Sonoma State University is about 50 miles from Middletown and the heart of the Valley Fire which has swept through much of Lake County over the past 10 days. However, it’s close enough to have touched the lives of many of those on campus. The Lake Valley fire has been ablaze since Saturday and with how rapidly it grew firefighters expect a few more days until it is completely diminished.
The burning began on High Valley Road in Cobb and has now stretched into the Sonoma and Napa community. Sonoma State University however should not be affected by the fire for it is too far away from campus.
The fire department is doing all they can to put an end to the fire with 2,793 crew members currently reporting to the area. In the meantime residents of towns surrounding Highway 29 have been forced to evacuate their homes for their safety.
“My sister lives in the residential area of Hidden Valley,” said Communication Studies Professor Ed Beebout. “She has heard from others that her neighborhood made it, however it has been a very tense time for her and she still is not allowed to return to her home.”
Beebout’s sister has been staying at a friends house with her family, but knows other residents in her area have been staying at evacuation centers near by. Her community of homes survived the fire.
Since an estimated 8,000 people have been forced to leave their homes, an evacuation center at the Napa Valley Fairgrounds as well as an additional center at a Presbyterian church were quickly opened for those affected. Many schools are included with the other structures that have been turned to dust.
Junior psychology major Brooke Wahlund is from the Hidden Valley Lake area and has a friend whose house has been severely damaged.
“I know a close family friend whose house was almost completely burned to the ground by the fire,” said Wahlund. “It is devastating to me because they lost everything including all of their sentimental items like pictures of their kids growing up.”
Knowing her family and friends are going through this time of tragedy, Wahlund has been helping them through the process to recovery.
Sonoma State’s Counseling and Psychological Services Department is providing sessions every day from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for any students who’ve been affected by the fire and would like to talk about their experience.
Sonoma State students have the opportunity to help tremendously. Greek Life members held a meeting last Tuesday to brainstorm ideas on how the university can deliver supplies to those in need.
Everyday for the next week and a half there will be a table outside the Student Center from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. where students and faculty can drop off donations. The members of Greek Life are also going to have cards that can be signed by the community that they will give to the many firefighters risking their lives.
“We want this to not only help the evacuated residents affected but also bring the Sonoma State students closer together,” said President of Alpha Delta Pi Kimmie Jones.
Every fraternity and sorority on campus has also been given a category of either school supplies, women’s clothing, men’s clothing, childrens clothing, and toiletries that members will donate to the evacuated residents.
Every member has also been asked to bring $1 to their next meeting to help raise money to give to the Red Cross Foundation that will go towards community food for evacuees.
One of the fraternities has also created a gofundme.com link that other people of the Sonoma State community can donate to.
A non-profit local organization called the United Way of the Wine Country has set up a relief fund that students and faculty can donate too as well.