On a hot September night in 1964, 70-mph winds pushed a cascade of flames through the dry vegetation of Mark West Canyon and into the outer edges of Santa Rosa, destroying more than 100 homes and burning 52,000 acres.
Until this month, that blaze, known as the Hanley Fire, was the worst in modern Sonoma County history, and the path it carved was remarkably similar to the one the devastating Tubbs Fire would follow a half century later.
Local officials had long been aware that another tragic wildfire was a possibility. As recently as last spring, a Sonoma County report on potential hazards facing the region cautioned that a fire comparable to the Hanley blaze could cause “catastrophic damage to the county and the city of Santa Rosa.”
Nobody did anything about it.