Woodward Fire prompts Bolinas evacuation order


(Courtesy of Sandra Pierson)

By Jordan Cushner, Reporter

The Woodward Fire was started by a strike of lightning on August 17 at the Point Reyes National Seashore, and rapidly spread with the help of winds. The next day, an evacuation order was issued for Bolinas residents by the Marin County Sheriff’s Office, due to the potential danger the fire posed. By September 25, the Woodward Fire was 96 percent contained after burning 4,929 acres of land.

The fire, named for its proximity to the Woodward Valley Trail, proved difficult to control due to a lack of access to the terrain. “Because it is the National Seashore, you can’t cut in dozer lines to get to [the fire]. Also, because the rest of the state is basically burning up, there is very little in the way of aircraft,” local firefighter Jonny Alper said, adding that fog made it difficult for aircraft to operate efficiently. 

Due to the fire’s inaccessible location, firefighters received support from the National Forest Service that included personnel and equipment.

(Courtesy of Sandra Pierson)

“We left the day after the warning,” senior and Bolinas resident Julia Alastang said. “We left because we didn’t want to risk the chance of being caught in traffic if the fire got near or be caught in the fire so we left just in case.” Alastang could recall three other Bolinas families who did so as well. 

“The evacuation was kind of emotional,” Alastang said. “We had to leave a lot of things that held sentimental value. We left behind our chickens and our cats; that was really tough to do. I was really upset leaving so much behind but I knew that memories were more important than things. But knowing that my house might be burned down terrified me.”

Senior Estella Mora, also a Bolinas resident, left the day after the evacuation warning as well. “We didn’t want to be in constant fear of a mandatory evacuation order,” she said. “At first I was terrified and shaking. I didn’t know what to do or what to pack; I called my friends to check in to see if they were okay. Both my parents handled the situation really well, but I could tell they were both scared. I didn’t want to lose my home or the town I grew up in. Bolinas has such a strong community and I knew I couldn’t lose that,” Mora said. 

The evacuation order for Bolinas was lifted on August 29. Most evacuees from Bolinas returned to their homes before the fire was fully contained. “We came back about a week later and we kept track of the fire to see how it was doing or how the smoke was in Bolinas. It was doing better smoke-wise so we came back,” Alastang said. 

Mora’s family returned as well. “We were still on a warning when we got back, but I think we all knew deep down we would be okay,” Mora said.