Shelter resident continues to ‘smile and laugh’ despite loss of her home

By Karina Duetch

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(Photo by Marko Kokic / Finley Community Center, Red Cross Shelter, Santa Rosa, California)

Maggie Y. was still up on the evening of Sunday, October 8, when she heard strong winds outside. Thinking there must be a thunderstorm in the area causing such strong winds, Maggie stepped outside to secure her lawn furniture. When she did not see rain, she reentered her home, which almost immediately lost power. A few moments later, her home’s smoke alarm began to sound. The piercing sound was the first indication she received that made her think it might be time to get out of her home. It seemed as if the fires that were quickly consuming the mountainside of Santa Rosa were also out-running the local government’s ability to warn residents to evacuate.

When Maggie exited the front door of her home, she decided not to immediately evacuate. Seeing the glowing orange mountainside, she wanted to protect her home and began hosing down the roof. “When did you know to leave?” Maggie’s newly made friend, Louise asked.

“When the ashes that were raining down were the size of my hand,” Maggie replied. “So I grabbed the largest bag I had, threw Abby, (her dog), in the bag so I could carry her better, and my neighbor brought me to the evacuation shelter.”

Yesterday, Maggie’s neighbor shared the devastating news with her that her home was a complete loss. Despite such loss, Maggie continues to smile and laugh but also carries hope that she will be able to find a few precious pieces of china and a cherished necklace in the ashes when she is allowed to return.


Lori Wilson and Jim Burns provided editorial support for this story.