Residents Near Kincade Fire Choose Not To Evacuate

Ilene Eng
By Ilene Eng
October 31, 2019US News

SANTA ROSA, Calif.—Due to ongoing power outages and fires, the red flag warning in Northern California, is ongoing. Many people are forced to leave their homes, but some insist on staying.

Most fire refugees leave their homes to stay in evacuation centers like this one in Santa Rosa.

“We were evacuated Saturday, so we’ve been here since Saturday,” said Allison Baker, a Windsor resident.

At the border of Santa Rosa and Windsor, mandatory evacuation is underway. But there are some residents here who still choose not to leave.

Carmen Munez was watering his lawn as we passed by. We stopped to ask him why he’s still here. His wife is at an evacuation center, and his mother is currently living in a relative’s home. Only he stayed behind.

NTD Photo
Carmen Munez says he isn’t leaving his home and powers his home with a generator during the Kincade fire mandatory evacuation in Santa Rosa on Oct. 29, 2019. (Ilene Eng/NTD)
NTD Photo
Mike Birleffi displays a sign in front of his home to show his gratitude to the first responders fighting the Kincade fire in Santa Rosa on Oct. 29, 2019. (Ilene Eng/NTD)

“Figured, if I could do something to try and save the place, that’s what we can do. And also, a lot of our neighbors took off. And so I’m keeping in touch with them. Feeding like … there’s a neighbor two houses down, they had to leave their horses, so we’re taking care of them, feeding them,” said Munez.

Since PG&E shut their power off on Saturday, he has been powering his home with a generator. He’s a self-employed concrete construction worker and says he’s fortunate to have a lot of equipment.

“I got a trailer that’s full of water. And so I have pressure … so if I really had to, to a point I could fight the fire, as much as I could, but of course, I’m not gonna try [to] endanger my life,” said Munez.

But due to the nearby fire, many roads are blocked off, and people cannot freely go in and out, so his business is closed for now.

“If I go out, they won’t let me back in, pretty much,” said Munez.

A white sign in red paint reading ‘Thank you first responders’ drew us to Mike Birleffi’s home.

“They get pats on their back all the time, but this is actual personal experience. They came in there with those trucks … [and] got the fire out here. I don’t know how it’s doing everywhere else, but it can’t be good. But they’re doing their best, I really, truly believe that,” said Birleffi.

He has lived here for 33 years and doesn’t plan on leaving unless the fire is right in front of his home.

“I didn’t have anywhere else to go. I didn’t want to go to the shelter. I stay here,” said Birleffi. “I needed to protect my animals and my place. This is all I got.”

He says legally, authorities can’t make him leave, but people should still listen to the evacuation notice.

“If it comes to that, I will leave, but it hasn’t come more than maybe, I don’t know, a quarter a mile away or something. They’ve been battling it out …  maybe half a mile,” said Birleffi.

As of 3 p.m., the Kincade fire has burned nearly 77,000 acres and is 30 percent contained.

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