Help Us Decide

By Roberta MacIntyre - October 2, 2018 - CS5711


I think we need some help choosing what clips from the documentary film, FIRESTORM - The First 12 Hours, to put in the Sonoma County History Museum's exhibit and I’m hoping one of you readers will make some suggestions.


Okay, so picking the right interviews to make into sequences for the Sonoma County History Museum is turning out to be harder then we thought. At the last off-line edit session my co-producer and I did I had it in my mind to find just the right pieces for the museum exhibit. Because of the amount of material we have I got a bit overwhelmed… Take a look at some of the stories we have and you will understand.


Burned over police car. Photo by Fire Chief Matt Epstein
Burned over police car. Photo by Fire Chief Matt Epstein

  • One of the workers from the Pepperwood Preserve, tells the story of how he took it upon himself to alert his neighbors and get them to evacuate.

  • The former Sonoma County Administrator, Bob Deis, describes how prepared county staff used to be - before drastic changes were made to the Department of Fire and Emergency Services making it less prepared for disasters.

  • There is the story of a woman fire inspector risking her life to evacuate people describing part of her drive into the fire as being like driving into a snowstorm with embers, instead of snowflakes, crashing against her windshield.

  • There is the Safari West story, where the owner Peter Lang stayed behind and braved the smoke and flames to fulfill his “responsibility for one thousand souls’ and protect all the animals from the wrath of the inferno.

  • We have an interview with a local radio personality, Pat Kerrigan, who described her experience of immediately going into action and getting into the KSRO radio station to begin getting important, lifesaving, information out to the imperiled citizens. In her mind at the time, her mission was to “Make sure [KSRO Radio] had access to the best and the most complete information to get people out of those dangerous areas and literally tell them where else to go”.

  • One of the most telling stories of all is the interview with Chris Helgren, who was the county Emergency Manager at the time. Part of his job was to make sure the emergency alert systems functioned properly, which he did by the book. But, even though he did everything exactly as he should have, and even though subject matter experts stated after the fact that he did the absolutely correct thing (yes we have those interviews too) he was battered by the news media, and shunned by his superiors and county supervisors. He ultimately retired from his position a few months following the disaster....

Those are a sampling of some of the stories to tell - we seem to have an endless stream of interviews... With that in mind, what type stories or stories do you think we should present to the museum (we have limited time)? Should we focus on stories of heroism by firefighters or show what some courageous citizens did?


Should we focus on the human-interest stories or stick to a clinical approach and show what the subject-matter experts have to say? Should we use the stories from expert witnesses to tell about how unprepared the County was, or clarify what happened with the alert systems?


In short, what do you want to see?

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