Wildfire Threatens NorCal Arts Organizations, Events Canceled

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Melted sign for the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts (Adam Grossberg/KQED)

UPDATE: The Sonoma County Sheriff confirms that ten people died in the fire. Officials say the death toll is expected to climb. Santa Rosa Police announced a 6:45pm curfew for the city.

Wildfires that burned over 58,000 acres in Napa and Sonoma counties and forced mass evacuations also destroyed several historic structures, including an entire wing of the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts in Santa Rosa. It's also led to several events being canceled or delayed.

The fire began late Sunday night. By the following morning an estimated 1,500 structures had been burned and 20,000 residents had been evacuated overnight. As of noon Monday, between 45,000 and 50,000 customers in the area were without power.

Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for much of the area in Northern California.


“This is really serious, it's moving fast, the heat, lack of humidity and wind are all driving a very dangerous situation and making it worse,” Brown said.

The remains of the east end of the Luther Burbank Center for Arts
The remains of the east end of the Luther Burbank Center for Arts (Adam Grossberg/KQED)

Early reports noted that the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts had burned down, but at 11:30am the center's representatives stated that only the center's classrooms and east end had been destroyed. The center's main building, which hosts its 1,400-seat theater, suffered only minimal damage.


At least two beloved restaurants reportedly burnt down: Cricklewood, which has been open since 1976; and Willi's Wine Bar, one of the area's first eateries to serve small plates.


The wildfire came close to the Charles Schulz Museum but did not damage it. The museum lost power and was evacuated by early Monday morning.

The fire also threatened the 6th Street Playhouse in Santa Rosa, spreading to a nearby house and an empty field next to the theater last night. But employees reportedly fought off the creeping flames and as of Monday afternoon, the theater was untouched and without power. The opening of the theater's production of Steel Magnolias has been postponed because so many actors were evacuated from their homes, executive director Jared Sakren told the San Francisco Chronicle.


The Santa Rosa Symphony's Monday night performance at the Green Music Center also been canceled. The center is housed at Sonoma State University, which is closed until Wednesday.


As of Monday afternoon, there have been no reports of damage to the area's local art galleries. The diRosa Center for Contemporary Art reported Monday morning that all of its galleries were safe and firefighters were in the area. diRosa's spokesperson Danielle Smith told the S.F. Chronicle that "the fire had burned down to the picnic tables but was contained.”


In Petaluma, the Mystic Theater, the city's historic music venue, is providing food and temporary shelter for those in need.


Follow this story for updates. For more information on the fire outside of the arts community, follow KQED News' coverage.