Surviving the fire

Warren natives take in pets, families in Calif.

Two Warren natives now living in Sonoma County, California, have taken in three families and their pets — totaling 13 animals — after they were evacuated during the wildfires in northern California.

Nick Ioannou, 52, of Rohnert Park, California, said he and his wife, Kirsten Ioannou, have created a mini zoo at their house and his electrician shop. At one point, they had two rabbits, two snakes, two ferrets, two cats and five dogs staying with them in addition to their own two dogs and two cats.

“It’s what you’re supposed to do,” Nick Ioannou said. “I feel I have to do something for a sense of community. “

During this natural disaster, Ioannou said he wants to give as much comfort to others as he can.

“Stuff is replaceable, family and animals are not,” he said.

Living about 20 miles from the coast, Ioannou said the cool, moist air from the ocean at night has helped keep the fires away from his home, but at any moment during the day the wind could blow the fire toward it.

“It’s literally raining embers,” Ioannou said. “All it takes for the fire to spread is an ember to land in a pile of leaves.”

His mother, Franziska Ioannou, 80, of Warren, said they speak on the phone every day.

“We keep up on things,” his mother said. “It’s discouraging, but he has to hold it together there. I can’t help him here.”

Ioannou moved to California from Warren after finishing up with the Navy and graduating from Warren G. Harding High School in 1983. Kirsten graduated from Harding in 1984.

Ioannou compared the wildfires to tornadoes.

“You only get a warning and then whole neighborhoods are gone,” he said.

When driving around, Ioannou said it was eerie to see ashes everywhere with peoples’ photos and notes burned, and their livelihoods gone.

Since starting Sunday, the wildfires have destroyed at least 3,500 homes and businesses, claimed at least 21 lives and caused more than 600 missing-persons reports, making them the third deadliest and most destructive fires in the state’s history.

“(We’re) not in the wilderness or the mountains,” Ioannou said. “They are neighborhoods with green grass and green trees. You’d never expect a fire to take hold, but it did.”

Although he, his family and everyone he’s taken in are now safe, Ioannou said everyone has to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.