Gold Ridge volunteer firefighters Tonia and Vail Bello and their son and daughter were in Hollister last year for an early October weekend and asleep when the flurry of texts and pages began.
Are you coming? firefighters and friends asked. When can you be here?
They woke their kids, gathered the dog, climbed into the family SUV and sped north on Highway 101. Soon after midnight they were behind a fleet of Bay Area emergency vehicles racing north, shortening the typically three-hour drive. At the Richmond Bridge, they smelled smoke. An ominous glow loomed in the northern sky.
By 3 a.m., they’d dropped off 14-year-old daughter Rylee and the family dog at their Sebastopol-area home, gone to the firehouse with their son Logan, then an Analy High School senior, and met up with veteran volunteer Capt. Tony Voight and new volunteer firefighter Jake Adams.
They donned their yellow fire turnouts, clambered into a Gold Ridge water tender and headed for Santa Rosa.