The Heroic Efforts of Wine Writer Sarah Stierch During the Wine Country Fires

In moments of disaster, there are always people who step up and go well beyond what could well be expected of them.

At 4:11am on Monday Morning, Sarah Stierch, a wine writer located in the town of Sonoma, set out on what has and continues to be a heroic effort to keep her community members informed during what is surely the most trying moments of their lives. At 4:11am on that early morning Sarah sent out this message via Twitter:

This was the first of what will be 1,000+ tweets from Ms. Stierch over the next few days. Her near continuous Twitter updates have been (By Far) the most important source of information on the devastating fires that hit Wine Country, and particularly those in the Sonoma Valley. When this is all said and done a lot of people will be recognized for their heroism, their generosity and their contribution to their community during very difficult times. When the Sonoma Valley community gets around to honoring the heroes that stepped up during the Wine Country Fires, Ms. Stierch deserves to be near the top of that list.

Sarah is a wine and hospitality writer and photographer who contributes primarily to Sonoma Magazine, Sonoma Index-Tribune, Santa Rosa Press-Democrat and NorthBay Biz. She lives in downtown Sonoma. She is a long time editor of Wikipedia. It turns out too that Sarah earned a Masters degree from George Washington University in Museum Studies. How perfectly cool!!

During the course of her critical Twitter reporting, she went mobile to get the news herself, took and passed on regular updates from her followers, had to evacuate to safer confines, and, when possible, found time to sleep.

Through it all many of us looked for reliable information on where the fire was, where it was heading, which roads were open and closed, what had been lost and what had been saved, what was needed by evacuees, where one could evacuate to, who was speaking officially for the community and what the prospects looked like based on weather patterns. It was rare you had to look further than Sarah Stierch’s Twitter feed for any of this information. And, equally important, Sarah has never speculated beyond what she could quickly confirm or deny and didn’t allow wild rumors to fly through her feed. You can’t say this for so many others, including some people who should know better.

As I write, Sarah has been at it for about four and a half days. Most recently, she used her Twitter feed to let folks in Sonoma know which restaurants were open for business. It’s a small and somewhat insignificant notice. However, it’s exactly the kind of notice that sustains a community when too much chaos is in the air.

It strikes me that down the road….very far down the road…someone is going to write the story of the Wine Country Fires. They will do documentaries. Maybe dramatic films. The amount of primary source material available will be so great no one person is likely to be able to corral it all. What they will need is a good source for reliable, on-the-spot, real-time, running commentary. For this reason alone the Twitter feed of Sarah Stierch and others ought to be preserved.

Among many others, Sarah Stierch is a local hero whose work put many minds in the Sonoma Valley at ease during a time when becoming at ease was a pretty difficult thing to do. You can continue to follower her Twitter feed: @sarah_Stierch



10 Responses

  1. Joy Massa - October 13, 2017

    When National news was not covering anything about the fires, I quickly found Sarah & have been folllowing her on FB & Twitter for her calm, verified and current information and links to information! [I’m a displaced student, with Sonoma roots & all my stuff in storage, there!]
    I applaud her integrity displayed and her honesty during the roller coaster of emotions processed over the week.
    Thank you for telling some of her story & about her (important) part in this community emergency!

  2. Robin Bell Renken - October 13, 2017

    Sarah has been amazing. Those of us outside the area tuned into her facebook feed to send support and keep track of what was happening. Her ethics in reporting and her journalistic approach verifying all information has been extraordinary.

  3. Michael Barnes - October 13, 2017

    Very sad for those affected. Nice work Sarah!! Glad to see Twitter being used for something productive…

  4. Susan Lee - October 13, 2017

    Sarah’s efforts have been vital to us on the East Coast as we tried to keep track of what was going for family and friends in Sonoma. Her posts have been remarkably accurate and timely. As someone who moved to Sonoma as a child in 1956, Sonoma is and always will be home. For our gildtrn, knowing what has been going on for aunts, uncles, cousins and grandmother has been invaluable.

  5. Robin - October 13, 2017

    Sarah’s reporting has been AWESOME, accurate and TIMELY. She’s the only one that seems to have any updated relevant information! She deserves many many many accolades! Thank you, Sarah, for your service!

  6. Jennifer - October 14, 2017

    My mom was away from her house when mandatory evacuations set in and her dog was at doggy daycare. My mom was beside herself not known if her dog was OK. Sarah took the time to drive by and check on the facility posting a photo to let us know Kai was safe. Then when it came time to find my mom a hotel on Thursday night I struggled to find a place close enough for my mom to easily get to. Sarah again came to the rescue posting on her twitter feed that my mom and her dog needed a place to stay. Her crowdsourcing helped me find a great hotel for my mom that has walking paths where she can walk Kai along the water. I am so thankful for Sarah as she allowed me to help support and take care of my mom in CA while I am out here in North Carolina.

  7. all-about-wine - October 15, 2017

    Sarah You did a great work reporting the timely new about the fire , but it is a sad news …

  8. Cheryl Durzy - October 16, 2017

    What a great story…thanks for sharing Tom.

  9. Tony Correia - October 16, 2017

    Sarah did an amazing job, we had evacuated early monday morn and quickly became frustrated with the poor information available on the “official” outlets. Kudos and many thanks to Sarah, and can’t wait to read her book!!!!

  10. susane brown - October 16, 2017

    Sonoma was my home town, & my heart is still there, but now live in NC. I was glued to Sarah’s twitter since last Monday…..the only up to date news source for the fires. Also glued to FireLiveNews on youtube…..but that proved to be just endless reruns of previous days’ news. Thank you Sarah very much !!! I am still searching for information on specific property addresses that are covered in Red on the CalFire maps. Where can I get more information on specific addresses ?? Anyone know?? Thank you, Susane

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