It has been six months and a few days since the October fires destroyed 6200 North Bay homes and 1800 other structures – 5300 of those homes were in our hometown of Santa Rosa. Most have been cleared, the 1.6 million tons of debris piled just north of town. The sight of mountains of concrete is shocking. Large construction companies and independent contractors are taking part in the rebuilding process, but only 200 homes will be completed by the end of this year.
The rebuilding process is daunting. Lost property, lost homes, need for temporary shelters, fixing the roads, laying out wattles to stabilize hillsides during winter rains, new water systems because plastic pipes melt. Cars that once sat like rusty skeletons in driveways and along streets have been hauled to their graveyard. Short-term work is almost completed, but long-term damages are still coming; depreciated property values, reduced property taxes, lost business revenues. Everyone feels the aftermath of devastation.
Even when people are pulling together, supporting one another, looking for new and better ways to rebuild and prevent another disaster, finding the new “normal” is a work in progress.
It helps to go out and look at the land. Just as God built in healing properties within the human body, He built in rejuvenating abilities into the ecosystems. Within weeks, wildlife was returning; rabbits, deer, mountain lions, even a bear. The blackened fields were carpeted with God-green grasses – the kind of green you only see after rain. Birds are building nests; mockingbirds singing their repertoire, geese, egrets, ducks are in abundance.
City officials and citizens are meeting and working through reconstruction plans, finding new and better ways to build and hopefully be better prepared for the next firestorm. Everyone is on the learning curve.
Our daughter took a drive up to see the neighborhood where we used to live – now cleared of most of the charred rubble. She spotted a couple relaxing on two chaise lounges set up on the driveway of their now-vacant lot. They seemed to be enjoying the panoramic view. When I went up later, a construction crew was working on foundations.
Everywhere I looked, I saw hope in evidence. New life sprouted from charred trees. Daffodils and lilies bright spots of color in the ash. And people rebuilding their lives.