North Bay Wildfires | October 2017


The series of wildfires that broke out on the night of October 8 soon became the most devastating wildfire event in the history of California.  Huge portions of Sonoma and Napa counties were evacuated, prompting public safety crews to respond.

Throughout the week, the Marin County Fire Department and other Marin fire agencies tirelessly fought alongside the state crews from CalFire and firefighting personnel from around the country. Marin sent an unprecedented number of strike teams to assist while still maintaining fire suppression support here at home. In all, nearly 150 Marin-based firefighters were among the more than 11,000 firefighters from around the country that helped battle the flames.

The Marin County Sheriff’s Office and its Marin County Search and Rescue team were dispatched to support the response effort. Marin emergency dispatchers helped in Sonoma County call centers.  Sheriff’s deputies helped secure evacuated neighborhoods and keep out potential looters.  Search and Rescue personnel were crucial in recovering human remains and helping with missing person searches.

In addition, skilled personnel from other local municipalities were called to Santa Rosa and other parts of Sonoma to help with logistical functions, public information, and other support roles.


Here in Marin, the Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Services answered the call from northern counties to host additional evacuation shelters. Our County employees sprang into action and opened a temporary evacuation shelter at Marin Center the afternoon of October 9 and continued to manage the temporary shelter for a week until the American Red Cross stepped into assume management of shelter operations at a different location. The response effort was led by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Sheriff’s Offi ce, but employees from many other departments stepped out of their normal job roles and stepped in to contribute to the effort. All days combined, an estimated 700 evacuees were served at the Marin Center temporary evacuation shelter. In addition, approximately 40 animals called the Marin Center home, thanks to the extraordinary efforts of Marin Humane, ensuring pet supplies were replenished and that every single animal in the shelter had a designated representative to care for their well-being.

Marin Civic Center Shelter for Fire Evacuees

Of course, the humanitarian effort would not have been possible without support from the Center for Volunteer and Nonprofit Leadership and community volunteers and donors (more on that in a moment).

In addition to providing basic shelter accommodations, County employees worked to meet the basic needs of evacuees. They ranged from an on-site medical clinic and computer lab to a children’s playroom and day-long schedule of activities to help evacuees feel comfortable and welcome. 

We thank our sheltering partner, American Red Cross, for leveraging its network of volunteers to bring in extra support from around the Country to assume shelter management since October 15.


THANK YOU, MARIN! The outpouring of support in the form of in-kind donations and volunteerism was truly overwhelming. 

Many corporate retailers, local businesses, restaurants, and grocery stores donated goods and services to make the Marin Center temporary evacuation shelter run smoothly. They provided delicious meals for evacuees, snacks for volunteers and helped bulk order needs. There are simply too many businesses and individuals to list on this page, but the County sends its sincere appreciation to all the businesses who answered the call and donated goods and services in support of wildfire evacuees. 

County Crows Perform

A visit to the Marin Center campus would not be complete without an art and culture experience, and the Marin arts community rolled out the red carpet for our treasured guests.  More than a dozen local entertainers, artists and educators provided their services at no charge to help entertain evacuees.  Special thanks to Anthem Church, the Bay Area Discovery Museum, Bri Tree and Circus of Smile, Bread and Roses Presents, Caroline Sky, Children’s Fairyland, the County Crows, Cove Elementary School, DJ VJ, John McLeod, Magician Mike Della Penna, Marin County Free Library, Marin Symphony, Music Time with Megan, the National Park Service / Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the San Rafael Public Library, SF Jazz, and Youth in Arts.

Of course, community members donated time and talent in the form of inspiring volunteerism. More than 10,000 people signed up to volunteer with the Center for Volunteer and Nonprofit Leadership (CVNL), and many of those individuals helped fill open staff slots at the Marin Center temporary evacuation shelter.  In fact, we cannot thank the CVNL enough for all their work to help with volunteer coordination.  

In addition, volunteers from the Community Emergency Response Team (Marin CERT), the Marin County Medical Reserve Corps and the San Francisco Marin Medical Society helped fill specialty roles within the shelter.

In sum, we are simply humbled by the outpouring of support from Marin residents to help their neighbors from Sonoma and Napa counties.


If you or someone you know was affected by the North Bay fires, please contact your local town, city or county government to utilize available resources to help you rebuild:


The wildfires in nearby counties have had a devastating effect on some of our County employees. About 27 percent of County employees live in Sonoma County and 2 percent in Napa County. We have established a fund to support the effected employees in this time of fundamental need. We know of at least six employees who have lost homes. [read about one employee's experience]

County of Marin is not just a government entity but a family, and family rallies to support its own during a crisis. We hope this disaster relief fund will help our employees recover from catastrophic material losses.

In addition, several community funds have been established to help those affected by the North Bay fires. This is just a sampling of donation options and is not meant to be an exhaustive list of all North Bay-related giving opportunities.