October 2017 Wildfires
City of Santa Rosa Employees & Leaders Reflect on 2017 Wildfires in DocumentaryLast October is a 50-minute documentary film that captures experiences during and following the Sonoma Complex Fires from the perspective of several current and former City employees and officials who served as first responders, disaster service workers, and community leaders. These individuals recount both their professional and personal experiences, the critical participation of mutual aid agencies, and the overwhelming selfless support and heroism of the community during and following one of the most destructive wildfires in state history.
The film provides a firsthand glimpse into the breadth of the City’s response and what it was like to work as a public servant during the fires, such as a recreation employee operating an emergency shelter, a City mechanic hearing of the loss of his own house while working to keep public safety vehicles in service, a CityBus worker transporting evacuees, police officers and firefighters on the front lines, and more. In many instances, employees reported to duty not yet knowing the fate of their own homes or of their families who were evacuated.
Viewer discretion is advised: The content of this film may trigger emotions or trauma for some audiences.
Watch on Local TV Broadcast
Local residents can also watch the documentary on the Local Government Access Channel (Channel 28 on Comcast) on Mondays and Fridays at 7:00 p.m. through October 31, 2019.
Related Information & Film Trailers
8.22.19 Media Release Announcing Local Screening Events
‘Last October’ documentary captures experience of Santa Rosa city workers in 2017 fires (Press Democrat, 9.13.19)
Frequently Asked Questions
What can I expect to see when I watch Last October?
The film, Last October, is a 50-minute documentary produced by the City of Santa Rosa, capturing the experiences of City employees and officials who were a part of the local response during and following the October 2017 wildfires. Their recollections are woven together and supplemented with video and still imagery taken from the time of the disaster to create a snapshot of the City of Santa Rosa’s local response to the Sonoma Complex Fires.
Why did the City of Santa Rosa produce a documentary about the 2017 Sonoma Complex Wildfires?
The October 2017 fires were among the most destructive in California’s history, and the stories of all those in the local community who were impacted – including city staff -- are both traumatic and remarkable. The film provides a firsthand glimpse into what it was like to work as a public servant during the fires, such as a recreation employee operating an emergency shelter, a City mechanic hearing of the loss of his own house while working to keep public safety vehicles in service, a CityBus worker transporting evacuees, police officers and firefighters on the front lines, and more. In many instances, employees reported to duty not yet knowing the fate of their own homes or of their families who were evacuated. It was an important goal for City leadership to have a way to acknowledge this and to recognize staff efforts during the response and recovery. The project has been a part of the organization’s continued healing process and has been helpful in initiating dialogue amongst employees around their experiences. The film has also provided a way to capture and preserve the historical record of the City’s response, and out of it, have a way to share those stories with other communities and agencies so that it may be used as a learning tool.
What was the process for making the documentary film?
Following the fires, it was recognized by the City leadership that it would be important to document the City’s wildfire experiences from diverse perspectives within the organization. The City produced the film, contracting with Culture Pop Films to help carry out the vision for its creative direction. All staff and officials appearing in the film provided interviews within the first 10 months following the fires to best preserve the details of their memories from the experience. The various stories were then woven together to provide a more holistic view of the City’s response to the 2017 Sonoma Complex Wildfires.
What was the impact of the 2017 Sonoma Complex Wildfires on the City of Santa Rosa?
The Sonoma Complex Fires tragically took 24 lives, caused an estimated 100,000 people to evacuate countywide, and destroyed more than 5,300 homes including 3,043 within the City of Santa Rosa — approximately 5 percent of the City’s housing stock. A total of 62 City of Santa Rosa employees also lost their homes in the fires.
Who is in the documentary?
In the film, viewers will hear from 27 different current and former city employees and elected officials who worked in varying capacities as part of the local wildfire response. These individuals share their own recollections from the wildfires and in the weeks that followed. All titles are reflective of the position served at the time of the disaster. In order of appearance in the film, they are:
- Captain Matt Gloeckner, Santa Rosa Fire
- Dean Hamlin, Parks Crew Supervisor
- Doug Wilson, Public Works Mechanic II
- Battalion Chief Jason Jenkins, Santa Rosa Fire
- Officer Patricia Seffens, Santa Rosa Police
- Captain Steve Suter, Santa Rosa Fire
- Chief Tony Gossner, Santa Rosa Fire
- Mesfun Tekle, Public Works Maintenance Worker
- Sean McGlynn, City Manager
- Kelley Magnuson, Recreation Deputy Director
- Officer Matt Sanchez, Santa Rosa Police
- Steve Roraus, Transit Superintendent
- Jose Valencia, Senior Utility System Operator
- Chief Hank Schreeder, Santa Rosa Police
- Rob Beal, Recreation Supervisor
- Tom Schwedhelm, Council Member
- John Sawyer, Council Member
- Chris Coursey, Mayor
- Jack Tibbetts, Council Member
- Julie Combs, Council Member
- Bill Rose, Supervising Planner
- Jason Nutt, Transportation & Public Works Director
- Susie Murray, Senior Planner
- Ernesto Olivares, Council Member
- Chris Rogers, Vice Mayor
- Captain Rainer Navarro, Santa Rosa Police
- Officer Sean Sulonen, Santa Rosa Police