North Bay

Santa Rosa Residents Continue to Rebuild 4 Years After the Tubbs Fire

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This past weekend marked four years since the Tubbs Fire, that ripped leveled homes in parts of Napa and Sonoma counties. Most of the destruction and lives lost were in Santa Rosa.

A part of Santa Rosa’s Coffey Park neighborhood is a good example of where the community stands today.

One empty lot, but nearly every other house rebuilt or in the process of rebuilding, and the people who live here with a story to tell of that night and the work that still remains because of it.

Four years ago, Gary Dower looked over this same backyard and couldn’t believe his eyes.

“What started to happen was fireballs started kind of dropping out of the sky like the size of a volleyball,” he said.

Dower told NBC Bay Area’s Thom Jensen and his three dogs two hours to get just a few miles to safer ground outside Coffey Park.

Nearly everyone in the neighborhood including Dower learned their homes were gone.

He has been living in a camper with his dogs since then and is now just months away from completing a rebuild home that he’s doing it himself.

“It’s going to take me longer, but it will be nice when it’s done,” Dower told NBC Bay Area.

He added that he’s certain his new home will be safe from fire for a long time after he finishes it next summer.

But lingering fears still exist, especially during high fire danger warnings.

“When wind gets too strong, that’s going to bring back those feelings in our community, and it’s going to take us a long time to deal with that,” said Santa Rosa Mayor Chris Rogers.

Rogers added it’s more than just bricks and mortar.

“Our community has been so focused on rebuild, and we talk a lot about getting people back in their homes,” he said. “But even after we get everyone back into their homes, there’s still going to be a trauma that remains in this community.”

Santa Rosa resident Bianca Wolfe, who evacuated but didn't lose her home said she’s lost something else at least for the time being a sense of safety.

“I remember being terrified on the drive over, because there was just fire and everything all around,” she said.

Especially when conditions are ripe for fire activity and Wolfe told NBC Bay Area that she is startled by sirens and other loud noises.

"It just seemed like a war going on outside, it was just very surreal,” she said. “I still have PTSD from it, and every time i hear explosions or anything, I think oh here we go.”

There’s no doubt, four years after the fire for many survivors, rebuilding continues on the outside and on the inside.

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