Santa Rosa residents settle back in, notice area is getting better at wildfire response

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (KGO) -- Residents of Santa Rosa's Oakmont neighborhood say returning after this evacuation has been a bit different than the evacuation for the Tubbs fire three years ago. Many like what they are seeing.

A sad but also positive reality: The area is getting good at responding to wildfires.

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"When we evacuated last time, it was horrible. There are only two ways in and out of this community so you have a lot of traffic and a lot of very panicked people. So this time, it was handled beautifully. I can't say enough for the people who responded. When we drove in yesterday and saw what they did to protect homes out here, it's really outstanding," Fiona Van Dyke said Monday morning while out for a walk.

She and her husband returned home Sunday and slept in their home Sunday night for the first time in a week.

"It felt really good. The minute we got the OK that the Oakmont area was opened, we got in our car at our son's house and drove out here," she said.

WATCH: Safety tips to remember when returning home after wildfire
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As residents return to see what remains, there are some very specific safety precautions to keep in mind.

One change this time was a PG&E base camp set up at the golf clubhouse at 7025 Oakmont Drive. Residents have to stop by and request that their pilot light be turned back on.

"You get in line in a drive through, they take your information, say someone will be at your house within an hour and they were there within 30 to 45 minutes. So it was a really awesome experience," Van Dyke said.

PG&E officials say they need a resident to be home to re-light the pilot light. They say this system is more efficient than knocking on people's doors, wondering if they are home. They shut off all the gas in Oakmont when the evacuation order was issued last week.

Electronic signs in the neighborhood guide customers to the base camp. The sign also flashed the message "Welcome Home".

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