Glen Ellen’s Judah Jones

Posted on in People in Your Neighborhood by Rob Sidon

Confronting Fire with a
Garden Hose and Looters
with a Pretend Gun


Judah Jones is Trinidadian by birth and makes a home in Glen Ellen with his partner, Giana Pla, and five children.

Common Ground: Can you tell me how it went down that night?

Judah Jones: I was asleep at around 2 o’clock in the morning when Giana came and told me she was smelling smoke. I thought she was overreacting, so I was like, “Baby, go back to sleep.” I went back to sleep but 30 minutes after started smelling smoke. When I woke up, Giana wasn’t in bed so I went outside and saw everybody in the neighborhood standing, and there was an orange ball of fire heading directly for us. Everybody started panicking and didn’t know what to do, so everybody just started packing up. Giana and the kids left for Petaluma by 3:30, and I stayed behind with my truck. I couldn’t pack my stuff in time.

Did the police try to evacuate you?

The police knocked on the door and told everyone to leave. I did leave, actually, but I didn’t go too far. I drove around the corner, and when I saw that the police left I came back. One house was already on fire and some of the backyards. I saw the fire coming up from the creek. By then I was the only one in the neighborhood, and it was thick black smoke. I already thought the house was on fire but saw it was the neighbor’s backyard, so I grabbed a hose and started wetting the fire, which was already burning the fence. The hose wasn’t long enough, so I decided to turn around and leave. I was in tears because I knew the house would burn. Just then I saw a fireman kicking down my fence trying to put out the fire.

Did he say anything to you?

He was yelling, “Yo, what are you doing here?” I said, “I am trying to save my house.” He said, “Leave now. This is really dangerous.” So I left again but again not too far. I drove away, and by standing on top of my truck I saw that the fireman put out the fire at the house so I came back. Some little parts were still on fire, so I got out the hose again—and also on my neighbor’s house.

You’ve earned a reputation as the hero in Glen Ellen who protected the neighborhood.

I didn’t save anybody’s house but my own. My hose wasn’t long enough. If that firefighter didn’t come, everybody would have lost their homes. It turns out that firefighter had been on his way home to get something and saw the fire when he passed. It’s not like anyone called him. We don’t know who he was, and we’re still trying to figure it out.

Judah Jones (right) with his neighborhood friend Richard
Judah Jones (right) with his neighborhood friend Richard

You must’ve inhaled a lot of smoke

Yeah, I actually have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow at 10 a.m.

You never left the fire zone and unfortunately experienced the looting phenomenon.

Yes, it started the day of the fire and lasted as many days as the power was out. We set up a neighborhood patrol with my friends Chris and Walter. Sometimes we patrolled together, at other times taking shifts. We caught several people. Once at about 4 a.m., it was pitch black and I was alone when I saw someone moving and then trying to run away when I shined my military flashlight in his face. He stopped and I walked over, pretending to have a gun behind my back and said, “I will shoot unless you kneel down.” The person kneeled down, which was good. But then I had to find a way to get him into the middle of the street so that I could get support. Fortunately, I could see he was obeying my commands, so I told him, “Stand up and put your hands behind your head.” He did. Then I said, “Start walking.” He didn’t know I didn’t have a gun. Unfortunately, that wasn’t our only experience with looters, but I think we stopped a lot of them by patrolling.

When I drove into this neighborhood, they were ready to pounce on me.

They didn’t know you were coming.

How has this whole experience affected you personally?

Not too bad, to be honest. I’ve been through a lot in my life. Even just with natural disasters—I was in a major tornado in Minnesota where the houses were obliterated. I was in Hurricane Sandy in New York. Even the Napa earthquake a few years ago—we could really feel that. In the grand scheme of things, there are people who lost everything, including their lives. I am okay. Giana’s okay. Our kids are okay. We still have the home. I have a greater appreciation of the neighborhood. Just to see other people suffering—that hurts. Some things are destiny. Some things are preventable. The heroes are the firefighters! My word for the year is gratitude. Just be thankful and make sure to look out for each other. We need each other in this time.

Rob Sidon is editor in chief and publisher of Common Ground

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