SANTA ROSA (KPIX 5) — In October 2017, The Oakmont Fire came ranging though Sonoma County, and as Cheryl Diehm caught sight of the orange night sky, she knew she was in trouble.
Loading up her two beloved cats into her car, the retired congressional aid hobbled on her cane – a necessary evil after a then-recent knee surgery – as flames were closing in around Sonoma County. When Diehm went to open her garage door, she couldn’t lift it beyond a foot.
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“I was never, ever going to outrun a fire,” recalled Diehm. “I did everything that I was supposed to do. I tried to lift it up. It only went about 12 inches above the ground and then it would stop.”
Then Diehm got extremely lucky. A Good Samaritan was driving by. He stopped, leapt out of his car, and flung Diehm’s garage door open. Just as quickly as he appeared, Diehm’s savior was gone, back in his own car, and driving away. Diehm never caught his name. But she did get her car out, and she drove to safety.
But what Diehm experienced turned out deadly for some others who, because of age or physical disability, could not open their garage doors. And no Good Samaritan was there to help them. Wildfire Safety expert David Shew says not since the 1990’s has there been a law passed dealing with garage door safety.
“It’s not just a little bit of panic,” cautioned Shew. “In these types of situations we see extreme…