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Thank you, fire first responders

Petaluma, CA. Monday, October 16, 2017._ Helicopters carrying water to quell the wildfires in Santa Rosa and Sonoma take off and land from Petaluma Airport. (CRISSY PASCUAL/ARGUS-COURIER STAFF)

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The signs are everywhere around Sonoma County — on lamp posts and overpasses, in front of schools and in front yards. Everyone is showing their gratitude for the brave first responders who saved lives and property during the historically destructive North Bay wildfires.

We echo that sentiment.

Our community thanks the firefighters and paramedics, the police officers, sheriff’s deputies, highway patrol officers and search and rescue specialists.

Faced with the worst disaster the state has ever seen, these valiant men and women stepped up to keep us safe. When wildfires broke out on the night of Oct. 8, quickly spreading through the Sonoma County hills into heavily populated areas in Santa Rosa and Sonoma Valley, our local firefighters were the first to respond.

Every south-county fire department — Petaluma, Rancho Adobe, San Antonio, Lakeville, Wilmar and Two Rock — sent most of their personnel and equipment to the dozen hot spots around the North Bay. The firefighters kept Petaluma safe while, in some cases, their own homes burned.

An initial outbreak of fire in Penngrove in the early morning of Oct. 9 could have quickly become another of the deadly blazes, but Rancho Adobe firefighters stamped it out after it burned just one acre. Another fire southwest of Petaluma came within five miles of the city limits before Lakeville and other departments contained it at 2,000 acres.

The destructive Nuns fire raged just east of Petaluma in the Sonoma Valley. As the fire spread up Sonoma Mountain, firefighters took a stand, blocking it from cresting the ridge, where it could have continued down the hills and into Petaluma.

Early in the firefight, it became clear that local fire resources, no matter how professional and tenacious, would not be enough to contain these massive fires. Thousands of firefighters and law enforcement officers from around the state and across the country began to steadily stream into Sonoma County, speeding north in convoys on the freeway to the fire’s front lines. Before it was over, many thousands of firefighters from 362 fire agencies and 14 states helped extinguish the fires in Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties.

To be sure, the North Bay wildfires of October 2017 will go down as one of the worst disasters this country has ever seen. Forty-two people died, more than 200,000 acres burned and 6,800 homes and commercial buildings were destroyed.

The toll is great, but it could have been much worse were it not for the first responders who ran towards the flames while everyone else was running away.

In two weeks, on Saturday, Nov. 11, Petaluma’s annual Veterans Day Parade will show thanks and recognition to firefighters, police officers and other professionals who kept us safe this month by inviting them to march alongside our service men and woman in the military. It will be a wonderful way to celebrate and thank them for their heroic efforts.