Sebastopol fire and police departments respond to storm impacts on city

By Camille Escovedo, Staff Writer , SoCoNews, October 26, 2021

flooding in Sebastopol 2021

Standing water accumulated around Petaluma Avenue, south of Abbott Avenue in Sebastopol Sunday, Oct. 24 during a storm. (Photo courtesy Sebastopol Police Department)

Sebastopol was not Sonoma County’s hardest hit by the major storm over the weekend, but Sebastopol Fire Chief Bill Braga said his department fielded over a dozen 911 calls for downed trees and powerlines and other weather-related emergencies during the weather events.

The Sebastopol Fire Department (SFD) was at it from about 3:30 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 24 until roughly 7 a.m. Monday morning, Oct. 25, he said, including one rescue of a homeless man and his dog stranded by flooding around the Joe Rodota Trail before sunrise.

Braga stated SFD received a call early Monday morning about a man yelling for help in the lower fields south of Highway 12 and dispatched Swift Water Rescue technicians to the site.

It was too shallow to swim, so they waded into three to four feet of water and found their way through trees and brush, “and it’s very dangerous, especially at 4:30 in the morning when it’s pitch dark,” he said.

The man and his dog happened to be on higher ground, “but I think when they woke up, they noticed they couldn’t leave their campsite,” Braga said. “They were pretty much on a little mini island with water completely surrounding them, and it was probably rising also and so eventually their campsite would have been covered with water.”

Sunday was the most intense day of the storm, which firefighters started off with a 3:30 a.m. 911 call concerning a tree that fell into live wires, the fire chief said, and since then, SFD received around 20 emergency calls for service mostly related to the weather. They attended to an arcing powerline, a smouldering branch and medical emergencies where people needed to switch their oxygen tanks during the power outage, Braga said.

The power came back on Monday morning after much of Sebastopol endured outages for at least 24 hours, he said, particularly on the west side. Police Chief Kevin Kilgore said he was unaware of any roads still closed within city limits as of Monday afternoon, but the most pronounced flooding took place on Petaluma Avenue near Abbott Avenue Sunday.

He said the Sebastopol Police Department (SPD) and the fire department responded to protect businesses in the area, where he and Braga said the Sebastopol Carrier Annex Post Office took on some water indoors.

Wet roadways did not become impassable, but SPD recommended people refrain from driving except in emergencies, Kilgore said. Though officers were ready to support other agencies and issues like road closures, their priority was responding to emergency calls for service or reports of unfolding crimes, according to the police chief.

Kilgore said there were no particular safety concerns in Sebastopol as of Oct. 25, but requested the community refrain from calling the police for questions like what roads are closed or when power will return, which can delay responses to emergency calls. SPD may not have the answers to those questions, he said.

He stated people should not drive around signage indicating a closed roadway and “obviously, if you encounter a roadway that has standing water on it, it’s never advisable to drive through it because you don’t know how deep that water is.”

Drivers should turn around and stick to roads they can still see, Kilgore said, because driving in standing water can “create an issue where your vehicle may stop operating because of water flooding into the engine compartment, which then creates a possible issue for an emergency response that may require some type of rescue effort for you.”

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