State OES report says Sonoma Co. firestorm emergency response could have been better

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California's Office of Emergency Services, as well as many fire victims, are criticizing Sonoma County for not being faster and more efficient about warning people when the North Bay fires broke out. (KGO-TV)

In East Santa Rosa, Kathryn Titus had clothes to fold and put away, this morning, lots of them. "If you had smelled them it would have been like you were sitting in front of a campfire," she said.

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But that was no campfire rolling toward her home the night of Oct. 8th.
As bad as it looked, Kathryn did not know for certain the firestorm's destructive potential and blames Sonoma County's emergency response for that. "It was an epic failure."

Now California's Office of Emergency Services is criticizing Sonoma County for not being faster and more efficient about warning people.

Tuesday, Supervisor James Gore heard a briefing of the as yet to be released report.

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"I want to apologize to everyone in Sonoma County for our not having the foresight to review things to the point where they needed to be," said Gore. "The worst it says is that we were not prepared for the future we live in.

No one discounts the heroism of first responders that night. However, residents like Kathryn Titus expected more. "There was no evacuation order. It was run for your life."

The Sonoma County Sheriff's department received 450 calls the first hour.
They sent out Nixles and reverse 911 calls. But that night, the county never activated its integrated public alert system, also called IPAS.

Wednesday, that the sheriff's department would have used the amber alert- type system if allowed.

"The Sheriff's Department does not have IPAS Access. Should it? We're working on it....we should."

It's a case of hindsight being 20/20 -- public agencies and first responders doing their best in a catastrophe, using a system that appears to need more better coordination.

"That is unfortunate if that is the best they've got," said Kathryn Titus, who still has post traumatic stress after the flames chased her down Mark West Springs Road. The memory still haunts her. "It is hard to see your neighborhood gone... that devastation every day. It wears you down."

"We've got to do better," said Supervisor Gore. "We didn't know what we didn't know."

Click here for more stories, photos, and video on the North Bay fires.
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cal firefirefighters911 callNorth Bay Firesfatal firefirewildfireSanta Rosa
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