them, so they're texting me. 'Hey, can you look this up or look that up?' So I'm trying to get them information via text, which makes me feel like I'm helping," he said. 

Purchio feels anxious sitting 60 miles south in San Fransisco, where remnants of the fire cover the city.

"People are walking around with masks on. Everything on my balcony was covered in soot. It looked like it had snowed. We left an office window open here and the printer was covered in ash. Sometimes we don't even see the sun until 10 in the morning," he said.

It's hard to adjust, but his mind is focused north, where firefighters and law enforcement are risking it all to save not only people's property but their lives. 

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