Anne Belden and Paul Gullixson discuss "Inflamed"
Authors Anne Belden and Paul Gullixson will be at Readers' Books on Wednesday, November 8th at 6 p.m. to discuss their book, Inflamed: Abandonment, Heroism, and Outrage in Wine Country’s Deadliest Firestorm. During the 2017 firestorm across Wine Country, hundreds of elderly Santa Rosa residents in senior living facilities were directly in the path of the flames. The rescue of the final 105 seniors left behind on an inflamed hillside depended not on employees, but strangers whose lives intersected in a riveting tale of terror and heroism. Headlines blamed caregivers for abandonment and neglect, but the truth proved far more complex—leading to a battle for accountability that stretched from the courtroom to the state legislature, and ultimately, to the ballot box.
Inflamed is an hour-by-hour detailed account from two professional journalists who have spent three years recording each phase of the disaster from all sides of the story: from the family members and others trying to reach their loved ones from Villa Capri assisted living and Oakmont of Varenna Independent Living to the powerful owners who tried to deny what happened.
The book reaches beyond the 2017 fires to address a disturbing trend across the country. The combination of an increasingly aging population, growing natural disasters, and lax regulations on senior care have put a large portion of our communities at grave risk. This vital narrative reminds us of the dangers that face us all going forward, providing a lesson on how to proceed—if we can learn it.
Anne E. Belden runs the journalism program and advises the newsroom at Santa Rosa Junior College. During the 2017 Wine Country fires, she drove students into devastated fire zones to report on the disaster. Their work won numerous state and national awards and saw global syndication; Anne now instructs on how to cover wildfires. Before teaching, she spent eighteen years as a journalist, working as a reporter and editor on the San Francisco Peninsula where her news, feature, and investigative articles were recognized by the California Newspaper Publishers Association, San Francisco Peninsula Press Club, and Parenting Publications of America. Anne holds a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from UCLA and a master’s degree in media studies from Stanford University. She lives with her family on a Sebastopol ridgeline, from where she’s had clear view of six past fires and has only had to evacuate once.
Paul Gullixson is communications manager for Sonoma County. He previously worked for thirty-seven years as a journalist, including as editorial director for The Press Democrat in Santa Rosa, where he played key roles in several team awards, including the 2018 Pulitzer Prize awarded to The Press Democrat for coverage of the October 2017 fires. He has also received numerous individual awards from the California Newspaper Publishers Association and the San Francisco Peninsula Press Club and is a past recipient of the New York Times Co. Chairman’s Award for editorial writing. Paul taught journalism for five years at Sonoma State University, serving as faculty adviser for the student newspaper, and later worked as associate vice president of strategic communications for the university. He lives with his family in east Santa Rosa where they have been repeatedly evacuated due to wildfires…but is thankful that their home has been spared so far.