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Posted on: August 22, 2019

City of Santa Rosa Wildfire Documentary to be Screened in September

Last October

The City of Santa Rosa will host three FREE public screenings of Last October, a new 50-minute documentary film that captures experiences during and following the Sonoma Complex Fires from the perspective of several current and former City employees and officials who served as first responders, disaster service workers, and community leaders. Two of three screenings will take place in conjunction with temporary art exhibits that reflect on the 2017 disaster. The public film screenings are free to attend and are scheduled as follows:

September 5, 2019 at 6:30 p.m.
Finley Recreation Complex, 2060 West College Avenue, Santa Rosa
Screening of the film will take place in conjunction with a special art reception that kicks off opening of a new temporary exhibit — Sonoma County Residents Reflect on the 2017 Northern California Wildfires — featuring the art works of nearly 100 Sonoma County artists of all ages and experience levels. The exhibit will be on display through October 10, 2019.
5:00 to 7:30 p.m. Drop-in public art exhibit reception in the Person Senior Wing
6:30 p.m. Film screening in the adjacent Person Auditorium 

September 12, 2019 at 6:00 p.m.
Third Street Cinemas, 620 Third Street, Santa Rosa
Presented in partnership with Santa Rosa Cinemas 

September 17, 2019 at 6:00 p.m.
City Hall Council Chambers, 100 Santa Rosa Avenue, Santa Rosa
Screening of film will take place in conjunction with the art exhibit Sketching Fire Stories on display at City Hall thru October 3, 2019. Sketching Fire Stories is a year-long project of watercolor sketches that tell compelling stories of destruction and recovery in the aftermath of the October 2017 wildfires. The sketches were done on location by Susan Cornelis, Carole Flaherty, and others. 

The documentary was produced by the City to capture the recollections of City staff from various departments, as well as council members who were in office at the time of the disaster. These individuals recount both their professional and personal experiences, the critical participation of mutual aid agencies, and the overwhelming selfless support and heroism of the community during and following one of the most destructive wildfires in state history. 

“Our community has experienced so much trauma. Recognizing the efforts of public servants, residents, businesses, and all of our neighbors from other jurisdictions who stepped up to help save our community is something we have to continue to do as we move forward in our healing and recovery,” said Mayor Tom Schwedhelm. “We are nearing two years since the fires, but for many here locally, the event still impacts us deeply and it can be helpful to talk about what we experienced.”

The film provides a firsthand glimpse into the breadth of the City’s response and what it was like to work as a public servant during the fires, such as a recreation employee operating an emergency shelter, a City mechanic hearing of the loss of his own house while working to keep public safety vehicles in service, a CityBus worker transporting evacuees, police officers and firefighters on the front lines, and more. In many instances, employees reported to duty not yet knowing the fate of their own homes or of their families who were evacuated.

“It’s so important that we preserve a historical record of our City’s experience,” said City Manager Sean McGlynn. “This project was a chance to give our employees an opportunity to share their own experiences, and out of it, have a way to share those stories with our community and with other communities and agencies so that we may learn from each other.”

The Sonoma Complex Fires tragically took 24 lives, caused an estimated 100,000 people to evacuate countywide, and destroyed more than 5,000 homes including 3,043 within the City of Santa Rosa — around 5 percent of the City’s housing stock. Sixty-two City of Santa Rosa employees lost their homes. 

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