Aerial view of Anaheim-area wildfires

Oregon District restaurant owners escape California wildfires through thick flames and smoke

The owners of two Oregon District restaurants were forced to escape fire bearing down on them as they vacationed at a bed and breakfast.

Emily Mendenhall and her mother Lisa were forced from their room at the Beltane Ranch in Glen Ellen, California early Monday due to wildfires burning in Sonoma and Napa counties. 

 >> MORE: Wind-whipped wildfires sweep into California wine country

The Mendenhalls own Blind Bob’s and Lily’s Bistro in Dayton’s Oregon District. 

Emily describes what happened on her Facebook page: 

Lisa and I gathered our stuff quickly and went outside to find our car and other cars on fire, as well as the surrounding land in three directions. By the time we got organized, and after trying to call 911 with no answer, everything was on fire with thick smoke. The owner of Beltane Ranch gave our neighbors his truck while he battled the fire and we ended up evacuating down the driveway that was the only possible route, and extremely fortunately was unobstructed, though surrounded by embers and ash blowing everywhere. 

Emily Mendenhall said her father, Bob Mendenhall, gifted her mom the trip for their 38th wedding anniversary.

What started off as a wonderful evening ended with other travelers pounding on the door to get out. 

More than a dozen wildfires whipped by powerful winds swept through California wine country Monday, according to the Associated Press. 

At least 1,500 homes and businesses were destroyed. An estimated 20,000 people were sent on a headlong flight to safety through smoke and flames, the news outlet said.

>> MORE: Why Emily Mendenhall was Daytonian of the Week 

Emily said she and her mom rode to safety through smoke and fire with Divia and her husband Kai, a couple visiting the area from San Francisco, in a vintage Bronco. 

“Then she drove the 45 minutes to Petaluma with fires on mountain tops and trees in the road and 50 mph wind gusts,” Emily told this news organization. “I am so grateful to her and her husband for remaining calm because without them I would have been flipping out.”

>> MORE: Who is the man behind Blind Bob’s

Emily Mendenhall, general manager and owner of Lily’s Bistro, says one of the things that makes Lily’s unique is that they are not afraid to try new things. ALEXIS LARSEN/CONTRIBUTED
Photo: Contributing Writer

Emily said the last they saw of the rental car, it was on fire with other cars. 

“I can't say enough about the owner of the B&B, literally giving us his car to flee the fire that was immediately around us and his family's business,” she said. “Everyone we have come into contact with has been so helpful. Places we had booked months ago let us cancel reservations with no penalty.”

Emily said her heart goes out to the families and businesses who lost property during the fires.

 “We met a family this morning in Petaluma who evacuated Santa Rosa at 2 a.m. with their three children, their dog, and the clothes on their back,” she said. “They drove us to the rental car site and we gave them our room since it was early morning and they weren't able to check in until 3.”