Fire Victim's Attempt at Rebuilding Life Gets Boost From Fellow Survivors

The sounds of hammers, saws, and backhoes are everywhere these days in Santa Rosa's Coffey Park.

Hundreds of homes destroyed in 2017's wildfire are all seemingly being rebuilt all at once.

In the middle of all the commotion, however, is one man who is rebuilding his life. Not with concrete and wood, though. Lowell Bryan is rebuilding his life with hot dogs and mustard.

In fact, Bryan said the hot dog stand he sets up three days a week is actually saving his life.

"Oh, yeah, without a doubt," Bryan said. "There's no doubt about it."

The home Bryan was living in was destroyed by the Tubbs Fire. Coming on the heels of two other tragedies, the deaths of two of Bryan's three grown children, the fire was almost too much for Bryan to handle.

"The damn fire came out of nowhere and here I go again," Bryan said. "My kids' ashes, everything I owned, 40 years of contractor tools, everything you can lose I lost."

Bryan landed in a FEMA trailer at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds.

And there he sat.

Months passed, Bryan said, and he barely went outside.

"I was just depressed," Bryan said. "I just sat here and watched television all day, gained 50 pounds. It wasn't good."

Bryan knew he needed to do something to break out of his depression and remembered helping a friend out with a hot dog cart years earlier. So, he put what money he had into buying a cart and christening it Edna's Hot Dogs (named for his mother).

Bryan's plan was to come to Coffey Park three days a week to sell hot dogs, polish dogs, and kielbasa to the scores of construction workers there. But then his daughter, Tess, posted his story to the Sonoma County Firestorm Facebook page and his venture took on a different flavor.

Once the other fire survivors learned of Bryan's struggles, they flocked to his cart to give him business. Bryan estimates that half of his customers these days appear to be other fire victims trying to help him out.

One customer told Bryan that when her house burned down, "the outpouring of support was amazing. So, you give back."

It is a show of support that has touched Bryan.

"This is the best of humanity. What's happening here is how we should be. This is how people can be to each other."

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