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The documentary film, Last October, is 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.
The documentary was produced by the City of Santa Rosa to capture and preserve the historical record of the City’s experience and to give City employees an opportunity to share their own experiences, and out of it, have a way to share those stories with the community and with other communities and agencies so that can learn from each other.
The documentary features 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.
The film provides a firsthand glimpse into 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.
The City of Santa Rosa spent the past year and a half identifying and interviewing different employees and Council members to provide a holistic view of the City’s response to the 2017 Sonoma Complex Wildfires. Additionally, the City sifted through hundreds of hours of first responder video footage to provide a complete picture and an in-depth account of the response to the 2017 wildfires.
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.